United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Honorable Paul L. Maloney Judge
a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act,
Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (PLRA), the Court
is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under
federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks
monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42 U.S.C. §
1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiff's pro se
complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404
U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff's allegations
as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly
incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33
(1992). Applying these standards, the Court will dismiss
Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim
against Defendant Michigan Department of Corrections. The
Court will serve the complaint against Defendant David Leach.
is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of
Corrections (MDOC) at the Ionia Correctional Facility (ICF)
in Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan. The events about which he
complains occurred at that facility. Plaintiff sues the
Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) and MDOC Special
Activities Coordinator David Leach.
alleges that he is a devout Buddhist. On September 7, 2017,
Plaintiff, for the second time, asked to be allowed to
participate in the religious diet program at ICF. On
September 29, 2017, Plaintiff received a memorandum from
Chaplain Cheney, stating as follows:
I have received a response from Lansing on your Religious
Diet Request. They have replied: Based on a careful review of
all the information available to me at this time. Mr.
Sebastian's request for religious meal accommodation is
denied. He should not be provided access to the religious
(Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.4.) Plaintiff contends that
Defendant Leach made the decision to deny his religious diet.
filed a Step I grievance on September 30, 2017, which was
rejected on October 9, 2017, on the ground that that he did
not attempt to resolve the issue with the staff member
involved. Plaintiff appealed the rejection of his grievance
on October 16, 2017. The Step-II grievance was rejected on
November 3, 2017. Plaintiff appealed to Step III, but his
grievance was rejected on December 12, 2017, on the ground
that “the decision cannot be appealed within the
department.” (Step III Grievance Response, ECF No. 1-1,
contends that Defendant Leach's denial of his request for
a religious diet violated the Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). He also arguably
suggests that the denial violated the First Amendment.
Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, together with compensatory
Failure to state a claim
complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it
fails “‘to give the defendant fair notice of what
the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355
U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While a complaint need not contain
detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's allegations
must include more than labels and conclusions.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”). The
court must determine whether the complaint contains
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 679. Although the plausibility standard is not equivalent
to a “‘probability requirement, ' . . . it
asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here
the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more
than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has
alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' - that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); see also Hill
v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding
that the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility standard applies
to dismissals of prisoner cases on initial review under 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)).
state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege the violation of a right secured by the federal
Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was
committed by a person acting under color of state law.
West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Street
v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir.
1996). Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating
federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself,
the first step in an action under § 1983 is to identify
the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed.
Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994).
may not maintain a § 1983 action against the Michigan
Department of Corrections. Regardless of the form of relief
requested, the states and their departments are immune under
the Eleventh Amendment from suit in the federal courts,
unless the state has waived immunity or Congress has
expressly abrogated Eleventh Amendment immunity by statute.
See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman,
465 U.S. 89, 98-101 (1984); Alabama v. Pugh, 438
U.S. 781, 782 (1978); O'Hara v. Wigginton, 24
F.3d 823, 826 (6th Cir. 1993). Congress has not expressly
abrogated Eleventh Amendment immunity by statute, Quern
v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 341 (1979), and the State of
Michigan has not consented to civil rights suits in federal
court. Abick v. Michigan, 803 F.2d 874, 877 (6th
Cir. 1986). In numerous unpublished opinions, the Sixth
Circuit has specifically held that the MDOC is absolutely
immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. See,
e.g., McCoy v. Michigan, 369 F. App'x
646, 653-54 (6th Cir. 2010); Turnboe v. Stegall, No.
00-1182, 2000 WL1679478, at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 1, 2000). In
addition, the State of Michigan (acting through the Michigan