United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division
JULIUS C. CLARKWILLIS, Plaintiff,
MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS et al., Defendants.
J. JONKER, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT 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 Defendants Michigan Department of Corrections,
Viitala, Napel, Bousquet, Heinritz, Cheney, and Prisk. The
Court will serve the complaint against Defendant Adamson.
Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan
Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Marquette Branch
Prison (MBP) in Marquette, Marquette County, Michigan. The
events about which he complains occurred at that facility and
the Ionia Correctional Facility (ICF) in Ionia, Ionia County,
Michigan. Plaintiff sues the Michigan Department of
Corrections, MBP Warden Robert Napel, MBP Chaplain Tom Prisk,
MDOC Special Activities Coordinator Steve Adamson, MDOC
Classification Director L. Heinritz, MBP Food Service
Director Ann Bousquet, ICF Chaplain C. Cheney, and MBP
Resident Unit Manager D. Viitala.
alleges that in early 2017, he began studying the Holy Quran
and the Islamic faith. On March 1, 2017, he sent a kite to
Defendant Cheney requesting to have his religious preference
changed to Al-Islam and to take the religious diet test. On
April 14, 2017, Plaintiff signed the religious meal
participation agreement and took the test for the diet as
administered by Defendant Cheney. On April 26, 2017, while
Plaintiff was waiting for a decision on his diet request, he
was transferred from ICF to MBP. Plaintiff states that ICF is
the only level 5 facility that provides a Muslim Halel diet
and that MBP does not accommodate such a diet.
2, 2017, Plaintiff received a memorandum from Defendant Prisk
stating that Defendant Adamson had denied his request for a
religious diet. Plaintiff was told that while it is difficult
to discern sincerity based on external factors, it had been
decided that Plaintiff would not be transferred to a facility
where he could receive a religious diet. Plaintiff filed a
grievance. Plaintiff's step I grievance was denied by
Defendant Viitala on May 31, 2017, and his step II appeal was
subsequently denied by Defendant Napel.
claims that the denial of a religious diet violates his
federal rights. Plaintiff seeks damages and injunctive
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).
the Court notes that Plaintiff 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);
Alabamav.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
Department of Corrections) is not a “person” who
may be sued under § 1983 for money damages. See
Lapides v. Bd. of Regents, 535 U.S. 613 (2002) (citing
Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58
(1989)). Therefore, the Court dismisses the Michigan
Department of Corrections.
the Court notes that Government officials may not be held
liable for the unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates
under a theory of respondeat superior or vicarious liability.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676; Monell v. New York City
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691(1978);
Everson v. Leis, 556 F.3d 484, 495 (6th Cir. 2009).
A claimed constitutional violation must be based upon active
unconstitutional behavior. Grinter v. Knight, 532
F.3d 567, 575-76 (6th Cir. 2008); Greene v. Barber,
310 F.3d 889, 899 (6th Cir. 2002). The acts of one's
subordinates are not enough, nor can supervisory liability be
based upon the mere failure to act. Grinter, 532
F.3d at 576; Greene, 310 F.3d at 899; Summers v.
Leis, 368 F.3d 881, 888 (6th Cir. 2004). Moreover,
§ 1983 liability may not be imposed simply because a
supervisor denied an administrative grievance or failed to
act based upon information contained in a grievance. See
Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 300 (6th Cir. 1999).
“[A] plaintiff must plead that each Government-official
defendant, through the official's own individual actions,
has violated the Constitution.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 676.
fails to make specific factual allegations against Defendants
Viitala and Napel, other than his claim that they failed to
conduct an investigation in response to his grievances.
Plaintiff fails to even mention Defendants Bousquet and
Heinritz in the body of his complaint, and there is no
indication that they had any involvement with the decision to
deny his religious diet request. According to Plaintiff's
complaint, the only involvement that Defendant Cheney had in
this case was to administer the religious diet test to
Plaintiff while he was at ICF, and Defendant Prisk's only
involvement was to inform Plaintiff of the decision by
Defendant Adamson. Plaintiff has ...