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Gordon v. Washington

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 26, 2018

JOHN JUNIOR GORDON, Plaintiff,
v.
HEIDI WASHINGTON et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          ROBERT J. JONKER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is 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 against Defendants for failure to state a claim.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility, (LRF) in Muskegon Heights, Muskegon County, Michigan. The events about which he complains occurred at that facility. Plaintiff sues MDOC Director Heidi Washington, together with the following LRF officials: Warden (unknown) Harry; Sergeant (unknown) O'Neal; Assistant Resident Unit Manager (unknown) Lane; Case Manager (unknown) Duiker; Correctional Officer (unknown) Dorch; Prison Counselor/Sergeant (unknown) Ross; and Medical Supervisor Jill Britten.

         Plaintiff's complaint is not a model of clarity. However, from the complaint and the attachments, it appears that Plaintiff was assaulted by his cellmate, prisoner (unknown) Clay, on July 7, 2017. Prisoner Clay apparently stabbed Plaintiff just above the eyebrow with a pen. Officer Flynn (not a Defendant) came to the cell and found Clay on his top bunk with his arm outstretched in a fist, facing Plaintiff. Plaintiff stated, “He stabbed me with a pen.” (Misconduct Report, Attach. to Compl., ECF No. 1-1, PageID.10.) Officer Flynn saw Clay throw something at the trash can and later recovered a clear plastic pen from the trash can. Both prisoners were taken to segregation. Plaintiff was taken for medical treatment to the emergency room. According to an emergency room report attached to the complaint, Plaintiff received six sutures to close the wound. (Emergency Report, Attach. to Compl., ECF No. 1-1, PageID.15.)

         Officer Flynn initially charged Plaintiff with a Class I misconduct for fighting and possessing a weapon. The misconduct report indicated that Flynn had observed a lock lying on Plaintiff's bed after Plaintiff had been removed from the room. (Misconduct Report, Attach. to Compl., ECF No. 1-1, PageID.10.) The hearings officer concluded that, notwithstanding Clay's claim that Plaintiff had swung his lock at Clay before the stabbing, Plaintiff was not guilty of either charge. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that, three weeks before the incident, he advised Defendant Dorch that he did not want to become involved in an altercation with his cell-mate, and he asked Dorch to move him to another cell. Defendant Dorch told Plaintiff to write a grievance about the issue. (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.4.) Plaintiff also told Defendant Duiker about his “fears of getting into it with inmate Clay and she basically told [him] to deal with it.” (Id.) On June 19, 2017, Plaintiff spoke to Defendant Ross about his problem with his cellmate, saying, “Clay and I are about to have it out with each other.” (Id., PageID.5.) Defendant Ross asked Plaintiff to tell him exactly what was going on. Plaintiff told Ross, “Mr[.] Clay has a mental problem because he wakes up out of his sleep and hits the wall with a closed fist almost every other night.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Ross was aware that prisoner Clay had had his security classification level raised from a level I to a level II following a prior physical altercation. Based on Plaintiff's description of the problem with his cellmate, Defendant Ross “[a]pparently . . . didn't find it a problem” and failed to move Plaintiff to a different cell. (Id.)

         Plaintiff's allegations against the remaining Defendants all involve actions that occurred after the attack. He alleges that Defendant Heidi Washington has not responded to the materials he sent her, including a copy of the misconduct report and of his grievances against Defendants Dorch, Duiker, and Lane. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Warden Harry also has not responded to the materials he sent, including grievances or grievance appeals.

         In addition, Plaintiff complains that Defendant O'Neal fabricated information to the effect that Plaintiff had signed a protection waiver on June 22, 2017. He suggests that O'Neal made this fabrication in relation to a response to Plaintiff's grievance about Defendant Dorch. He also alleges that Defendant Lang attempted to intimidate him and to discourage him from pursuing his grievances against Defendants Duiker and Dorch.

         Finally, Plaintiff complains that Defendant Jill Britten is a supervisor in the medical unit, but her staff failed to write up a critical incident report as required by prison policy, which affected whether the Michigan State Police prosecuted Clay for the assault. In addition, he alleges that Defendant Britten's medical staff “failed to respond on several occasions on [Plaintiff's] request to remove stitches from the wound.” (Id.)

         For relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

         II. Failure to state a claim

         A 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 - ...


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