United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division
L. Maloney 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 Hoover, Miles, Bauman, Washington, Civil
Service Commission, Michigan Department of Civil Rights,
Snyder, Schuette, L. Mattson, and Unknown Parties named as
“All Nurses & Physician's Assistants Health
Care at Alger Correctional Facility.” The Court will
serve the complaint against Defendants Naeyaert, Salo, K.
Mattson, Cobb, Brennan, and Kurth.
Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan
Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Oaks Correctional
Facility (ECF) in Manistee, Michigan. The events about which
he complains, however, occurred at the Alger Correctional
Facility (LMF) in Munising, Michigan. Plaintiff sues
Defendants Joseph Naeyaert, Prison Counselor Unknown Hoover,
Prison Counselor Unknown Salo, Officers K. Mattson, Unknown
Cobb, Unknown Brennan, Unknown Miles, Warden Catherine
Bauman, MDOC Director Heidi E. Washington, Officer Unknown
Kurth, Civil Service Commission, Michigan Department of Civil
Rights, Governor Rick Snyder, Michigan Attorney General Bill
Schuette, Law Library Supervisor L. Mattson, and Unknown
Parties named as “All Nurses & Physician's
Assistant; Health Care at Alger Correctional Facility.”
alleges that he is transgender and that while he was confined
at LMF, he was repeatedly threatened by inmates in Cedar
Unit, including his roommate. Plaintiff further states that
he was forced to prostitute himself for several gang members
in the unit. Plaintiff states that he requested protection
from Defendants Naeyaert, Salo, K. Mattson, Cobb, Brennan,
and Kurth, who either ignored him or ridiculed him. Plaintiff
alleges that Defendant Miles harassed him and, on one
occasion, threw his food on the floor of his cell so that he
could not eat it. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants
Hoover and L. Mattson denied him envelopes, copies, and
carbon paper, which interfered with Plaintiff's ability
to access the courts. Finally, Plaintiff claims that he sent
complaints to the remaining Defendants, to no avail.
claims that Defendants' conduct violated his rights under
the First and Eighth Amendments. Plaintiff seeks compensatory
and punitive damages, as well as equitable relief.
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).
claims that Defendants Hoover and L. Mattson interfered with
his ability to access the courts in violation of the First
Amendment. In Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817 (1977),
the Supreme Court recognized a prisoner's fundamental
right of access to the courts. While the right of access to
the courts does not allow a State to prevent an inmate from
bringing a grievance to court, it also does not require the
State to enable a prisoner to discover grievances or litigate
effectively. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343 (1996).
Thus, Bounds did not create an abstract,
freestanding right to a law library, litigation tools, or
legal assistance. Id. at 351 (1996). Further, the
right may be limited by legitimate penological goals, such as
maintaining security and preventing fire or sanitation
hazards. See Acord v. Brown, No. 91-1865, 1992 WL
58975 (6th Cir. March 26, 1992); Hadix v. Johnson,
No. 86-1701, 1988 WL 24204 (6th Cir. March 17, 1988);
Wagner v. Rees, No. 85-5637, 1985 WL 14025 (6th Cir.
Nov. 8, 1985).
order to succeed on a First Amendment access to courts claim,
an inmate must make a specific claim that he was adversely
affected or that the litigation was prejudiced.
Harbin-Bey v. Rutter, 420 F.3d 571, 578 (6th Cir.
2005); Vandiver v. Niemi, No. 94-1642, 1994 WL
677685, at *1 (6th Cir. Dec. 2, 1994). “Examples of
actual prejudice to pending or contemplated litigation
include having a case dismissed, being unable to file a
complaint, and missing a court-imposed deadline.”
Harbin-Bey, 420 F.3d at 578 (citing Jackson v.
Gill, 92 Fed.Appx. 171, 173 (6th Cir. 2004)). Plaintiff
has failed to allege any specific facts showing that he was
actually prejudiced in pending or contemplated litigation.
Therefore, his First Amendment claims against Defendants
Hoover and L. Mattson are properly dismissed.
claims that Defendant Miles harassed him and threw food on
his floor on one occasion. The Eighth Amendment prohibits the
infliction of cruel and unusual punishment against those
convicted of crimes. U.S. Const. amend. VIII. The Eighth
Amendment obligates prison authorities to provide medical
care to incarcerated individuals, as a failure to provide
such care would be inconsistent with contemporary standards
of decency. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 102, 103-04
(1976). The inability to eat a single meal because it was
thrown on the floor does not rise to the level of cruel and
unusual punishment. Moreover, the use of harassing or
degrading language by a prison official, although
unprofessional and deplorable, does not rise to
constitutional dimensions. See Ivey v. Wilson, 832
F.2d 950, 954-55 (6th Cir. 1987); see also Johnson v.
Dellatifa, 357 F.3d 539, 546 (6th Cir. 2004) (harassment
and verbal abuse do not constitute the type of infliction of
pain that the Eighth Amendment prohibits); Violett v.
Reynolds, No. 02-6366, 2003 WL 22097827, at *3 (6th Cir.
Sept. 5, 2003) (verbal abuse and harassment do not constitute
punishment that would support an Eighth Amendment claim);
Thaddeus-X v. Langley, No. 96-1282, 1997 WL 205604,
at *1 (6th Cir. Apr. 24, 1997) (verbal harassment is
insufficient to state a claim); Murray v. U.S. Bureau of
Prisons, No. 95-5204, 1997 WL 34677, at *3 (6th Cir.
Jan. 28, 1997) (“Although we do not condone the alleged
statements, the Eighth Amendment does not afford us the power
to correct every action, statement or attitude of a prison
official with which we might disagree.”); Clark v.
Turner, No. 96-3265, 1996 WL 721798, at *2 (6th Cir.
Dec. 13, 1996) (“Verbal harassment and idle threats are
generally not sufficient to constitute an invasion of an
inmate's constitutional rights.”); Brown v.
Toombs, No. 92-1756, 1993 WL 11882 (6th Cir. Jan. 21,
1993) (“Brown's allegation that a corrections
officer used derogatory language and insulting racial
epithets is insufficient to support his claim under the
Eighth Amendment.”). Accordingly, Plaintiff fails to
state an Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Miles.
also claims that Defendants Naeyaert, Salo, K. Mattson, Cobb,
Brennan, and Kurth violated his Eighth Amendment rights when
they failed to protect him from threats of violence by other
inmates, which placed Plaintiff in a position where he had to
“prostitute” himself. Inmates have a
constitutionally protected right to personal safety grounded
in the Eighth Amendment. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S.
825, 833 (1994). Thus, prison staff are obliged “to
take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the
inmates” in their care. Hudson v. Palmer, 468
U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984). To establish a violation of this
right, Plaintiff must show that Defendant was deliberately
indifferent to the Plaintiff's risk of injury. Walker
v. Norris, 917 F.2d 1449, 1453 (6th Cir. 1990);
McGhee v. Foltz, 852 F.2d 876, 880-81 (6th Cir.
1988). While a prisoner does not need to prove that he has
been the victim of an actual attack to bring a personal
safety claim, he must at least establish that he reasonably
fears such an attack. Thompson v. County of Medina,
Ohio, 29 F.3d 238, 242-43 (6th Cir. 1994) (holding that
plaintiff has the minimal burden of “showing a
sufficient inferential connection” ...