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Hailey v. Blackman

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

May 11, 2018

JEROME MENDELL HAILEY, Plaintiff,
v.
LLOYD BLACKMAN, Defendant.

          OPINION

          Paul L. Maloney 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. § 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.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Carson City Correctional Facility (DRF) in Montcalm County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues Inspector Lloyd Blackman, who works at Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility (MTU).

         Plaintiff alleges that he was incarcerated at MTU for continuance in a “Residential Treatment Program (RTP) in a level (2) two correctional facility.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.3.) Plaintiff filed a grievance against Blackman for failing to “adhere [to] his duty” when Plaintiff's property was stolen from the MTU mailroom. (Id.) On January 4, 2018, while Plaintiff was waiting to be interviewed about his grievance, Blackman stepped out of his office and stated to Plaintiff, “Oh, you filed a grievance against me, your ass is out of here!” (Id.) Plaintiff responded, “I am going to write another one on you, because I have a CFA hold; [I am] on Calvin's Spring Semester; and I have a follow-up with the psychiatrist[.]” (Id.) Blackman allegedly told Plaintiff “that grievance will never be heard, submitted, nor read[.] I can guarantee you won't be able to sue me piece of shit!” (Id.)

         On January 11, 2018, Plaintiff was transferred to DRF. As a result, his “Violence Prevention Program, ” “Calvin's College semester, ” and appointment with his psychiatrist were cancelled.

         Plaintiff claims that Defendant retaliated against him. As relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary 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 - 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)).

         To 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).

         Plaintiff asserts that Defendant retaliated against him for filing a grievance. Retaliation based upon a prisoner's exercise of his or her constitutional rights violates the Constitution. See Thaddeus-X v. Blatter, 175 F.3d 378, 394 (6th Cir. 1999) (en banc). In order to set forth a First Amendment retaliation claim, a plaintiff must establish that: (1) he was engaged in protected conduct; (2) an adverse action was taken against him that would deter a person of ordinary firmness from engaging in that conduct; and (3) the adverse action was motivated, at least in part, by the protected conduct. Id. Moreover, a plaintiff must be able to prove that the exercise of the protected right was a substantial or motivating factor in the defendant's alleged retaliatory conduct. See Smith v. Campbell, 250 F.3d 1032, 1037 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Mount Healthy City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 287 (1977)).

         Plaintiff's allegations fail to satisfy the second element of a retaliation claim. He does not allege an adverse action. Plaintiff alleges that he was transferred from one level II facility to another level II facility;[1] this is not sufficient to state a retaliation claim.

         The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has repeatedly held that a prison transfer does not rise to the level of an adverse action because it would not deter a person of ordinary firmness from the exercise of his First Amendment rights. See Siggers-El v. Barlow, 412 F.3d 693, 701 (6th Cir. 2005); see also Smith v. Yarrow, 78 Fed.Appx. 529, 543 (6th Cir. 2003) (collecting cases). “Since prisoners are expected to endure more than the average citizen, and since transfers are common among prisons, ordinarily a transfer would not deter a prisoner of ordinary firmness from continuing to engage in protected conduct.” Id. A prison transfer can rise to the level of an adverse action when there are “forseeable, negative consequences” that “inextricably follow” from the transfer, such as “the prisoner's loss of his high-paying job and reduced ability to meet with his lawyer.” Jones v. Caruso, 421 Fed.Appx. 550, 553 (6th Cir. 2011). Similarly, transfer to a more restrictive form of confinement has been recognized as an adverse ...


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