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Farr v. Unknown Parties

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

June 19, 2018

TOMMY LEE FARR, Plaintiff,
v.
UNKNOWN PARTIES, Defendants.

          OPINION

          Janet T. Neff 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 for failure to state a claim.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff Tommy Lee Farr is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Baraga Correctional Facility (AMF) in Baraga County, Michigan. The events about which he complains occurred while he was incarcerated at the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility (LRF) in Muskegon County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues five unknown corrections officers at LRF.

         Plaintiff alleges that on June 23, 2016, he received a note from another prisoner threatening to kill him. He went to the front desk at LRF, told two of the defendants about the note, and asked to be placed in protective custody. One of the defendants grabbed him by the neck, pushed his hand under Plaintiff's nose, and pushed Plaintiff's neck backwards, making it hard for Plaintiff to breathe. The four other defendants “attacked” Plaintiff from behind, trying to force him down the hallway back toward his cell. When doing this, they pulled his left arm backwards.

         Plaintiff alleges that he sustained an injury to his neck and a torn rotator cuff. He alleges that he is in constant pain in his neck and shoulder. He contends that Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment. As relief, he seeks a declaratory judgment and 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).

         III. Eighth Amendment

         The Eighth Amendment embodies a constitutional limitation on the power of the states to punish those convicted of a crime. Punishment may not be “barbarous, ” nor may it contravene society's “evolving standards of decency.” See Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 345-46 (1981); Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101 (1958). The Eighth Amendment also prohibits conditions of confinement which, although not physically barbarous, “involve the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 346. Among unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain are those that are “totally without penological justification.” Id.

         The Supreme Court has held that “whenever guards use force to keep order, ” the standards enunciated in Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312 (1986), should be applied. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992); see also Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34, 37-39 (2010). Under Whitley, the core judicial inquiry is “whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.” Hudson, 503 U.S. at 6-7; Wilkins, 559 U.S. at 37. In determining whether the use of force is wanton and unnecessary, the court should evaluate the need for application of force, the relationship between that need and the amount of force used, the threat “reasonably perceived by the responsible officials, ” and any efforts made to temper the severity of the forceful response. Hudson, 503 U.S. at 6-7 (citing Whitley, 475 U.S. at 321); accord Griffin v. Hardrick, 604 F.3d 949, 953-54 (6th Cir. 2010). Physical restraints are constitutionally permissible where there is penological justification for their use. Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 346. Moreover, the Court must give “‘wide-ranging deference'” to prison officials confronted with a disturbance, because they “‘must make their decisions in haste, under pressure, and frequently without the luxury of a second chance[.]'” Hudson, 503 U.S. at 6 (quoting Whitley, 475 U.S. at 320-21).

         Plaintiff's claim fails because it is clear that there was a sufficient penological justification for Defendants' actions, and there is no indication that they acted maliciously or sadistically to cause harm. Attached to Plaintiff's complaint is a Misconduct Hearing Report regarding the incident in question. Apparently, Plaintiff was found guilty of “physical resistance or physical interference with an employee, ” a Class I misconduct, for resisting officers' attempts to put him in restraints. (Class I Misconduct Hr'g Rep., ECF No.1, PageID.6.) In other words, contrary to ...


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