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Stevenson v. Snyder

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

June 28, 2018

JERMAINE STEVENSON, Plaintiff,
v.
RICK SNYDER, Defendant.

          OPINION

          Honorable Gordon J. Quist, 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 is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF) in Kincheloe, Chippewa County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

         Following a jury trial in the Wayne County Circuit Court, Plaintiff was convicted of first-degree murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b. On January 26, 1993, the court sentenced Plaintiff to respective, consecutive terms of imprisonment of life and two years. Plaintiff appealed his convictions and sentences to both the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court. The court of appeals rejected all appellate grounds and affirmed the sentences and convictions on November 10, 1995. The supreme court denied leave to appeal on July 29, 1996.

         Plaintiff filed a motion for relief from judgment in the Wayne County Circuit Court on April 12, 2014, raising eight grounds for relief. The court denied the motion on September 17, 2014. Plaintiff sought leave to appeal to both the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court. Those courts denied leave to appeal on August 13, 2015, and July 26, 2017, respectively. It also appears that Plaintiff has attempted to seek relief in the Michigan courts by way of motions for superintending control and complaints for writ of habeas corpus. See Mich. Ct. App. Electronic Case Search System, http://courts.mi.gov/opinionsorders/casesearch/Pages/ default.aspx?SearchType=2&PartyName=Stevenson◪⧞&CourtTypePartyName=3&Pag eIndex=0&PartyOpenOnly=0 (last visited June 22, 2018) (reflecting that Plaintiff made nine different attempts to seek relief in the Michigan appellate courts).

         In his present civil rights action, Plaintiff alleges that he was 18 years old at the time of the offenses for which he was committed, though he remained within the jurisdiction of the probate court as an individual who had been placed in foster care and was transitioning to independence. He alleges that, because the probate court had not yet relinquished jurisdiction over him, he should be entitled to the protections of Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.25a, which was adopted to implement the holding of Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012) (barring the imposition of mandatory sentence of life without parole on a defendant who was a juvenile at the time of the offense of conviction). Michigan Compiled Laws § 769.25a provides the procedures to be applied in cases once the state supreme court has concluded that Miller v. Alabama retroactively applies to a defendant who was under 18 years of age at the time of the crime, Plaintiff contends that Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.25a, which was signed by Defendant Snyder, arbitrarily and capriciously excludes 18-year-old offenders who remain within the jurisdiction of the foster care system.

         Plaintiff seeks a declaration that the statute violates the Equal Protection Clause.

         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 effectively challenges the duration of his incarceration by the State of Michigan, because he claims that the Equal Protection Clause requires that he be eligible for consideration for parole under the procedures set forth in Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.25a, a claim the state trial court has rejected. A challenge to the fact or duration of confinement should be brought as a petition for habeas corpus and is not the proper subject of a civil rights action brought pursuant to § 1983.[1] See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 484 (1973) (the essence of habeas corpus is an attack by a person in custody upon the legality of that custody and the traditional function of the writ is to secure release from illegal custody). Therefore, to the extent that Plaintiff's complaint challenges the fact or duration of his incarceration, it must be dismissed. See Adams v. Morris, 90 Fed.Appx. 856, 858 (6th Cir. 2004) (dismissal is appropriate where § 1983 action seeks equitable relief and challenges fact or duration of confinement); see also Moore v. Pemberton, 110 F.3d 22, 23-24 (7th Cir. 1997) (reasons for not construing a § 1983 action as one seeking habeas relief include (1) potential application of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), (2) differing defendants, (3) differing standards of § 1915(a)(3) and § 2253(c), (4) differing fee requirements, (5) potential application of second or successive petition doctrine or three-strikes rules of § 1915(g)).

         To the extent Plaintiff seeks injunctive, declaratory and monetary relief for alleged violations of Constitutional rights, his claim is barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994), which held that “in order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been [overturned].” See Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 646 (1997) (emphasis in original). In Heck, the Supreme Court held that a state prisoner cannot make a cognizable claim under § 1983 for an allegedly unconstitutional conviction or for “harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid” unless a prisoner shows that the conviction or sentence has been “reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.” Id. at 486-87 (footnote omitted). The holding in Heck has been extended to actions seeking injunctive or declaratory relief. See Edwards, 520 U.S. at 646-48 (declaratory relief); Clarke v. Stalder, 154 F.3d 186, 189-90 ...


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