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Brockman v. McCullick

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

June 29, 2018

MARK MCCULLICK, et al., Defendants.




         Plaintiff Omar Odale Brockman (“Brockman”), a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action against six individuals under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The only remaining defendants are Renee Allen (“Allen”) and Angela Town (“Town”; collectively, “Defendants”), who are food service workers at the Michigan Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) St. Louis Correctional Facility. Defendants separately move to dismiss the amended complaint; both motions are fully briefed.

         The Court DENIES Allen's motion to dismiss [ECF No. 43] and GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Town's motion to dismiss [ECF No. 44].

         Brockman's First Amendment retaliation claims against Defendants survive; his Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim and Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claim against Town are DISMISSED.

         II. FACTS

         At all times relevant to this case, Brockman was incarcerated at MDOC's St. Louis Correctional Facility, where he held a work assignment in food services. Defendants are employees of Trinity Services Group, Inc. (“Trinity”), a private company contracted to provide food service for the MDOC. Brockman alleges the following facts in the amended complaint.

         While organizing food service records on October 25, 2016, Brockman noticed daily worksheets from the previous day were misplaced. Brockman approached Town to see if she could search the office for the worksheets. When Brockman approached Town, she was gathering cases of powdered drinks from the commissary room. Town held the cases under her arm, and Brockman held the commissary door for her. As Town passed through the commissary doorway, she yelled out that she was dropping a box. Brockman instinctively reached out, caught the box, and handed it back to Town. Although Brockman never touched Town's body, she yelled, “Get away from me, you grabbed my hips.” Brockman left Town without further incident.

         Approximately 30-40 minutes later, however, Brockman observed Town excitedly talking to MDOC Corrections Officer Paradice. After the discussion, Officer Paradice approached Brockman and told him that he was “laying [Brockman] in” (i.e., taking him to his cell) for the rest of the day. As Paradice escorted Brockman to his housing unit, another officer, Sergeant Monford, stopped them and ordered Brockman to “cuff up.” Monford told Paradice that Town said Brockman “assaulted her by grabbing her butt.” Monford took Brockman to the segregation unit and told him that he was being detained for sexually assaulting Town, that an inspector would meet with him under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (“PREA”), and that he may be criminally charged.

         Brockman explained his side to the Segregation Unit Manager, who investigated the matter. After watching the video recording of the incident, the Segregation Unit Manager released Brockman from segregation because the video showed he never touched Town. Brockman was in the segregation unit for 20 to 30 minutes.

         When Brockman returned to the dining hall, he told Town's supervisor, Food Service Director (“FSD”) Charles Parker, about Town's false accusation and that, because he could have faced criminal charges or charges under the PREA had there not been a camera in the area, “he would file a grievance against Town.” [ECF No. 39, PgID 438].

         Allen did not work on October 25, 2016; her first day back to work after the above incident was October 29. On October 29, she escorted Brockman to the food service office to provide him paperwork. While in the office, she told Brockman that she heard about the incident with Town and that “you know that Town did not lie on you.” [Id., PgID 437]. Brockman responded that if there was any question whether Town's accusations were true after reviewing the video footage, he would still be in the hole, and that “the problem we have around here is that people are to[o] concerned with the color of people's skin.” [Id.]. Allen replied, “you know [Town] didn't lie, hurry up so I can get back on the floor.” [Id.].

         On November 1, 2016, Classification Director Julius Mayfield met with Brockman and told him that he was being terminated from his work assignment under MDOC Policy Directive 05.01.100, Section FF, due to two negative work evaluations within 30 days. The negative evaluations were from Town and Allen. This was the first time Brockman was notified of the negative evaluations.

         Town submitted her negative work evaluation on October 25, 2016, the same day as her false assault allegation. In her evaluation, Town states that on October 25, Brockman was eating out of the Kosher kitchen, being argumentative, and making unwanted compliments to female staff. Allen wrote her evaluation on October 29, her first day back to work; she states that Brockman was argumentative, did not leave the office when asked, and made an offensive racial remark. Those were Brockman's first negative work evaluations in food service.

         Brockman filed this case in February 2017. He alleges four counts in the amended complaint: (1) a Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claim against Town; (2) an Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim against Town; (3) a First Amendment retaliation claim against Town; and (4) a First Amendment retaliation claim against Allen.

         Town and Allen filed separate motions to dismiss; they are fully briefed.


         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests a complaint's legal sufficiency. Although the federal rules only require that a complaint contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” see Rule 8(a)(2), the statement of the claim must be plausible. Indeed, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible where the facts allow the Court to infer that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. This requires more than “bare assertions of legal conclusions”; a plaintiff must provide the “grounds” of his or her “entitlement to relief.” League of United Latin Am. Citizens v. Bredesen, 500 F.3d 523, 527 (6th Cir. 2007). In deciding a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept as true all well-pled factual allegations. Id.

         The Court holds pleadings filed by pro se litigants to “less stringent standards” than those drafted by lawyers. Thomas v. Eby, 481 F.3d 434, 437 (6th Cir. 2007). Nonetheless, a pro se complaint still must plead a plausible claim for ...

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