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Annabel v. Novak

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

April 22, 2019

JOSEPH NOVAK et al., Defendants.



         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 against Defendant Ryske.


         I. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility (ARF) in Adrian, Michigan. At the time he filed this suit, however, he was housed at the Ionia Correctional Facility (ICF) in Ionia, Michigan. Plaintiff sues four persons employed at ICF: Law Librarian Joseph Novak, Captain Kevin Woods, Lieutenant Shawn Ryske, and Deputy Warden John Christiansen.

         Plaintiff alleges that on March 27, 2016, he submitted a kite[1] complaining about Defendant Novak. Plaintiff claims that such a kite is a necessary step in the grievance process. Plaintiff alleges that Novak responded by issuing a retaliatory threatening behavior misconduct report against Petitioner. Plaintiff notes that the misconduct report was quashed immediately upon review by Sergeant Kerr.

         Four months later, Plaintiff sent Defendant Novak another kite requesting that Novak stop: (1) falsely accusing Plaintiff of failing to timely return library materials; and (2) other types of misconduct that Novak had committed over the previous several months. Novak responded by filing a misconduct report charging Plaintiff with insolence.

         Defendant Woods found Plaintiff guilty of the insolence charge. Woods warned Plaintiff not to file any more such complaints against Novak. Defendant Christiansen disregarded a petition to quash the charge and denied Plaintiff's appeal of the misconduct guilt determination.

         Plaintiff filed a grievance against Woods and Novak based on the allegedly retaliatory insolence misconduct finding. Defendant Ryske responded to the grievance and, according to Plaintiff, “repeated the threats.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.5.) The only “threat” Plaintiff identifies, however, is the warning that Plaintiff should not file such complaints against Novak.

         Plaintiff claims that Defendant Novak violated Plaintiff's First Amendment rights by filing retaliatory false misconduct reports in March and July, 2016. Plaintiff claims that Woods, Ryske, and Christiansen acted in concert with Novak with respect to the July misconduct charge. Plaintiff notes that each Defendant participated in the adverse action.

         Plaintiff seeks a declaratory ruling that Defendants violated Plaintiff's rights. He also seeks several thousand dollars from each Defendant in compensatory 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. ...

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