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Muhammad v. Hoffner

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

April 25, 2019

UMAR MUHAMMAD, Plaintiff,
v.
BONITA HOFFNER, MS. MARVIN, UNKNOWN AGENTS OF THE POSTAL SERVICE, J. ROHRIG, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, BRYAN MORRISON, et. al., Defendants.

          ORDER PARTIALLY DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND TRANSFERRING THE REMAINDER OF THE COMPLAINT TO THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN

          THOMAS L. LUDINGTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Umar Muhammad, (“Plaintiff”), incarcerated at the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, Michigan, filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 395 (1971). The Lakeland Correctional Facility is in Coldwater, Michigan, located in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

         Plaintiff names as defendants the Michigan Department of Corrections, four prison officials at the Lakeland Correctional Facility (Bonita Hoffner, Ms. Marvin, J. Rohrig, and Bryan Morrison), and the U.S. Postal Service. He alleges that the prison officials failed to send his legal mail to attorneys and opened legal mail that had been returned to him. He also alleges that the U.S. Postal Service and its employees failed to deliver his legal mail.

         Plaintiff has been allowed to proceed without prepayment of fees. See 28 § U.S.C. 1915(a); McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir. 1997). However, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) states:

Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that:
(B) the action or appeal:
(i) is frivolous or malicious;
(ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); see also Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992). Sua sponte dismissal is appropriate if the complaint lacks an arguable basis when filed. McGore, 114 F.3d at 612.

         II.

         Plaintiff alleges that the U.S. Postal Service or its employees failed to deliver his legal mail to several attorneys. Absent a waiver, sovereign immunity shields the Federal Government and its agencies from being sued. See F.D.I.C. v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1996). Accordingly, the United States Postal Service, as an independent establishment of the executive branch of the United States Government, enjoys federal sovereignty absent a waiver. See Dolan v. U.S. Postal Serv., 546 U.S. 481, 483-84 (2006). Although the Postal Reorganization Act, 39 U.S.C. § 101 et seq., in general “waives the immunity of the Postal Service from suit by giving it the power ‘to sue and be sued in its official name, '” Id. (quoting Postal Service v. Flamingo Industries (USA) Ltd., 540 U.S. 736, 741 (2004)(quoting 39 U.S.C. § 401(1)), the statute also provides that the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) “shall apply to tort claims arising out of activities of the Postal Service.” Id. (citing 39 U.S.C. § 409(c)).

         However, the FTCA lists thirteen categories of claims within 28 U.S.C. § 2680 which are exempt from the FTCA and for which sovereign immunity remains. 28 U.S.C. § 2680(b) provides that “The provisions of this chapter and section 1346(b) of this title shall not apply to…[a]ny claim arising out of the loss, miscarriage, or negligent transmission of letters or postal matter.” Accordingly, Plaintiff's claim alleging the negligent failure to deliver his mail is barred by sovereign immunity under § 2680(b) of the FTCA. See Livingston v. Martin, 28 Fed.Appx. 434, 435 (6th Cir. 2002).

         Furthermore, the Michigan Department of Corrections will be dismissed as a defendant because it is not a “person” subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Harrison v. Michigan, 722 F.3d 768, 771 (6th Cir. 2013); Diaz v. Mich. Dep't of Corr., 703 F.3d 956, 962 (6th Cir. ...


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