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Jones v. Lawry

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

June 14, 2019

C. LAWRY 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 amended 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 amended complaint for failure to state a claim against Defendants Van Ackers, Sebley, Makela, Harris, and Unknown Party #1. In addition, the Court will dismiss, for failure to state a claim, the following claims against the remaining Defendants: Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims based on sexual harassment and denial of medical care; Plaintiff's retaliation claims; and Plaintiff's claim that he was denied his right to privacy.


         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at Marquette Branch Prison (MBP) in Marquette, Marquette County, Michigan. The events about which he complains occurred at that facility. Plaintiff originally sued the following MBP officials: Correctional Officers (unknown) Lawry and (unknown) Van Ackers; unknown sergeants, lieutenants, or inspectors named as “Jane/John Does” (Unknown Party #1); and an unknown lieutenant on second shift named as “John Doe” (Unknown Party #2). Plaintiff thereafter filed an unsigned motion to amend his complaint (ECF No. 4), in which he sought to substitute certain officials. In addition, he filed three supplements to the complaint (ECF Nos. 7, 8, 12). In order to clarify the complaint for review, on April 19, 2019, the Court ordered Plaintiff to file an amended complaint that contained all of his claims against all of the Defendants he intended to sue (ECF No. 11). Plaintiff now has filed an amended complaint (ECF No. 14), in which he names the following MBP officials: Correctional Officers C. Lawry, J. Pucel, (unknown) Schroderus, (unknown) Van Ackers, and (unknown) Harris; Lieutenant (unknown) Sebley; Captain (unknown) Makela; and Inspector(s) Jane/John Doe (Unknown Party #1).[1]

         Plaintiff alleges that, on January 26, 2019, he filed a grievance against a correctional officer who is not a defendant in this action, alleging that the officer told Plaintiff to “suck his d*ck.” (Am. Compl., ECF No. 14, PageID.74.) Plaintiff alleged a violation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), 42 U.S.C. § 15601 et seq. His complaint went unresolved.

         On February 10, 2019, Plaintiff wrote four grievances against Defendant Lawry. In one of those grievances, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Lawry threatened to “f*ck” Petitioner. (Id.) Plaintiff suggests that the statement was another violation of the PREA, and he filed another PREA grievance. See Mich. Dep't of Corr. Policy Directive (PD) 03.03.140 ¶¶ EE-QQ (providing the two-step process for PREA grievances). Plaintiff complains that the PREA grievance went unresolved.

         On February 15, 2019, Defendant Lawry came to Plaintiff's cell while Plaintiff was masturbating and washing up. Plaintiff states that he does not go to the showers because they are open and provide no privacy. He contends that he is entitled to privacy, including freedom from the risk of being seen by officers of the same sex. As a result, Plaintiff covers his cell bars with a blanket. Defendant Lawry ordered him to show himself. Thereafter, Defendant Lawry apparently wrote six misconduct tickets in four days, on the grounds that Plaintiff repeatedly covered his cell bars, disobeyed a direct order to stop telling Lawry to quit peeking into his cell, and engaged in threatening behavior. Defendant Lawry wrote the ticket for threatening behavior on February 16, 2019, which led to Plaintiff being placed in segregation. That same day, Defendant Van Ackers wrote an unspecified misconduct ticket against Plaintiff. Plaintiff contends that the actions of Defendants Lawry and Van Ackers were taken in retaliation for Plaintiff's grievances against Lawry. As evidence of the retaliatory motive, Plaintiff asserts that the misconducts were written shortly after he wrote his PREA grievances.

         On March 18, 2019, Defendant Lawry allegedly came to Plaintiff's cell with five officers for a cell search. Plaintiff asserts that the officers conspired to do more than search his cell. When Plaintiff attempted to turn around or look backward during the search, Defendants Lawry, Pucel, and Schroderus assaulted him, during which Plaintiff's face was run into a glass window and then slammed into the floor. Defendants issued Plaintiff a misconduct charge for an assault on staff. Plaintiff was found guilty of the misconduct charge on March 20, 2019. Plaintiff filed a grievance. According to Plaintiff, the grievance response indicated that Defendants Schroderus, Pucel, Harris, and Lawry stated that Plaintiff lunged at Defendant Lawry, when he realized that Lawry was going to complete the cell search. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 14, PageID.76; see also Step-I Grievance Response, ECF No. 12-1, PageID.50.) Plaintiff argues that the statements were fanciful and did not support the use of force, because, even if he lunged, no one was hurt. Plaintiff also complains that he received no medical attention, despite the swelling of his right eye.

         Plaintiff complains that Defendants Sebley and Makela failed to take action against Defendant Lawry for the actions alleged in Plaintiff's grievances, because they were negligent and failed to prevent or correct the alleged retaliation and violations of Plaintiff's privacy.

         Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, a declaration that Defendants violated Plaintiff's First and Eighth Amendment rights, and 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. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994).

         III. Lack of Allegations

         Plaintiff's amended complaint contains no allegations against Defendant Harris or the unknown Inspector, Jane/John Doe (Defendant Unknown Party #1). It is a basic pleading essential that a plaintiff attribute factual allegations to particular defendants. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 544 (holding that, in order to state a claim, a plaintiff must make sufficient allegations to give a defendant fair notice of the claim). The Sixth Circuit “has consistently held that damage claims against government officials arising from alleged violations of constitutional rights must allege, with particularity, facts that demonstrate what each defendant did to violate the asserted constitutional right.” Lanman v. Hinson, 529 F.3d 673, 684 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Terrance v. Northville Reg'l Psych. Hosp., 286 F.3d 834, 842 (6th Cir. 2002)). Where a person is named as a defendant without an allegation of specific conduct, the complaint is subject to dismissal, even under the liberal construction afforded to pro se complaints. See Frazier v. Michigan, 41 Fed.Appx. 762, 764 (6th Cir. 2002) (dismissing the plaintiff's claims where the complaint did not allege with any degree of specificity which of the named defendants were personally involved in or responsible for each alleged violation of rights); Griffin v. Montgomery, No. 00-3402, 2000 WL 1800569, at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 30, 2000) (requiring allegations of personal involvement against each defendant)); Rodriguez v. Jabe, No. 90-1010, 1990 WL 82722, at *1 (6th Cir. June 19, 1990) (“Plaintiff's claims against those individuals are without a basis in law as the complaint is totally devoid of allegations as to them which would suggest their involvement in the events leading to his injuries.”); see also Wright v. Smith, 21 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1994); Krych v. Hvass, 83 Fed.Appx. 854, 855 (8th Cir. 2003); Potter v. Clark, 497 F.2d 1206, 1207 (7th Cir. 1974); Williams v. Hopkins, No. 06-14064, 2007 WL 2572406, at *4 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 6, 2007); McCoy v. McBride, No. 3:96-cv-227RP, 1996 WL 697937, at *2 (N.D. Ind. Nov. 5, 1996); Eckford-El v. Toombs, 760 F.Supp. 1267, 1272-73 (W.D. Mich. 1991). Plaintiff fails to even mention Defendants Harris and Unknown Party #1 in the body of his complaint. His allegations fall far short of the minimal pleading standards under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 (requiring “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief”). The Court therefore will dismiss Defendants Harris and Unknown Party #1 from the action.

         IV. Supervisory Liability

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Van Ackers, Sebley, and Makela were negligent in their supervision of Lawry and failed to properly respond to Plaintiff's grievances and complaints. Plaintiff's allegations fail to state a claim.

         First, allegations of negligence fall short of the state of mind required to state an actionable § 1983 claim. See, e.g., Vill. of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564 (2000) (holding that an equal protection claim requires intentional and arbitrary difference in treatment); Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835 (holding that an Eighth Amendment violation requires a “state of mind more blameworthy than negligence”); Daniels ...

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