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Muhammad v. Hoffner

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

June 21, 2019

BONITA HOFFNER et al., Defendants.


          Paul L. Maloney, United States District 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.


         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff Umar Muhammad is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF) in Coldwater, Michigan. The events about which he complains occurred at that facility and the Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF) in Kincheloe, Michigan.

         Plaintiff has filed a motion to amend his complaint (ECF No. 12), along with a proposed amended complaint. The Court will grant the motion to amend because Plaintiff can amend his complaint once as a matter of course before it has been served on the defendants. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1). Plaintiff's complaint has not been served. Accordingly, the Court will treat the proposed amended complaint (ECF No. 12-1) as the relevant pleading in this case.

         In his amended complaint, Plaintiff sues the following current and former MDOC employees from LCF: Warden Bonita Hoffner; Deputy Warden Bryan Morrison; Assistant Residential Unit Supervisor (ARUS) Unknown Marvin; Grievance Coordinator J. Rohrig; and mailroom employees Torrie Strong, M. Stephens, J. Hutchins, and A. Long. He also sues the following employees from URF: Warden Jeffrey Woods; mailroom employee R. Valle; and Inspector Unknown Hough.

         Plaintiff alleges that, over the course of several years, he has had problems sending mail. He contends that “most” of his letters have not been delivered. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 12-1, PageID.61.) For instance, while he was incarcerated at URF and LRF from May 2015 to August 2018, Plaintiff sent a total of thirteen letters to an attorney, Sharon McPhail. Five of those letters came back to him with a note stating “no longer at this address returned to sender” or “unable to deliver.” (Id.) In addition, in April 2018, he sent a “Rule 22 motion” to Justice Kagan at the United States Supreme Court, and two follow-up letters about that motion, but he has received no response. (Id.) Plaintiff also wrote three letters Judge Denise Page Hood at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in June and July 2018, asking her to investigate his “stolen” mail. (Id.) She finally responded to his third letter, indicating that she received only two of the three letters that he sent.

         In September 2015, Plaintiff sent a kite to Warden Woods and Inspector Hough at URF, complaining that he was being denied access to an attorney and, thus, access to the courts. Neither of them responded. A few days later, he filed a grievance about the matter. He received no response to the grievance. The following month, he filed a “staff corruption” grievance. (Id., PageID.62.) Still no response.

         After Plaintiff transferred from URF to LCF in May 2016, he again wrote to Ms. McPhail, believing that she would “take [his] case, ” but he received no response. (Id.)

         On August 5, 2016, ARUS Marvin called Plaintiff to her office and informed him that Ms. McPhail had called the warden and demanded that Plaintiff stop writing her because “she doesn't do criminal appeals.” (Id.) Plaintiff interpreted this as evidence of a “very cruel and unusual plot against [a] most well behaved inmate, ” so he filed a grievance about the matter. (Id.) The grievance was rejected because it raised an issue that had nothing to do with the MDOC.

         In October 2016, Plaintiff found a “prisoner pass” under his pillow that mentioned “legal mail.” (Id.) On January 3, 2017, he found another one. A few days later, he spoke to Defendant Marvin about the two passes that were left on his bed. She recommended that he send a kite to the inspector. Plaintiff decided to file a grievance instead. He received no response to the grievance, so he filed another one. Again, he received no response.

         Plaintiff apparently claims that he is being denied access to the courts and to an attorney “of choice, ” in violation of his constitutional rights. (See Suppl. to Pleadings, ECF No. 14, PageID.68 (describing the nature Plaintiff's action).) He contends that Warden Hoffner is liable because “her name was mentioned” in a grievance and she must have known about his issues. (Am. Compl., PageID.63.) He claims that ARUS Marvin is liable because she “initiated [a] cruel falsehood, ” in violation of Plaintiff's rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. (Id.) He further contends that Grievance Coordinator Rohrig is liable for “not investigating the matter, ” and rejecting Plaintiff's grievance. (Id.) Similarly, he claims that Deputy Warden Morrison is liable because he signed his name on Plaintiff's grievance. (In other words, he denied one of Plaintiff's grievances.) Plaintiff sues mailroom employees Strong, Stephens, Long, Hutchins, and Valle because they all signed “mail disbursement receipts” for outgoing mail to attorney McPhail, but “that mail never made it out of the institution.” (Id.) Plaintiff sues Inspector Hough because Hough “did absolutely nothing” and did not respond to Plaintiff's kite. (Id., PageID.64.) Finally, Plaintiff sues Warden Woods because Woods received a copy of a kite that Plaintiff sent to the inspector. Consequently, Woods “knew or should have known” of the “constitutional violations” against Plaintiff. (Id.)

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. In addition, in a supplement to his complaint, Plaintiff asks for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Mot. to Suppl. Pleading to Include Habeas Corpus Relief, ECF No. 14.) In support of his motion to supplement, Plaintiff alleges that he prepared an application for habeas corpus relief in the state courts and gave it to an official at the prison for mailing. That was on ...

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