United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION & ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN
PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DKT.
Mark A. Goldsmith Judge.
Supreme Court has held that a mandatory sentence of life
imprisonment for a juvenile homicide offender violates the
Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual
punishment. Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718
(2016); Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012). A
sentencing scheme must provide juvenile offenders “some
meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on
demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.”
Miller, 567 U.S. at 479 (quoting Graham v.
Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 75 (2010)). In this class action,
Plaintiffs and class members (together,
“Plaintiffs”) are juvenile homicide offenders
who, prior to the Supreme Court's decisions, were
sentenced to mandatory life without parole. Now, in light of
Montgomery and Miller, they are being
resentenced and, for the first time, have the opportunity to
appear before the parole board.
VI of Plaintiffs' second amended complaint, the sole
remaining claim in this case, alleges that Defendants have
“refused and failed to provide programming, education,
training and rehabilitation opportunities necessary for
Plaintiffs to demonstrate their suitability for release,
” 2d Am. Comp. ¶ 226 (Dkt. 130), which “has
resulted in Plaintiffs' loss of liberty[ and] extended
their incarceration, causing them physical injuries and
severe emotional distress, ” id. ¶ 228,
in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Defendants Heidi Washington and Michael Eagen have moved for
summary judgment on this claim (Dkt. 267). The motion is
fully briefed, and because oral argument will not aid the
decisional process, the motion will be decided based on the
parties' briefing. See E.D. Mich. L.R.
7.1(f)(2); Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons that follow,
the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants'
2012, the Supreme Court held that mandatory
life-without-parole sentences for juveniles violate the
Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual
punishment. Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 470
(2012); see also Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct.
718, 736 (2016) (holding that Miller applies
retroactively). The Michigan legislature, which had
previously excluded youth offenders convicted of first-degree
murder from the jurisdiction of the Michigan Parole Board,
see Michigan Compiled Laws §§ 750.316,
791.234(6)(a), amended its statutory scheme to address
Miller and Montgomery. The new provision
mandates resentencing for juveniles who were convicted of
first-degree homicide offenses before Miller and who
received mandatory life-without-parole sentences. Mich. Comp.
Laws § 769.25a.
statute requires these individuals to be resentenced either
to life without parole or to a term of years. Id.
§ 769.25a(2). Prosecutors may seek a life-without-parole
sentence by filing a motion specifying the grounds for
imposing such a punishment. See id. §
769.25a(4)(b). The sentencing court must then hold a hearing
on the motion, at which “the trial court shall consider
the factors listed in Miller v. Alabama, and may
consider any other criteria relevant to its decision,
including the individual's record while
incarcerated.” Id. §§ 769.25(6)
(internal citations omitted); 769.25a(4)(b). If no such
motion is filed, the court must resentence the individual to
a minimum term of 25-40 years and a maximum term of 60 years.
Id. § 769.25a(4)(c). At the time the instant
motion was filed, approximately 235 Plaintiffs were still
awaiting resentencing. See Mandatory Juvenile Life
Without Parole - Parole Board Working Document, Ex. A to
Defs. Mot. (listing 235 individuals who have yet to be
who have yet to be resentenced are denied “core”
rehabilitative programming. See, e.g., McNeal Dep.,
Ex. 5 to Pls. Resp., at 63 (“You are currently a lifer
and are unable to participate in these programs.”)
(Dkt. 274-5). “Core” programming for inmates
consists of thirteen programs for men and thirteen programs
for women. See Policy Directive 05.01.100, Ex. E to
Defs. Mot. (listing programs). This includes the Violence
Prevention Program, Michigan Sex Offender Programming,
Thinking for a Change, and substance abuse programs, among
others. Eagen Dep., Ex. F to Defs. Mot., at 109; Washington
Dep., Ex. 4 to Pls. Resp., at 33-34 (Dkt.
274-4). The programs have certain specific
criteria, and when an individual meets those criteria, the
core program is recommended for him or her when he or she
enters the prison. Eagen Dep. at 109; Washington Dep. at 34.
programming is made available to a particular prisoner based
on his or her proximity to the prisoner's earliest
release date (“ERD”) (also known as “parole
board jurisdiction date, ” or “PBJ”). Defs.
Mot. at 4-5 (citing Eagen Dep. at 71).
who have not yet been resentenced do not have an ERD/PBJ
date, and, therefore, are not put into core programs.
Defendant Michael Eagen, chairperson for the Michigan Parole
Board, explained that “we don't know if they're
going to get a parole decision, and . . . some of these
services are offered to other prisoners and I wouldn't
want to be pushing out people that might have ERD dates that
are going to be paroled out from getting those
programs.” Eagen Dep. at 71. Kyle Kaminski, Legislative
Liaison for MDOC, further explained that Plaintiffs
“were often advised that they wouldn't be placed in
the program because the program groups were set based on the
Parole Board Jurisdiction Date, and we program those closest
to their Parole Board Jurisdiction Date first, and so the
lifers were not at the top of the list to go to
programming.” Kaminski Dep., Ex. D to Defs. Mot., at
41. Plaintiffs contend that the denial of core programming
violates their Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
admit that it is possible that prisoners who have not
completed certain programming may be directed by the parole
board to complete that programming before they can be
released on parole, even though the programming has not yet
been made available to them. Defs. Mot. at 5. Defendants
point out, however, that once a Plaintiff is resentenced, he
or she then has an ERD/PBJ date, and is able to participate
in core programming in accordance with this date. Defs. Reply
at 4 (Dkt. 277).
represent that the vast majority of Plaintiffs who have
received a parole decision - 68 out of 72 parole-eligible
class members - were released on parole. Defs. Mot. at 3
(citing Mandatory Juvenile Life Without Parole - Parole Board
Working Document). The four Plaintiffs who were parole
eligible, but denied immediate parole, will be able to appear
again before the parole board anywhere from one to five years
after their initial appearance. Id. at 2-3. The
majority of Plaintiffs, however - 235 out of a class of 373 -
have yet to be resentenced. Id. at 3.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56 shall be granted “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine dispute of material fact exists
when there are “disputes over facts that might affect
the outcome of the suit under the governing law.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). “[F]acts must be viewed in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a
‘genuine' dispute as to those facts.”
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).
“Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a
rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there
is no genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
the movant satisfies its initial burden of demonstrating the
absence of any genuine issue of material fact, the burden
shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth specific facts
showing a triable issue of material fact. Scott, 550
U.S. at 380; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
323 (1986). The nonmoving party “must do more than
simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the
material facts, ” Scott, 550 U.S. at 380
(quoting Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586), as the
“mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between
the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported
motion for summary judgment, ” id. (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-248) (emphasis in
original); see also Babcock & Wilcox Co. v.
Cormetech, Inc., 848 F.3d 754, 758 (6th Cir. 2017)
(“A mere scintilla of evidence or some metaphysical
doubt as to a material fact is insufficient to forestall