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Longmire v. Michigan Department of Corrections

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

July 22, 2019



          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 claims arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because the Michigan Department of Corrections is immune from suit and Plaintiff fails to state a claim against the other defendants. The Court declines to exercise jurisdiction over any claims arising under state law.


         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff Travis Santell Longmire is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF) in Kincheloe, Chippewa County, Michigan, where the events giving rise to his complaint occurred. Plaintiff sues the MDOC and the following MDOC employees at URF: Warden Connie Horton; “GOA7” Randy Masker; Account Technician Dawn Brown; and Business Manager Edron Forrester. He also sues Grievance Manager Richard D. Russell, who works for the MDOC at its central office in Lansing, Michigan.

         Plaintiff purports to name as additional plaintiffs several family members and acquaintances, but none of these individuals signed the complaint.

         Plaintiff alleges that in April 2018, he wrote a grievance about the fact that he and his family and friends had not been receiving letters that they sent to each other. This problem continued for another six months, so Plaintiff wrote another grievance about the issue in November 2018. He contends that the mailroom staff “under GOA7 Randy Masker, ” as well as the accounting staff “under Account Technician Dan Brown, ” “had been lying about sending [his] indigent mail, ” and failed to “send notice of the refusal” to send the mail. (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.6.) He reached this conclusion, in part, because he was approved for a disbursement for indigent mail he sent in August 2018, but he received his letters back in October 2018. He later discovered that the approval was a “lie”; in reality, the mail was rejected due to a lack of sufficient funds in his prison account the day after the mail was received in the mail room. (Id., PageID.7.)

         Plaintiff also alleges that prison officials opened and searched his letters before returning them to him, in accordance with MDOC Policy Directive 05.03.118 ¶ W, which provides that mail that cannot be processed due to insufficient prisoner funds is to be searched before its return to the prisoner.

         On October 17, 2018, Plaintiff reached his limit for indigent postage loans for the month of October. A week later, he gave a prison official three letters for mailing. Later, he apparently realized that he had already reached his indigent loan limit, so he filed a grievance asking for the letters to be returned so that he could re-mail them. In response to the grievance, an unidentified official told him that the letters had been mailed free of charge. Plaintiff, however, alleges that his friends and family never received these letters, or any other letters from Plaintiff, for all of 2018 and part of 2019.

         Plaintiff appealed the grievance response to step II of the grievance process. Warden Horton allegedly responded to his appeal in a manner indicating that Plaintiff had been given false information. His letters were not sent free of charge; Plaintiff was charged 31 cents for mailing all three of them.

         Plaintiff asserts three claims. First, he contends that Defendants Masker, Brown, Forrester, Horton, and Russell acted with deliberate indifference to his constitutional rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments by “turning a blind eye” to what happened to him. (Id., PageID.7.)

         Second, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants violated the rights of the intended recipients of his letters because they did not receive his mail. Plaintiff seeks relief on their behalf.

         Third, Plaintiff challenges the MDOC policy requiring officials to search outgoing mail that is returned to a prisoner due to insufficient funds. Plaintiff contends that there is no “evidence” that outgoing mail poses a security risk, let alone that his mail posed a security risk simply because he attempted to send it without sufficient funds to do so. (Id., PageID.10.) Plaintiff contends that the MDOC's policy is unconstitutional, and that the MDOC is liable for maintaining the policy. Plaintiff also contends that Russell is liable for acting “with final decision-making authority” with regard to his mail. (Id.)

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks an unspecified injunction and damages.

         II. ...

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