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Ward v. County of Wayne

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

August 8, 2019

NATHAN WARD, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF WAYNE et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          Honorable Janet T. Neff 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). 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.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff Nathan Ward is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF) in Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues Wayne County and Oakland County, both of which are in Michigan.

         Plaintiff alleges that on September 30, 1988, June 24, 1991, and February 8, 2000, Defendants “illegally” prosecuted him, “wrongfully” convicted him, and “illegally” incarcerated him. (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.5.) He also claims that the sentencing courts improperly relied upon an “erroneously fabricated” conviction for carrying a concealed weapon in 1979, which was used to sentence him as a habitual offender and “falsely imprison” him for an additional 10 years. (Id.)

         According to his MDOC profile, Plaintiff is serving a life sentence for a 2008 conviction for first-degree murder. See http://mdocweb.state.mi.us/OTIS2/otis2profile.aspx? mdocNumber=132491 (visited August 1, 2019). His profile also shows eight other sentences- imposed in 1972, 1979, 1988, 1991, and 2000-all of which are now inactive.

         Plaintiff seeks damages for each day of his allegedly illegal confinement.

         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. Heck v. Humphrey

         The Supreme Court limited the availability of § 1983 actions for prisoners in a series of cases, the most pertinent of which is Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). “Heck specifies that a prisoner cannot use § 1983 to obtain damages where success would necessarily imply the unlawfulness of a (not previously invalidated) conviction or sentence.” Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81 (2005). “[I]n order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, ” a plaintiff proceeding under § 1983 must “prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.” Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87. In other words, “no cause of action exists unless a conviction has been legally eliminated.” Schilling v. White, 58 F.3d 1081, 1086 (6th Cir. 1995). This rule is known as the “favorable termination” requirement. It follows from the principle that “civil tort actions are not appropriate vehicles for challenging the validity of outstanding criminal judgments[.]” Heck, 512 U.S. at 486.

         Heck applies here because Plaintiff's claims challenge the validity of several of his convictions and sentences. Success in his action would “necessarily imply” that those convictions and sentences are invalid. Plaintiff does not allege that any of those convictions or sentences have been reversed, expunged, or declared invalid. In other words, he has not satisfied the favorable-termination requirement for bringing a § 1983 action. See Goldman v. Consumers Credit Union, No. 17-1700, 2018 WL 2089811, at *3 (6th Cir. Feb. 14. ...


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