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Cain v. Palmer

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

August 20, 2019

BRANDON CAIN, Plaintiff,
v.
CARMEN PALMER et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          JANET T. NEFF, 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.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff 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, however, occurred at the Michigan Reformatory (RMI) in Ionia, Michigan. Plaintiff sues the following individuals who were employed by the MDOC at RMI: Warden Carmen Palmer and Deputy Warden Gregory Skipper.[1]

         Plaintiff alleges that in July 2016 he became the Housing Unit Block Representative for the Warden's Forum. From July 2016 to September 2016, there were a number of gang fights at RMI, resulting in several “lock downs” at the facility. (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.6.) During each lock down, prisoners were not allowed to use the law library. Plaintiff repeatedly told his Assistant Residential Unit Supervisor (ARUS) that the lock downs should not include the law library, because closing the library made it more difficult for prisoners who were not involved in the gang fights to conduct research.

         On August 30, 2016, Plaintiff filed a grievance about the closures of the law library. When Plaintiff attended the September meeting of the Warden's Forum, he raised the fact that “constant closure” of the law library was having an impact on prisoners like Plaintiff, who were “ineligible for legal assistance.” (Id., PageID.7.) After this meeting, Defendant Skipper pulled Plaintiff aside and told him that he would no longer be allowed to attend the Warden's Forum meetings because his actions and complaints were “attempts to incite other inmates.” (Id.)

         A few days later, Plaintiff's ARUS approached Plaintiff and told him that “Palmer and Skipper are beginning to complain about you since you can't stop it with the grievances. They're gonna put you on that bus.” (Id.) Plaintiff responded that he had been a “model inmate” at RMI with no misconduct tickets, and that he would continue to file grievances. (Id.)

         On September 16, a unit officer told Plaintiff to pack up his belongings. The officer told him that prison staff were giving him an “emergency ride-out” due to “all those damn grievances and complaining you doing.” (Id., PageID.8.) Apparently, Plaintiff transferred to St Louis Correctional Facility (SLF) that same day.

         On September 19, Plaintiff inquired about the status of his property. The property officer at SLF told Plaintiff that prison staff at RMI were holding Plaintiff's property. Plaintiff subsequently filed a grievance against Defendants for their alleged “retaliatory transfer.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff finally received his property two and a half weeks after his transfer. For that entire time, he was deprived of access to his food, soap, toothpaste, and legal materials. When Plaintiff inspected his property, he discovered a response to one of his grievances about the law library. Plaintiff alleges that, due to the delay in receiving the response, the deadline for appealing to step II of the grievance process had passed. Nevertheless, Plaintiff attempted to send an appeal to RMI. He also attempted to obtain the identification number for his grievance about the prison transfer.

         By October 10, 2016, Plaintiff had not received a response to his grievance appeal or to his request for an identification number, so he sent a letter to RMI asking for a step III appeal form and inquiring about the status of his transfer grievance. He received no response to his letter.

         On October 19, Plaintiff attempted to follow up on his grievances through the grievance coordinator at SLF. The grievance coordinator told him to continue writing RMI.

         On October 24, Plaintiff filed a new grievance, this time against the grievance coordinator at RMI, for failing to process the grievance about his allegedly ...


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