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Butler v. Scholten

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

August 30, 2019

MALCOMB BUTLER, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID SCHOLTEN et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          ROBERT J. JONKER, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner. 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 Defendants Scholten, Lamb, Wilkinson, Russel, Burt, and Coleman for failure to state a claim.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

          Plaintiff Malcomb Butler is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Muskegon Correctional Facility (MCF) in Muskegon, Michigan. The events about which he complains occurred at that facility. Plaintiff sues the following MDOC employees at MCF: Drs. David Scholten and Unknown Coleman; Nurse Patricia Lamb; Health Unit Manager (HUM) Michael Wilkinson; Warden Sherry Burt; and Sergeant Unknown Payne. He also sues Grievance Manager Richard Russel, [1] who works at the MDOC's Office of Legal Affairs.

         Plaintiff alleges he is “half blind” in his right eye and had a special medical accommodation to wear tinted eyeglasses. (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.8.) According to documents attached to the complaint, he had emergency surgery to relieve pressure in his eye caused by glaucoma. (Step II Grievance, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.26.) After the surgery, an optometrist prescribed tinted eyeglasses because Plaintiff's eyes were sensitive to light. (Id.) In 2016, prison medical staff gave Plaintiff a special accommodation to wear solar shields and tinted glasses. (MDOC Special Accommodations Orders, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.41.)

         Plaintiff alleges that, in the fall of 2018, Sergeant Payne repeatedly “harassed” him by threatening to take away his tinted glasses whenever Plaintiff entered the chow hall. (Compl., PageID.8.) Plaintiff wrote kites to another officer about Payne's actions, and told Payne that he intended to complain to the warden as well. Payne allegedly told Plaintiff, “[Y]ou niggas stick together, but I will get you.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff wrote a letter to Warden Burt on October 1, 2018, complaining about Payne's conduct and expressing fear that Payne would send him to the “hole.” (Id.) That same day, Sergeant Payne wrote a misconduct report on Plaintiff for disobeying a direct order. Payne alleged that he saw Plaintiff wearing “sunglasses” in the chow hall and asked Plaintiff to take them off. (Id., PageID.11.) Plaintiff refused to do so because he had a medical detail for them. (Id.) According to the misconduct report, when Payne asked to see a copy of Plaintiff's medical detail, Plaintiff told Payne that he did not have it with him. Payne repeated his order to remove the glasses and Plaintiff refused to comply. (Misconduct Report, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.43.)

         Plaintiff defended himself against the misconduct by asserting that the report was false because Plaintiff was wearing prescription tinted eyeglasses, not sunglasses. In addition, Plaintiff contended that Payne was aware of Plaintiff's medical detail because he had seen it many times before. Nevertheless, on October 9, the hearing officer found Plaintiff guilty of disobeying a direct order. (Class II and III Misconduct Hr'g Report, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.45.) The hearing officer noted that Plaintiff “did not remove the sunglasses as requested, when he could not produce a detail. Prisoners are required to have any details or accommodations on t[heir] person at all time[s] and submit them to staff upon request.” (Id.) The officer sanctioned Plaintiff with 10 days of loss of privileges.

         On October 3, Plaintiff met with Dr. Scholten, an optometrist. At the meeting, Dr. Scholten allegedly told Plaintiff that the detail for tinted lenses was being discontinued “for no reason.” (Id., PageID.10.) Plaintiff complained about this issue in a prisoner grievance, claiming that his medical needs were being ignored. HUM Wilkinson responded to the grievance at Step I, noting that the optometrist determined that tinted lenses were “no longer medically indicated.” (Step I Grievance Response, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.25.) Wilkinson also noted that Plaintiff still had an accommodation for solar shields, so his needs were not being ignored. (Id.) Consequently, Wilkinson denied the grievance.

         Plaintiff appealed the grievance denial to Step II of the grievance process. Nurse Lamb responded to Plaintiff's Step II grievance appeal and affirmed the result below. Like Wilkinson, Lamb noted that “the electronic medical record and a visit of 10/3/2018 confirms that the optometrist determined that tinted lenses were not medically necessary for grievant at this time. Grievant does have an approved detail for solar shields for outdoor use.” (Grievance Step II Response, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.28.)

         Plaintiff appealed that decision to Step III, claiming that Dr. Scholten never gave him a “real evaluation” of his symptoms; all he did was talk to Plaintiff. (ECF No. 1-1, PageID.29.) Defendant Russel denied the appeal at Step III because Plaintiff's “disagreement with the judgment of someone qualified and capable of making same does not support a claim for denial of care.” (Step III Grievance Response, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.32.)

         Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Scholten showed him a “falsified document” with Dr. Scholten and Defendant Payne's name on it. (Compl., PageID.14.) Plaintiff apparently sent a kite requesting a “document by Dr. Coleman re: stop date of tinted lenses.” (See 10/5/2018 Kite Response, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.49.) A prison official responded that “[t]here is not a document from Dr. Coleman on tinted lenses. Follow the included release of information process if you would like a copy of your 10/3/2018 appt with Dr. Scholten.” (Id.)

         Based on the foregoing facts, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Payne retaliated against him for exercising his right to petition for redress under the First Amendment by writing a misconduct report. He also claims that Defendants Wilkinson, Lamb, and Russel deprived him of his right to due process when denying his grievance appeals. In addition, he claims that Defendants Payne, Coleman, and Scholten violated the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, as well as Plaintiff's rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, when they deprived Plaintiff of his medical detail for tinted glasses, and when they “discriminated” against Plaintiff. (Compl., PageID.17.)

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment, an injunction requiring the MDOC to reinstate his medical detail for tinted glass, and compensatory and punitive damages.

         II. Failure ...


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