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Uraz v. Ingham County Jail

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

September 11, 2019

TUNC URAZ, Plaintiff,
v.
INGHAM COUNTY JAIL et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          Honorable Robert J. Jonker 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 a Turkish citizen who presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Saginaw County Correctional Facility (SRF) in Freeland, Saginaw County, Michigan. However, the actions about which he complains occurred while Plaintiff was housed at the Ingham County Jail (ICJ). Plaintiff sues the ICJ and the following ICJ officials: Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth; Undersheriff Scott Wriggelsworth; and Jail Administrator Sam Davis.

         According to the complaint, Plaintiff pleaded guilty to aggravated stalking, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.411i, on August 23, 2016. At the instruction of his attorney, Plaintiff remanded himself into custody at the ICJ on August 31, 2016, while he was still awaiting sentencing. On September 1, 2016, upon a motion filed by the Ingham County Prosecutor, Ingham County Circuit Judge Clinton Canady, III, issued an order suspending Plaintiff's phone privileges pending sentencing on October 19, 2016, at which point the court would reconsider whether a continued phone restriction was necessary. (See 9/1/16 Ingham Cty. Cir. Ct. Order, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.13-14.)

         The court's September 1, 2016, order detailed a series of contacts by Plaintiff made in violation of his pretrial release condition that he have no contact with the victim. One of the earlier violations had led to Plaintiff serving three days in jail for contempt of court prior to entry of the plea. In addition, the court held, following Plaintiff's guilty plea on August 23, 2016, but before Plaintiff's report to jail on August 31, 2016, Plaintiff again contacted the victim on August 30, 2016. As a result of the August 30 contact, the court revoked Plaintiff's bond and remanded Plaintiff to jail until sentencing. The court found in its September 1, 2016, order that the victim reported a further contact from Plaintiff on August 31, 2016, after Plaintiff had been lodged in the jail. The entire history formed the backdrop for the court's September 1, 2016, order suspending Plaintiff's phone privileges. (Id.)

         Plaintiff complains that the only evidence of a phone call after Plaintiff was jailed was the victim's report. Although Plaintiff does not expressly deny making the call, he contends that the jail records show that he could not have made the phone call, due to his jail movements and phone records. Plaintiff also alleges that the jail does not activate phones for new jail arrivals for 24 hours. He therefore contends that the evidence supports a conclusion that he did not make such a call.

         To accommodate the court's order barring Plaintiff from the use of a telephone, Plaintiff was placed in solitary confinement between September 1 and September 26, 2015. Plaintiff contends that his solitary confinement amounted to cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment and an atypical and significant deprivation under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff suggests that, because he had been found guilty but was not yet sentenced, he should be considered a pretrial detainee.

         Plaintiff also alleges that he was barred from using the telephone until July 13, 2017, well beyond his time in solitary confinement. He complains that, during this time, he was barred from contact with his lawyers, his family, and the Turkish Consulate. Plaintiff acknowledges that he eventually was given a limited ability to speak with members of the Turkish Consulate and his family, but he was ordered to speak solely in English.[1] Plaintiff complains that his right to confidentially speak with his attorneys and the consulate violated his rights under the First, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

         In addition, Plaintiff claims that, because he had been an upstanding member of the community and an employee of Michigan State University for 25 years before his conviction, he was an easy target for threats, extortion, theft, and jailhouse schemes that put his life and liberty in harm's way. He argues that he was housed with dangerous inmates who extorted commissary goods and money and who conspired to convince Plaintiff to make an attempt on the life of the victim of Plaintiff's stalking. As part of this conspiracy, inmates Charles Allen and Reginald Close allegedly informed the prosecutor or police that Plaintiff wanted his girlfriend killed. Plaintiff was charged in one case with three counts of solicitation of murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.157b(2), and, in the second case, with one count of aggravated stalking. On January 24, 2018, following a jury trial, Plaintiff was convicted of all four offenses. He was sentenced to concurrent prison terms of 16 years and 8 months to 30 years on the solicitation convictions and 3 to 7 years on the aggravated-stalking conviction.

         Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants failed to provide a confidential and effective grievance process, preventing Plaintiff from effectively addressing his concerns. Plaintiff alleges that the absence of an effective procedure denied him due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.

         For relief, Plaintiff seeks a declaration that Defendants violated his Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment Rights, together with an injunction barring Defendants from violating the Eighth Amendment rights of prisoners in ICJ. He also seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

         II. Motion to Appoint Counsel

          Plaintiff has filed a motion to appoint counsel (ECF No. 3). Indigent parties in civil cases have no constitutional right to a court-appointed attorney. Abdur-Rahman v. Mich. Dep't of Corr., 65 F.3d 489, 492 (6th Cir. 1995); Lavado v. Keohane, 992 F.2d 601, 604-05 (6th Cir. 1993). The Court may, however, request an attorney to serve as counsel, in the Court's discretion. AbdurRahman, 65 F.3d at 492; Lavado, 992 F.2d at 604-05; see Mallard v. U.S. Dist. Court, 490 U.S. 296 (1989).

         Appointment of counsel is a privilege that is justified only in exceptional circumstances. In determining whether to exercise its discretion, the Court should consider the complexity of the issues, the procedural posture of the case, and Plaintiff's apparent ability to prosecute the action without the help of counsel. See Lavado, 992 F.2d at 606. The Court has carefully considered these factors and determines that, at this stage of the case, the assistance of counsel does not appear necessary to the proper presentation of Plaintiff's position. Plaintiff's request for appointment of counsel therefore will be denied.

         III. 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).

         IV. Ingham County Jail / Ingham County

         Plaintiff sues the Ingham County Jail. The jail is a building, not an entity capable of being sued in its own right. However, construing Plaintiff's pro se complaint with all required liberality, Haines, 404 U.S. at 520, the Court assumes that Plaintiff intended to sue Ingham County. Ingham County may not be held vicariously liable for the actions of its employees under § 1983. See Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 60 (2011); City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 392 (1989); Monell v. ...


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