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Aimery v. Wriggelsworth

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

September 26, 2019

SCOTT WRIGGELSWORTH et al., Defendants.


          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 under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b), and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c) Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claims regarding double-bunking and confinement with dangerous felons and his First Amendment access-to-courts claim.


         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility (ARF) in Adrian, Lenawee County, Michigan. The events about which he complains, however, occurred at the Ingham County Jail in Mason, Ingham County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth and the County of Ingham.

         Plaintiff alleges that he was confined at the Ingham County Jail from January 2018 through August 2018, for a parole violation. During that time, Plaintiff was housed in a one man cell with another inmate. The two inmates were locked in the cell together for eighteen hours a day. Plaintiff states that they were allowed out of the cell for two “3-hour periods, ” during which they could go to the television room. Plaintiff was not allowed any access to the yard or to an area where he could exercise, which resulted in his joints becoming stiff and sore.

         Plaintiff claims that “several jail post[s] have been closed due to black mold, ” which is airborne and jeopardized his health, causing unspecified respiratory complications. Plaintiff states that masks were given to the deputies, but that no masks were available for prisoner use. Plaintiff also asserts that there are signs posted around the jail warning against drinking the water and that the deputies bring water from home. Plaintiff alleges that he continues to experience bladder pain from drinking the water at the jail, implying that he was forced to drink the jail water.

         Plaintiff alleges that the computer, which had previously functioned as the law library, has been eliminated, preventing Plaintiff from researching law pertaining to parole violations. The only non-legal material Plaintiff was allowed to receive through the mail was postcards. Letters from friends and family were rejected. Plaintiff was housed with dangerous convicted felons, who stole his food. Plaintiff asserts that he was in constant fear of being sexually assaulted or stabbed.

         Plaintiff contends that Defendants have an “official policy or custom of maintaining unconstitutional conditions” at the Ingham County Jail, that includes double bunking, cell confinement, prohibiting exercise, failing to segregate dangerous criminals, failing to correct the black mold problem, eliminating the computer/law library, and prohibiting all personal mail except postcards. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

         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. Sheriff and County as Defendants

         The only Defendants listed by Plaintiff in this case are Ingham County and Sheriff Wriggelsworth. Local governments, such as Defendant Ingham County, are liable only when the asserted injury is caused by an official policy or custom. See Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 60 (2011); City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 392 (1989); Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). In matters pertaining to the conditions of the jail and to the operation of the deputies, the sheriff is the policymaker for the county. Mich. Comp. Laws § 51.75 (sheriff has the “charge and custody” of the jails in his county); Mich. Comp. Laws § 51.281 (sheriff prescribes rules and regulations for conduct of prisoners); Mich. Comp. Laws § 51.70 (sheriff may appoint deputies and revoke appointments at any time); Kroes v. Smith, 540 F.Supp. 1295, 1298 (E.D. Mich. 1982) (the sheriff of “a given county is the only official with direct control over the duties, responsibilities, and methods of operation of deputy sheriffs” and thus, the sheriff “establishes the policies and customs described in Monell”). Thus, the Court looks to the allegations in Plaintiff’s complaint to determine whether Plaintiff has alleged that the sheriff has established a policy or custom which caused him to be ...

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