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Johnson v. Wilkerson

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

September 27, 2019

DARREN DEON JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
UNKNOWN WILKERSON, 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 against Defendants Barnes, Hardiman, and Dixon-Ingalls.

         Discussion

         I. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Muskegon Correctional Facility (MCF) in Muskegon, Muskegon County, Michigan. The events about which he complains occurred at that facility. Plaintiff sues Health Unit Manager Unknown Wilkerson, Grievance Coordinator L. Barnes, Librarian E. Hardiman, and Business Manager Unknown Dixon-Ingalls.

         Plaintiff alleges that in December of 2017 and February of 2018, he sent kites to health care complaining of continuous severe chest pain, that had previously heralded a heart attack. Plaintiff states that his kites were completely ignored. On March 7, 2018, Plaintiff specifically addressed a kite to Defendant Wilkerson, who totally disregarded it. Plaintiff states that his chest pain continued to worsen.

         On March 11, 2018, Plaintiff filed a grievance, which was rejected as vague by Defendant Barnes. In the grievance, Plaintiff stated that he had sent kites to health care, which were ignored, and that he was suffering from severe chest pain and had “received a mild heart attack.” (ECF No. 1-1, PageID.7). Plaintiff requested pain medication and complained that he had an abnormality in heart rhythm, which could lead to fainting or sudden death. Id. Plaintiff listed his symptoms as pain, clammy skin, shortness of breath, and nausea and vomiting. Id. Plaintiff requested an evaluation in order to diagnose his cardiac condition. Id.

         On May 28, 2018, Defendant Dixon-Ingalls denied Plaintiff’s request for envelopes, which impeded Plaintiff’s access to medical treatment and to the courts. However, on May 29, 2019, Plaintiff submitted the instant complaint, which was received by the Court on June 6, 2019. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Hardiman denied his request for copies of the complaint. Plaintiff continues to suffer with chest pain.

         Plaintiff states that Defendants have violated his rights under the First and Eighth Amendments. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive reliefs, as well as 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).

         Plaintiff claims that Defendant Barnes violated his constitutional right by improperly rejecting his grievance regarding the denial of medical care. Petitioner’s right to petition government is not violated by Defendant’s failure to process or act on his grievances. The First Amendment “right to petition government does not guarantee a response to the petition or the right to compel government officials to act on or adopt a citizen’s views.” Apple v. Glenn, 183 F.3d 477, 479 (6th Cir. 1999).

         Moreover, Defendants’ actions have not barred Plaintiff from seeking a remedy for his grievances. See Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 321 (1972). “A prisoner’s constitutional right to assert grievances typically is not violated when prison officials prohibit only ‘one of several ways in which inmates may voice their complaints to, and seek relief, from prison officials’ while leaving a formal grievance procedure intact.” Griffin v. Berghuis, 563 F. App’x 411, 415-16 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing N.C. Prisoners’ Labor Union, Inc., 433 U.S. 119, 130 n.6 (1977)). Indeed, Plaintiff’s ability to seek redress is underscored by his pro se invocation of the judicial process. See Azeez v. DeRobertis, 568 F.Supp. 8, 10 (N.D. Ill. 1982). Even if Plaintiff had been improperly prevented from filing a grievance, his right of access to the courts to petition for redress of his grievances (i.e., by filing a lawsuit) cannot be compromised by his inability to file institutional grievances, and he therefore cannot demonstrate the actual injury required for an access-to-the-courts claim. See, e.g., Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 355 (1996) (requiring actual injury); Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821-24 (1977). The exhaustion requirement only mandates exhaustion of available administrative remedies. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). If Plaintiff were improperly denied access to the grievance process, the process would be rendered unavailable, and exhaustion would not be a prerequisite for initiation of a civil rights action. See Ross ...


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