United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
L. MALONEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a civil rights action brought by state prisoners 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 Plaintiffs' pro se
complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404
U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiffs' 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
Plaintiffs' complaint for failure to state a claim.
Dennis Lonnie Alfred Ward, Walter Neal, Aundra Beckem, Jamal
Umar Buchanan, Samaj Ramone Lawson, Sandy Holt Jr., and
Dandree Black are seven state prisoners presently
incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections
(MDOC) at the Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF), the
Muskegon Correctional Facility (MCF), and the G. Robert
Cotton Correctional Facility (JCF). The events about which
they complain, however, occurred prior to their
incarceration. Plaintiffs sue Muskegon County Executive Kathy
Tharp, the County of Muskegon, and Muskegon County Clerk
Nancy A. Waters. Plaintiffs' complaint was originally
filed in the Muskegon County Circuit Court on June 6, 2019,
but was removed to this Court by Defendants on July 29, 2019.
Defendants filed a motion to dismiss (ECF No. 3) on August 5,
allege that they were all convicted and sentenced in the
Muskegon County Circuit Court between 2001 and 2012.
Plaintiffs state that they were indigent and were each
represented by appointed counsel. Plaintiffs claim that the
County of Muskegon failed in its obligation to adequately
fund, train, and supervise the court-appointed attorneys who
defended Plaintiffs in their criminal prosecutions. Each of
the Plaintiffs state that they were represented by multiple
attorneys during the course of their criminal cases, that the
attorneys were changed without the notice or consent of the
Plaintiffs, and that the representation provided was
inconsistent and inadequate.
claim that Defendants' conduct violated their rights
under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as under
state law. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief,
as well as “any other relief . . . including monetary
damage awards and out of pocket expenses for the costs of
this litigation, including court costs.” (ECF No. 1-1,
Failure to state a claim
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)).
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).
their motion to dismiss, Defendants state that
Plaintiffs' claims are barred by Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). A challenge to the fact
or duration of confinement should be brought as a petition
for habeas corpus and is not the proper subject of a civil
rights action brought pursuant to § 1983. See
Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 484 (1973) (the
essence of habeas corpus is an attack by a person in custody
upon the legality of that custody and the traditional
function of the writ is to secure release from illegal
custody). Therefore, to the extent that Plaintiffs'
complaint challenges the fact or duration of their
incarceration, it must be dismissed. See Adams v.
Morris, 90 Fed.Appx. 856, 858 (6th Cir. 2004) (dismissal
is appropriate where § 1983 action seeks equitable
relief and challenges fact or duration of confinement);
see also Moore v. Pemberton, 110 F.3d 22, 23-24 (7th
Cir. 1997) (reasons for not construing a § 1983 action
as one seeking habeas relief include (1) potential
application of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477
(1994), (2) differing defendants, (3) differing standards of
§ 1915(a)(3) and § 2253(c), (4) differing fee
requirements, and (5) potential application of second or
successive petition doctrine or three-strikes rules of §
addition, to the extent Plaintiffs seek injunctive,
declaratory, and monetary relief for alleged violations of
Constitutional rights related to their convictions, their
claims are barred by Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87, which
held that “in order to recover damages for allegedly
unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other
harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a
conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff
must prove that the conviction or sentence has been
[overturned].” See Edwards v. Balisok, 520
U.S. 641, 646 (1997) (emphasis in original). In
Heck, the Supreme Court held that a state prisoner
cannot make a cognizable claim under § 1983 for an
allegedly unconstitutional conviction or for “harm
caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a
conviction or sentence invalid” unless a prisoner shows
that the conviction or sentence has been “reversed on
direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid
by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or
called into question by a federal court's issuance of a
writ of habeas corpus.” Id. at 486-87
(footnote omitted). The holding in Heck has been
extended to actions seeking injunctive or declaratory relief.
See Edwards, 520 U.S. at 646-48 (declaratory
relief); Clarke v. Stalder, 154 F.3d 186, 189-90
(5th Cir. 1998) (claim for injunctive relief intertwined with
request for damages); Wilson v. Kinkela, No.
97-4035, 1998 WL 246401, at *1 (6th Cir. May 5, 1998)
noted by Defendants in their motion to dismiss,
Plaintiffs' claims in this case clearly relate to the
validity of their convictions because they allege that they
did not receive adequate legal representation in their
criminal cases. None of the Plaintiffs have alleged that they
have had their convictions reversed or invalidated.
Therefore, Plaintiffs' claims are barred under
Heck until their criminal convictions have been
as noted by Defendants, Plaintiffs' claims are barred by
the applicable statute of limitations. State statutes of
limitations and tolling principles apply to determine the
timeliness of claims asserted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 268-69 (1985). For
civil rights suits filed in Michigan under § 1983, the
statute of limitations is three years. See Mich.
Comp. Laws § 600.5805(2) (eff. June 12, 2018)
(previously § 600.5805(10)); Carroll v.
Wilkerson, 782 F.2d 44, 44 (6th Cir. 1986) (per curiam);
Stafford v. Vaughn, No. 97-2239, 1999 WL 96990, at
*1 (6th Cir. Feb. 2, 1999). Accrual of the claim for relief,
however, is a question of federal law. Collyer v.
Darling, 98 F.3d 211, 220 (6th Cir. 1996); Sevier v.
Turner, 742 F.2d 262, 272 (6th Cir. 1984). The statute
of limitations begins to run when the aggrieved party knows
or has reason to know of the injury that is the basis of his
action. Collyer, 98 F.3d at 220.
complaint is untimely. They assert claims arising between
2001 and 2012. Plaintiffs had reason to know of the
“harms” done to them at the time they occurred.
Hence, their claims accrued between 2001 and 2012. However,
they did not file their complaint until June 6, 2019, well
past Michigan's three-year limit. Moreover, Michigan law
no longer tolls the running of the statute of limitations
when a plaintiff is incarcerated. See Mich. Comp.
Laws § 600.5851(9). Further, it is well established that
ignorance of the law does not warrant equitable tolling of a
statute of limitations. See Rose v. Dole, 945 F.2d