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Kirschke v. Chance

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

November 1, 2019

J. CHANCE et al., Defendants.


          Paul L. Maloney, 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.


         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF) in Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan. The events about which he complains occurred at that facility, the MDOC Jackson Regional Business Office, and the Thumb Correctional Facility (TCF) in Lapeer, Lapeer County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues MDOC Accounting Assistants J. Chance, Unknown Party #1, and Unknown Party #2.

         Plaintiff alleges that, starting November 2018, Defendants began “deliberately delaying the processing/posting of disbursement debts against Plaintiff's account for legal supplies” to deprive Plaintiff of discretionary funds for at least three months. (See, e.g., Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.7 ¶ 11, PageID.9 ¶ 17.) Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants sought to deprive Plaintiff of such funds in retaliation for the exercise of his First Amendment rights. (Id., PageID.9 ¶ 17.)

         Plaintiff has held work assignments during his imprisonment. He has also carried debt while in custody. Each month from August 2016 to May 2018, MDOC seized all of Plaintiff's compensation from his prison work assignment to pay toward his debts. (Id., PageID.7 ¶ 9.) Starting May or June 2018, MDOC permitted Plaintiff to retain $11 of compensation each month. (Id., PageID.7 ¶ 10.) Soon thereafter, Plaintiff began transferring the $11 he retained each month to the MDOC contractor J-Pay. (Id., PageID.7 ¶ 10.) Plaintiff planned to apply these transferred funds toward the purchase of a JP-5 electronic communications tablet, which J-Pay sells. (Id.)

         During his custody, Plaintiff has initiated several federal civil cases and administrative grievances. (See, e.g., ECF No. 1-2, PageID.19, PageID.41.) Connected to these, Plaintiff has incurred various expenses including filing fees, copying charges, supply costs, and postage. Plaintiff alleges that when Defendants discovered his transfers to J-Pay, Defendants began deliberately posting all his legal expenses for the month the same day as his work assignment compensation posted. (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.7 ¶ 11.) As a result, Plaintiff's compensation would apply toward his legal expenses rather than remain available to him, thus frustrating his transfers to J-Pay. Plaintiff alleges that, as a result of Defendants' scheme, he was deprived of his work assignment compensation in November 2018 as well as February and March 2019. (Id., PageID.9 ¶ 17.)

         Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as all costs of litigation in this matter.

         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).

         Here, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated prison policy in posting his prison debts. He argues they did so in retaliation for the exercise of his First Amendment rights. Plaintiff's statement may also be construed as a claim under the Fourteenth Amendment for deprivation of property without due process of law.

         A. ...

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