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Coleman v. Detroit Metropolitan Airport

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

November 8, 2019

VERNON COLEMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
DETROIT METROPOLITAN AIRPORT, WAYNE COUNTY METRO AIRPORT PD, CITY OF DETROIT, WAYNE COUNTY, JOHN DOE 1 AND JOHN DOE 2, Defendants.

          R. Steven Whalen Mag. Judge

          ORDER: (1) GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS [ECF 11]; (2) DISMISSING AS MOOT PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT [ECF 24], DEFAULT SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF 25], WRIT OF MANDAMUS [ECF. 27], AND MOTION FOR SANCTIONS [ECF 37]; AND (3) DISMISSING ACTION.

          VICTORIA A. ROBERTS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION/BACKGROUND

         On July 10, 2018, officers took Vernon Coleman (“Coleman”) into custody at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport passenger security checkpoint.

         Coleman claims to have been detained for four days in solitary confinement in his complaint - although his brief in opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss states that he had been detained only three days. Among other things, Coleman alleges he received only a half sandwich a day while in custody. He claims that Defendants did not allow him to take a shower and denied him access to hygiene products.

         At the time of his arrest, Coleman was on supervised release after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute at least five kilograms of a mixture and substance containing cocaine. (United States v. Coleman, No. 1:07-CR-233 (N.D.Ga. Jan. 25, 2019) (ECF 804)). The court sentenced him on January 26, 2011 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia to 87 months in prison followed by 5 years supervised release.

         As a direct result of these airport events on July 10, 2018, the Northern District of Georgia revoked Coleman's supervised release and sentenced him to 24 months incarceration.[1] Coleman is a federal inmate incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Jesup, Georgia. It does not appear that Coleman faced any state charges following events of July 10, 2018.

         Before the Court is Coleman's pro se civil rights complaint alleging Defendants violated his First (denial of access to courts), Fifth and Fourteenth (loss of liberty without due process), Eighth (cruel and unusual punishment), and Sixth (inability to defend himself) Amendment rights.

         Defendants filed this motion to dismiss. The Court grants it. Coleman's complaint is Dismissed With Prejudice for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A pro se civil rights complaint is to be construed liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests a complaint's legal sufficiency. The federal rules require that a complaint contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The purpose of this rule is to “give the defendant fair notice of what the … claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)(quoting Conley v. Gibson, 335 U.S. 41, 47 (1957).

         Indeed, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible where the facts allow the Court to infer that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. This requires more than “bare assertions of legal conclusions”; a plaintiff must provide the “grounds” of his or her “entitlement to relief.” League of United Latin Am. Citizens v. Bredesen, 500 F.3d 523, 527 (6th Cir. 2007); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (while detailed factual allegations are not required, a pleading must offer more than “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of the cause of action”). Ultimately, the question is “‘not whether [the plaintiff] will ultimately prevail' . . . but whether [the] complaint [is] sufficient to cross the federal court's threshold.” Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 529-30 (2011) (citations omitted).

         In deciding a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept as true all well-pled factual allegations, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Bassett v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008). The Court “may consider the Complaint and any exhibits attached thereto, public records, items appearing in the record of the case and exhibits attached to defendant's motion to dismiss so long as they are referred to in the Complaint and are central to the claims.” Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Heck Bars Some Of Coleman's Claims

         Defendants contend that Coleman's First (denial of access to courts), Fifth and Fourteenth (loss of liberty without due process), and Sixth (access to lawyer to defend against charges) Amendment claims are barred by Heck because Coleman seeks money damages that call into question a conviction or sentence. Since Coleman says he sought counsel to defend against charges, presumably he challenges the revocation of his supervised release since he faced no other charges.

         Coleman seeks injunctive, punitive, and monetary relief for alleged violations of constitutional rights related to his conviction. The Heck Court 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].” Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994).

         Coleman does not allege that either his conviction or sentence has been overturned or determined to be invalid. His complaint alleges that conditions surrounding his detention “violated his constitutional rights.”

         To the extent Coleman's complaint challenges the fact or duration of his incarceration, it must be dismissed. Adams v. Morris, 90 Fed.Appx. 856, 858 (6th Cir. 2004) (dismissal appropriate where § 1983 action seeks equitable relief and challenges fact or duration of confinement).

         Under Heck, a state prisoner may not file a §1983 suit for damages or equitable relief if a ruling on his claims would render a conviction or sentence invalid, until and unless the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. Id. at 486-87; Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005) (“[A] state prisoner's § 1983 action is barred (absent prior invalidation)-regardless of the relief sought (damages, injunctive, equitable relief, etc.) and the target of the prisoner's suit-if success in that action would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of confinement or its duration.”). Coleman does not state that his sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. His claims are barred by Heck.

         Because Coleman is challenging the fact or duration of his confinement, his challenge should have been brought as a petition for habeas corpus. 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); 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 ยง ...


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