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Howard v. Bauman

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

November 13, 2019

CHRISTOPHER HOWARD, Plaintiff,
v.
CATHERINE S. BAUMAN et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          ROBERT J. JONKER CHIEF 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.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Michigan Reformatory (RMI), in Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan. The events about which he complains, however, occurred at the Alger Correctional Facility (LMF) in Munising, Alger County, Michigan, and led to his transfer to the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility, (LRF) in Muskegon Heights, Muskegon County, Michigan, where Plaintiff was housed at the time he filed his complaint. Plaintiff sues the following LMF officials: Warden Catherine S. Bauman; Assistant Deputy Warden Benny Mercier; Resident Unit Manager/Security Classification Committee (SCC) member J. Naeyaert; and Prison Counselor Patti Hubble.

         Plaintiff's complaint is devoid of factual allegations. Instead, he references his 77 pages of exhibits, which largely consist of his many grievances and grievance responses. In the middle of his attachments, however, Plaintiff has included a three-page affidavit. (Pl.'s Aff., ECF No. 1-1, PageID.44-46.) The Court draws its facts from Plaintiff's affidavit and his own statements in his grievances.

         Plaintiff transferred in to LMF on September 26, 2018. When he arrived, he was placed in a cell specified for dog handlers. Dogs were present in the unit. Plaintiff told Defendant Hubble that he feared being placed in a cell with a dog, and he asked to be relocated. Defendant Hubble advised Plaintiff that they did not move prisoners within the unit, that he should not worry about the dogs, and that he should be grateful to be in a Level-2 housing unit, because, if he accumulated a few more misconduct tickets, he would find himself housed at Level 4.

         On September 28, 2019, as he was exiting his cell, Plaintiff was bitten by an LMF dog. Plaintiff alleges that this is not the first time a dog has bitten someone in the unit. Plaintiff claims that he was denied medical attention for almost half an hour. Nurse Nathan Moser then cleaned the puncture wounds and cuts and issued medication and bandages, with orders that the bandages be changed daily.

         Plaintiff informed Defendant Hubble about the attack promptly after it happened, and the incident report was reviewed by Defendant Bauman. On October 1, 2018, Plaintiff filed at least one grievance about the disregard of MDOC Policy Directive 03.03.130. Unknown Prunick (not a Defendant) reviewed the grievance and found no policy violation. The finding was supported by Defendant Naeyaert.

         On October 16, 2018, Plaintiff was transferred to LRF, apparently on an emergency basis. Plaintiff alleges that the transfer was done in retaliation for Plaintiff's grievance. Plaintiff received his property on October 19, 2018. Before his transfer, Plaintiff requested Step-II grievance appeal forms. Plaintiff alleges that his grievance appeal forms were delayed until November 14, 2018. Plaintiff completed the appeal forms and mailed them to LMF on November 16, 2018. Plaintiff contends that several of his grievances have been appealed through Step III.

         Finally, Plaintiff contends that, over the course of the ten months between his transfer and the filing of his complaint, unspecified staff members have engaged in a campaign of harassment, ostensibly interfering with Plaintiff's rights under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that staff members have issued misconduct tickets against him, upgraded his security level, and moved him to a different facility, all in an attempt to interfere with Plaintiff's pursuit of his right to complain of the alleged Eighth Amendment violation arising out of the unsafe conditions of confinement in the dog unit.

         Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief, together with a preliminary and permanent injunction requiring Defendant Bauman to close the AMF dog shelter program. He also 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 ...


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