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Glenn v. Greenleaf

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

December 17, 2019

VALDEZ GLENN, Plaintiff,
UNKNOWN GREENLEAF 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 Alger Correctional Facility (LMF) in Alger County, Michigan. The events about which he complains, however, occurred at the Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF) in Chippewa County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues URF Correctional Officers Unknown Greenleaf and Unknown Durant, and URF Lieutenant Unknown Bigger.

         Plaintiff alleges that on August 11, 2018, he came out to the unit yard for recreation. Defendant Greenleaf shook Plaintiff down while stating “Where are the gambling slips at?” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.7.) When Greenleaf did not find any gambling slips he stated: “I will get your black ass soon watch and see.” (Id.) Plaintiff then made a verbal complaint to Defendant Bigger regarding Greenleaf's “actions and conduct.” (Id.) Greenleaf escorted another prisoner to segregation.

         Plaintiff proceeded to play basketball on the yard. He took his pants off and placed them on a nearby bench. Greenleaf returned and searched Plaintiff's pants. Greenleaf discovered pills. Greenleaf stated: “I finally got you.” (Id.) Plaintiff protested that anyone could have planted the pills in his pants. He asked Greenleaf to review the camera footage of the yard, but Greenleaf refused. Greenleaf wrote a Class I misconduct against Plaintiff for substance abuse.

         Prisoner Earnest Brooks confessed to putting the pills in Plaintiff's pants. (Brooks Aff., ECF No. 1-1, PageID.14-15.) Brooks does not suggest that any of the Defendants put him up to it. (Id.) Greenleaf told Brooks: “I know that Glenn is a drug dealing nigger.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.7.) Plaintiff then made a second verbal complaint about Greenleaf to Defendant Bigger.

         Plaintiff asked Bigger to review the camera footage. She refused and instead told Plaintiff she would make sure he got 30 days and a visit restriction. (Id.) Plaintiff asked to see a hearing investigator. Defendant Durant served as the investigator. Durant also either refused to look at the video or refused to permit Plaintiff to look at the video. (Id., PageID.8.)

         Hearing Officer O'Brien conducted a hearing on the misconduct on August 20, 2018. She watched the video. She confirmed that another prisoner walked over to Plaintiff's pants and did something with them. Because the other prisoner may have put the pills in the pants, she could not find that Plaintiff was guilty of the misconduct.

         Plaintiff filed a formal complaint with the internal affairs department seeking a criminal inquiry against Defendants Greenleaf and Bigger. Plaintiff filed a grievance against the Defendants as well.[1]

         Plaintiff contends that Defendants violated duties spelled out in the MDOC employee handbook and MDOC policy directives. He claims that Defendants also violated his rights under the First, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff seeks a declaration that Defendants violated his rights as well as compensatory and punitive damages. Plaintiff also asks the Court to direct the MDOC to discharge all three Defendants.

         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).

         III. Violations of state-law duties

         Claims under § 1983 can only be brought for “deprivation of rights secured by the constitution and laws of the United States.” Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 924 (1982). Section 1983 does not provide redress for a violation of a state law. Pyles v. Raisor, 60 F.3d 1211, 1215 (6th Cir. 1995); Sweeton v. Brown, 27 F.3d 1162, 1166 (6th Cir. 1994). Defendants' alleged failures to comply with an administrative rule or policy does not itself rise to the level of a constitutional violation. Laney v. Farley, 501 F.3d 577, 581 n.2 (6th Cir. 2007); Brody v. City of Mason, 250 F.3d 432, 437 (6th Cir. 2001); Smith v. Freland, 954 F.2d 343, 347-48 (6th Cir. 1992); Barber v. City of Salem, 953 F.2d 232, 240 (6th Cir. 1992); McVeigh v. Bartlett, No. 94-23347, 1995 WL 236687, at *1 (6th Cir. Apr. 21, 1995) (failure to follow policy directive does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation because policy directive does not create a protectible liberty interest).

         Moreover, to the extent that Plaintiff intended to raise the violations of the MDOC employee handbook or MDOC policy directives as state law claims, the Court will not consider them. For the reasons set forth below, all of Plaintiff's federal claims are properly dismissed. “Where a district court has exercised jurisdiction over a state law claim solely by virtue of supplemental jurisdiction and the federal claims are dismissed prior to trial, the state law claims should be dismissed without reaching their merits.” Coleman v. Huff, No. 97-1916, 1998 WL 476226, at *1 (6th Cir. Aug. 3, 1998) (citing Faughender v. City of N. Olmsted, Ohio, 927 F.2d 909, 917 (6th Cir. 1991)); see also Landefeld v. Marion Gen. Hosp., Inc., 994 F.2d 1178, 1182 (6th Cir. 1993). As set forth below, none of Plaintiff's federal claims survive initial review under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1915(e). The balance of the ...

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