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McGlothan v. Drefke

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

January 10, 2020

CHARLES MCGLOTHAN, #845357, Plaintiffs,
DREFKE, et al., Defendants.



         This is a pro se civil rights case brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by Michigan prisoner Charles McGlothan (“Plaintiff”), confined at the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian, Michigan. Plaintiff alleges that he is an indigent prisoner and was not allowed to make copies of his motion for a “complaint of mandamus and want for subject matter jurisdiction” related to his state criminal proceedings. ECF No. 1 at PageID.5. He alleges that he was denied his right of access to the courts, that his grievances were improperly denied, and that he was denied equal protection and due process. He names Gus Harrison Librarian Drefke, Gus Harrison Warden Sherman Campbell, Michigan Department of Corrections Office of Legal Affairs employee Melody Wallace, and Michigan Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington as the defendants in this action. He seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief. For the reasons that follow, the complaint will be dismissed.


         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 (“PLRA”), the Court is required to sua sponte dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint before service on a defendant if it determines that the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The Court is similarly required to dismiss a complaint seeking redress against government entities, officers, and employees which it finds to be frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989).

         A pro se civil rights complaint is to be construed liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). Nonetheless, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a complaint set forth “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” as well as “a demand for the relief sought.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), (3). 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) (citation omitted). While notice pleading does not require “detailed” factual allegations, it does require more than the bare assertion of legal principles or conclusions. Id. Rule 8 “demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         To state a civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) he or she was deprived of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Federal Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) the deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of state law. Flagg Bros. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155-57 (1978); Harris v. Circleville, 583 F.3d 356, 364 (6th Cir. 2009). Additionally, a plaintiff must allege facts indicating that the deprivation of his or her rights was intentional. Davidson v. Cannon, 474 U.S. 344, 348 (1986); Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 333-36 (1986).


         Plaintiff names Warden Sherman Campbell as a defendant in this action based upon his role as the warden and the person who denied his grievance. It is well-established that a civil rights plaintiff must allege the personal involvement of a defendant to state a claim under § 1983 and that liability cannot be established based upon a theory of respondeat superior or vicarious liability. Monell v. Department of Social Svs., 436 U.S. 658, 691-92 (1978); Everson v. Leis, 556 F.3d 484, 495 (6th Cir. 2009); see also Taylor v. Michigan Dep't. of Corrections, 69 F.3d 716, 727-28 (6th Cir. 1995) (plaintiff must allege facts showing that defendant participated, condoned, encouraged, or knowingly acquiesced in alleged misconduct to establish liability). A plaintiff “must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676. Plaintiff makes no such factual allegations against Warden Campbell. Any assertion that Warden Campbell failed to supervise an employee, should be vicariously liable for an employee's conduct, and/or did not properly respond to the situation is insufficient to state a claim under § 1983. See, e.g., Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 300 (6th Cir. 1999); see also Martin v. Harvey, 14 Fed.Appx. 307, 309 (6th Cir. 2001).

         Additionally, to the extent that Plaintiff asserts that Warden Campbell (or any other defendant) violated his constitutional rights by denying his grievance, he fails to state a claim for relief. The First Amendment guarantees “the right of the people . . . to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” U.S. Const. amend. I. While a prisoner has a First Amendment right to file grievances against prison officials, Herron v. Harrison, 203 F.3d 410, 415 (6th Cir. 2000), the First Amendment does not impose an affirmative obligation on the government to consider, respond to, or grant any relief on a petition for redress of grievances. Smith v. Arkansas State Hwy. Employees, Local 1315, 441 U.S. 463, 464-65 (1979); Apple v. Glenn, 183 F.3d 477, 479 (6th Cir. 1999) (“A citizen's right to petition the government does not guarantee a response to the petition or the right to compel government officials to act on or adopt a citizen's views.”). An inmate does not have a constitutionally protected interest in a jail or prison grievance procedure or the right to an effective procedure. Walker v. Michigan Dep't of Corrections, 128 Fed.Appx. 441, 445 (6th Cir. 2005); Argue v. Hofmeyer, 80 Fed.Appx. 427, 430 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing cases). To the extent that Plaintiff is dissatisfied with the investigation of his complaint and the responses to his grievance, he fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Carlton v. Jondreau, 76 Fed.Appx. 642, 644 (6th Cir. 2003); Proctor v. Applegate, 661 F.Supp.2d 743, 766-67 (E.D. Mich. 2009) (Borman, J., adopting magistrate judge's report). Plaintiff's complaint against Warden Campbell will be dismissed.


         Plaintiff alleges that all the defendants violated his right of access to the courts. Prisoners have a constitutional right of access to the courts, which the states have an affirmative duty to protect. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821-25 (1977). A prisoner's right of access to the courts is limited to direct criminal appeals, habeas corpus applications, and civil rights claims challenging the conditions of confinement. See Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 355 (1996); Thaddeus-X v. Blatter, 175 F.3d 378, 391 (6th Cir. 1999). This right of access requires prison authorities to provide either the legal tools necessary for inmates to represent themselves or the assistance of legally-trained personnel. See Holt v. Pitts, 702 F.2d 639, 640 (6th Cir. 1983) (citations omitted). The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, however, has ruled that the constitutional right of access to the courts does not entitle prisoners to unlimited access to free photocopying. See, e.g., Bell-Bey v. Toombs, No. 93-2405, 1994 WL 105900 (6th Cir. Mar. 28, 1994); Hawk v. Vidor, No. 92-2349, 1993 WL 94007, *1 (6th Cir. Mar. 31, 1993); Al-Jabbar v. Dutton, No. 92-5004, 1992 WL 107016, *1 (6th Cir. May 19, 1992).

         To prevail on a §1983 claim concerning the denial of access to the courts, a plaintiff must make some showing of prejudice or actual injury as a result of the challenged conduct. See Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351 (1996). Examples of actual prejudice include having a non-frivolous case dismissed, being unable to file a non-frivolous complaint, and missing a court-imposed deadline. Id. at 353; Harbin-Bey v. Rutter, 420 F.3d 571, 578 (6th Cir. 2005). “[T]he underlying cause of action, whether anticipated or lost, is an element that must be described in the complaint.” Christoper v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 415 (2002). Additionally, a plaintiff must allege that the deprivation of rights was the result of intentional conduct to state a claim. Sims v. Landrum, 170 Fed.Appx. 954, 957 (6th Cir. 2006); Wojnicz v. Davis, 80 Fed.Appx. 382, 384 (6th Cir. 2003). An allegation of negligence will not suffice. Collins v. City of Harker Hgts., 503 U.S. 115, 127-30 (1992).

         In this case, Plaintiff makes no such showing. First, though he states that he seeks to file a mandamus action related to his criminal proceedings, he does not indicate the basis for such an action nor provide any details to show that such an action would not be frivolous. Public records indicate that in 2012, Plaintiff pleaded no contest to three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in the Calhoun County Circuit Court. See Offender Profile, Michigan Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) Offender Tracking Information System(“OTIS”).

         Plaintiff did not pursue a direct appeal in the state courts, and the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal on collateral review in 2018. People v. McGlothan, 906 N.W.2d 776 (Mich. Feb. 20, 2018), recon. den. 911 N.W.2d 687 (Mich. May 29, 2018). Plaintiff thus does not have any pending litigation in the state courts involving his state criminal proceedings to which a mandamus action could relate. Moreover, under Michigan law, a state prisoner is ordinarily only allowed to file one motion for relief from judgment. See Mich. Ct. R. 6.508(G). Plaintiff ...

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