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Throneberry v. D. Havenor

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

January 16, 2020

Ryan Throneberry, Plaintiff,
D. Havenor et al., Defendants.


          Janet T. Neff 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 Michigan Reformatory (RMI) in Ionia County, Michigan. The events about which he complains, however, occurred at the Marquette Branch Prison (MBP) in Marquette County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues Warden Erica Huss, Deputy Warden James Alexander, Grievance Coordinator Glenn Caron, Lieutenant D. Havenor, Sergeant Unknown Johnston, and Corrections Officers Unknown Lawry and Unknown Shroderus.

         A. Plaintiff's name

         Plaintiff alleges at the outset that he is a devout practitioner of the Odinic/Asatru faith. Plaintiff alleges that his religious practice may lie at the root of the problems he has experienced with Defendants. In keeping with his religious practice, he has taken the name Davidsson. Plaintiff asks the Court to recognize his name as Ryan Blake Davidsson-Throneberry.

         MDOC policy directive 03.01.110 governs prisoner or parolee name changes. It is based on the fundamental requirement that “[a] prisoner or parolee may change his or her name only by court order.” MDOC Policy Directive 03.01.110 (effective March 7, 2011).

         Plaintiff added “Davidsson” to his surname for religious reasons. Prisoners have often attempted to compel the MDOC to recognize such religious name changes under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment or under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). This Court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals have repeatedly rejected those attempts because the administrative convenience of permitting prison officials to use one name for a prisoner is simply too important to effective prison administration. See, e.g., Imam Ali Abdullah Akbar v. Canney, 634 F.2d 339, 340 (6th Cir. 1980) (“‘Prison administration presents unique difficulties and the burden imposed on the plaintiff in the instant case by the defendants' use of his non-Muslim name clearly is outweighed by the administrative difficulties and confusion which would confront prison officials in attempting to amend commitment papers of every prisoner who embraces the Islamic faith and changes his name.'”); Spies v. Voinovich, 173 F.3d 398, 406 (6th Cir. 1999) (“Spies has no ‘constitutional right to dictate how prison officials keep their prison records. As we see this issue, the present question of name change usage relates to prison administration.'”); Porter v. Caruso, 479 F.Supp.2d 687, 700 (W.D. Mich. 2007); Piotrowski v. Michigan, No. 1:12-cv-11, 2012 WL 652460 (W.D. Mich. Feb. 28, 2012).

         Administrative convenience provides a compelling reason for this Court to follow suit. Plaintiff comes to the Court as an in forma pauperis prisoner. The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), which was enacted on April 26, 1996, amended the procedural rules governing a prisoner's request for the privilege of proceeding in forma pauperis. For example, a prisoner is liable for the civil action filing fee, and if the prisoner qualifies to proceed in forma pauperis, the prisoner may pay the fee through partial payments as outlined in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). In addition, the PLRA prevents a prisoner from proceeding in forma pauperis when the prisoner repeatedly files meritless lawsuits. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

         The limits imposed by the PLRA can only be effectively enforced if the Court can specifically identify the individual prisoner before it. Plaintiff was prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned by the State of Michigan under the name “Ryan Blake Throneberry”-his commitment name. See Even though MDOC policy permits the use of a different legal name, the same policy requires that all official MDOC forms and documents throughout a prisoner's incarceration and parole include the commitment name. MDOC Policy Directive 03.01.110 ¶ D. Because the Court is required to review MDOC documents to fulfill the Court's obligation under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2), it is convenient and prudent to use the only name the MDOC will include on all of its documents: Plaintiff's commitment name. As a consequence, Plaintiff's request to have the Court use his religious name is denied.

         B. Defendant Shroderus

         Plaintiff alleges that, during the afternoon of December 26, 2018, he was on his way to the Level V yard. He was wearing a winter cap around his neck as a scarf. Defendant Shroderus singled Plaintiff out and gave Plaintiff a direct order to remove the hat from his neck. Plaintiff notes that he “questioned” Shroderus regarding why Plaintiff was being targeted and harassed. Plaintiff notes, nonetheless, that he complied with the order.

         Even though Plaintiff complied, Defendant Shroderus wrote a misconduct report against Plaintiff for insolence. Plaintiff attaches the misconduct report to his complaint. Defendant Shroderus described the incident a little differently. While Plaintiff states he “questioned” the officer's harassment, Shroderus states “Prisoner Throneberry looked directly at me and [said], ‘Fuck you, bitch, you're always on your hoe shit.'” (Misconduct Report, ECF No. 1-9, PageID.50.) None of Plaintiff's allegations contradict Defendant Shroderus's description of Plaintiff's statement.

         Plaintiff alleges that Shroderus came to Plaintiff's cell twice after Plaintiff was found guilty of the misconduct. On January 4, 2019, at 4:50 p.m., Shroderus came to Plaintiff's cell to ensure that Plaintiff's electronics had been confiscated and stored in the Loss of Privileges Locker. Shroderus claimed to be “just doing his job, ” but, Plaintiff contends he was harassing Plaintiff because Shroderus should have been working the yard, not Plaintiff's housing unit.

         Shroderus returned less than half-an-hour later. He told Plaintiff: “I've got no beef with you, I didn't even want to write the ticket, but you made me look bad in front of my fellow officers and Lieutenant. You guys need to learn you can't talk back to us.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.4.) Shroderus also told Plaintiff that the lieutenant who witnessed Plaintiff's insolent statement to Shroderus contacted Defendant Lawry and directed Lawry to “tear Plaintiff's house up.” (Id., PageID.5.)

         C. Defendant Lawry

         Shortly after the incident with Shroderus, Defendant Lawry conducted a non-routine search of Plaintiff's cell. Defendant Lawry issued a misconduct for destruction or misuse of property. Plaintiff claims the misconduct was based on fabricated evidence; however, Plaintiff does not explain in his complaint the nature of the evidence or the fabrication.

         Plaintiff attaches to the complaint the misconduct hearing report and his appeal of the determination that he was guilty. The report reveals that Plaintiff was accused of misusing an extension cord by cutting off one end and attaching a piece of metal between the wires. (Misconduct Hr'g Report, ECF No. 1-10, PageID.52.) Although a plea of not guilty was entered on Plaintiff's behalf, his appeal suggests he may have possessed the contraband property. Plaintiff writes “the ticket itself is a direct violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment in [that] I received this misconduct and there are over a hundred other inmates in this facility alone with the exact same thing I was alleged to be in possession of, yet no misconducts were issued to those prisoners, only me.” (Misconduct Appeal, ECF No. 1-10, PageID.51.)

         Plaintiff alleges that when he returned to his cell after the search, he observed “bootprints on his bed, a bag of instant coffee spilled on his floor, shampoo squirted on his floor and bedspread, Plaintiff's freshly laundered clothes strewn throughout the cell, and miscellaneous personal/legal papers scattered throughout the cell; and Plaintiff's religious property/paperwork missing.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.5.) When Plaintiff complained to Defendant Lawry, Lawry replied: “Well, that's what happens when you talk shit to corrections officers.” (Id.) Lawry also told Plaintiff his religious property was in the Security Threat Group Coordinator's office. (Id.) Finally, Lawry told Plaintiff that he would “come in and destroy your cell every day I come to work, if you think you can question another corrections officer.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff notes that he and Lawry have a “history.” During May of 2017, Lawry claimed that he found a weapon in Plaintiff's cell vent. Plaintiff reports that Lawry falsified documents in connection with the claim. Plaintiff was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to an additional period of incarceration of 9 months to 2 years, 6 months. But for that prosecution, Plaintiff would have already been discharged.

         D. Defendant Johnston

         About one-half hour after Plaintiff spoke with Lawry, Defendant Johnston reviewed either one or both of the above-described misconducts with Plaintiff.[1] During the review, Johnston noticed “what appeared to be torn sheets tied to the cell bars of his cell and affixed to an unknown object at the back of his cell.” (Misconduct Report, ECF No. 1-11, PageID.57.) Johnston ordered Plaintiff to remove the “clothesline” from the cell bars. Plaintiff responded: “I ain't doing shit.” (Id.) Johnston issued Class II misconducts against Plaintiff for destruction/misuse of property and disobeying a direct order.

         Plaintiff believes that Johnston only wrote the new misconducts because Plaintiff would not plead guilty to the Shroderus and/or Lawry misconducts, but instead insisted on a hearing. Plaintiff's belief is based on a conversation with Sergeant Pucel (not a defendant). Pucel reviewed the Johnston misconducts with Plaintiff. He told Plaintiff: “See, this is what happens when you don't plead guilty and accept the days the first time we offer them.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.6.)

         E. Defendant Havenor

         Defendant Havenor conducted the various misconduct hearings. The reports on the Shroderus and Lawry misconducts indicate that an Officer Mayer verified that Plaintiff refused to participate in the hearings. (Misconduct Report, ECF No. 1-9, PageID.49; Misconduct Report, ECF No. 1-10, PageID.52.) Plaintiff claims he was never offered the ...

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