Gardner v. McQueen et al
ORDER DISMISSING CASE Without Prejudice, Denying Motion for Injunctive Relief Signed by District Judge Victoria A. Roberts. (CPin)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
MATILDA BROWN GARDNER,
Case No. 2:16-cv-13790
Honorable Victoria A. Roberts
CORRECTIONS OFFICER McQUEEN
and COUNSELOR JONES,
ORDER DENYING THE MOTION FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF
AND DISMISSING THIS CASE WITHOUT PREJUDICE
This matter came before the Court on plaintiff Matilda Brown Gardner’s
“Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiff’s Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order
and Preliminary Injunction.” Plaintiff is a state prisoner at the Women’s Huron Valley
Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Although there is no caption on the face of
her motion, Plaintiff indicates in the body of the motion that she is suing a corrections
officer named McQueen and a corrections counselor named Mrs. Jones.
Plaintiff alleges that the defendants have deprived her of access to the Federal
District Court by confiscating her legal papers and transcripts, depriving her of paper,
pencils, and envelopes, and denying her an adequate amount of time in the prison law
library to conduct legal research. She claims that: the continuous deprivation of
constitutional rights constitutes irreparable harm; she will be foreclosed from filing a
timely habeas corpus petition and having her habeas petition heard on the merits if she
is not granted relief; she is likely to succeed on the merits of her claim; and the grant of
relief will serve the public interest. She seeks writing supplies, copying and mailing
privileges, and adequate time in the law library.
The Court recently granted Plaintiff permission to proceed without prepayment of
the filing fee for this action. See ECF No. 8. Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform
Act of 1996, federal district courts must screen an indigent prisoner’s case and dismiss
the case if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted,
or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A; Flanory v. Bonn, 604 F.3d 249, 252 (6th Cir. 2010); Smith
v. Campbell, 250 F.3d 1032, 1036 (6th Cir. 2001). A pleading is frivolous if it lacks an
arguable basis in law or in fact, Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989), and it “is
subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim if the allegations, taken as true, show the
plaintiff is not entitled to relief.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007).
Plaintiff’s action is frivolous because she states that she is bringing a civil rights
action under the habeas corpus statute. The two types of cases (civil rights and
habeas) are fundamentally different. “[T]he 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 [of habeas corpus] is to secure release from illegal custody.” Preiser v. Rodriguez,
411 U.S. 475, 484 (1973). In contrast, a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. “§ 1983
action is a proper remedy for a state prisoner who is making a constitutional challenge
to the conditions of [her] prison life, but not to the fact or length of [her] custody.” Id. at
Although Plaintiff’s motion is more akin to a civil rights action than a habeas
petition, she cites the federal removal statute in her motion. The statute provides that,
generally, “any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the
United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the
defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division
embracing the place where such action is pending.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Plaintiff has
not identified any pending action in state court that could be removed to this Court.
Furthermore, if Plaintiff’s intent was to commence an original action in this Court,
she should have filed a complaint, because the proper way to commence a civil action
in federal court is to file a complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 3 (“A civil action is
commenced by filing a complaint with the court.”). Federal district courts possess
authority to dismiss an action when a plaintiff fails to comply with the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b); Schafer v. City of Defiance Police Dep’t., 529
F.3d 731, 736 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Knoll v. AT&T, 176 F.3d 359, 362-63 (6th Cir.
“This measure is available to the district court as a tool to effect
management of its docket and avoidance of unnecessary burdens on the
tax-supported courts and opposing parties.” Id. at 363 (brackets and
internal quotation marks omitted). A district court therefore “must be given
substantial discretion in serving these tasks.” Id.
Although the allegations of a pro se litigant are held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972),
the lenient treatment generally accorded to pro se litigants has limits.
Jourdan v. Jabe, 951 F.2d 108, 110 (6th Cir. 1991). Where, for example,
a pro se litigant fails to comply with an easily understood court-imposed
deadline, there is no basis for treating that party more generously than a
represented litigant. Id.
Pilgrim v. Littlefield, 92 F.3d 413, 416 (6th Cir. 1996).
Plaintiff commenced this action by filing a memorandum of law in support of a
motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction. Although the
Clerk of the Court docketed the motion as a complaint, Plaintiff failed to file an actual
complaint. She can be expected to be familiar with the easily understood requirement
of having to file a complaint to commence an action. “Absent a properly-filed complaint,
a court lacks power to issue preliminary injunctive relief.” Powell v. Rios, 241 F. App’x
500, 505 n.4 (10th Cir. 2007); accord Adair v. England, 193 F. Supp. 2d 196, 200 (D.
D.C. 2002) (“When no complaint is filed, the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the
plaintiff’s petition for injunctive relief.”); P. K. Family Restaurant v. Internal Revenue
Serv., 535 F. Supp. 1223, 1224 (N.D. Ohio 1982) (“Absent a complaint, this Court lacks
jurisdiction to entertain plaintiff’s petition for injunctive relief.”).
Plaintiff failed to commence a proper civil action, and the Court lacks jurisdiction
to grant her request for injunctive relief. Accordingly, the motion for a temporary
restraining order and preliminary injunction (ECF No. 1) is denied, and this case is
hereby dismissed without prejudice under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b)(1).
The Court declines to certify this case for appeal because an appeal from this decision
would be frivolous and could not be taken in good faith. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3);
Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 445 (1962).
S/Victoria A. Roberts
VICTORIA A. ROBERTS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: January 13, 2017
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