Jones v. MDOC Court Order Processing Staff et al
ORDER of SUMMARY DISMISSAL. Signed by District Judge Terrence G. Berg. (AChu)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
SAMUEL R. JONES,
CASE NO. 4:17-CV-10217
HON. TERRENCE G. BERG
MDOC COURT ORDER PROCESSING
STAFF, et al.,
ORDER OF SUMMARY DISMISSAL
Michigan prisoner Samuel R. Jones (“Plaintiff”) has filed a pro se civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Dkt. 1). The Court has granted his
application to proceed without prepayment of fees and costs pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(a). In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Michigan Department of
Corrections (“MDOC”) officials have made errors in handling his prison account,
particularly concerning the withdrawal of funds to satisfy required court payments,
and have improperly denied his grievances concerning the matter. Plaintiff alleges
that this conduct amounts to a violation of his Eighth Amendment and other
constitutional rights. (Id. at 5.). He seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages.
For the reasons stated herein, the Court summarily dismisses the complaint
because the alleged errors in managing his account and administering his
grievances do not amount to cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth
Amendment, violate the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, or deny
him his First Amendment right to petition the government. The Court further
concludes that an appeal from this Order cannot be taken in good faith.
Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 (“PLRA”), the Court is
required to sua sponte dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint before service 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. See 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. See 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 this
notice pleading standard does not require “detailed” factual allegations, it does
require more than the bare assertion of legal principles or conclusions. Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555. Rule 8 “demands more than an unadorned, the defendantunlawfully-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). “Factual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on
the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in
fact).” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56 (citations and footnote omitted).
To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) he
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). Having reviewed the matter, the
Court finds that Plaintiff’s complaint is subject to summary dismissal for failure to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Eighth Amendment Claim
Plaintiff appears to claim that allegedly improper withdrawals from his
prison spending account violate his Eighth Amendment guarantee against cruel
and unusual punishment. To state an Eighth Amendment claim, a prisoner must
allege that the offending conduct constitutes an “unreasonable and unwanton
infliction of pain.” Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 670 (1977). Such a claim has
both an objective and subjective component. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825,
833 (1994); Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991). The objective component of
an Eighth Amendment claim requires that the pain be serious or concern the
deprivation of the “minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities.” Rhodes v.
Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347-49 (1981). The objective component requires that the
offending conduct be intentional or deliberately indifferent. Estelle v. Gamble, 429
U.S. 97, 104-05 (1976); see also Wilson, 501 U.S. at 301-03. Plaintiff fails to allege
facts to support any such claim. Conclusory allegations are insufficient to state a
claim for relief under § 1983. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-57;
Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 588 (1998); Moldowan v. City of Warren, 578
F.3d 351, 390-91 (6th Cir. 2009); Lanier v. Bryant, 332 F.3d 999, 1007 (6th Cir.
Furthermore, courts have consistently declined to find Eighth Amendment
violations arising from the alleged improper withdrawal of prison funds. See, e.g.,
Erdman v. Martin, 52 Fed. App’x 801, 803-04 (6th Cir. Dec.12, 2002); Brown v.
Crowley, 229 F.3d 1150, 2000 WL 1175615, *2-3 (6th Cir. 2000); Moody v. Weaks,
No. 1:09-CV-332, 2009 WL 1728102, *3 (S.D. Ohio June 18, 2009) (Ohio prisoner
failed to show that alleged improper withdrawal of funds deprived him of
necessities). Plaintiff thus fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted
under § 1983 as to this issue.
Fourteenth Amendment Claim
A prisoner does have a protected property interest in his prison account
money. See Hampton v. Hobbs, 106 F.3d 1281, 1287 (6th Cir. 1997). To the extent
that Plaintiff alleges that he is being improperly deprived of his prison funds by the
disputed withdrawals, however, he fails to allege a constitutional violation. A
withdrawal of funds from a prisoner’s institutional account to satisfy court costs and
fees does not “deprive” a prisoner of his funds when they are used to pay court costs
and fees because the funds are being used for his benefit. See Erdman, 52 Fed.
App’x at 803-04; see also Gallagher v. Lane, 75 Fed. App’x 440, 441-42 (6th Cir.
Sept. 16, 2003).
Moreover, even if a constitutional concern exists, Plaintiff fails to allege or
establish that any of the defendants have intentionally deprived him of his money
or deliberately withdrawn improper amounts from his prison account. At best, he
alleges that one or more of the defendants have been negligent, which fails to state
a claim for relief under § 1983. See Collins v. City of Harker Hgts., 503 U.S. 115,
127-28 (1992); Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328 (1986) (due process clause is
not implicated by a negligent act).
Additionally, the United States Supreme Court has recognized that the
negligent deprivation of a prisoner’s property does not violate due process if the
state provides an adequate remedy to redress the wrong. See Parratt v. Taylor, 451
U.S. 527, 537 (1981), overruled in part by Daniels, 474 U.S. at 328 (ruling that
negligence does not amount to a “deprivation” implicating due process). Likewise,
an unauthorized intentional deprivation of property by a state employee does not
constitute a violation of the procedural requirements of due process “if a meaningful
post-deprivation remedy for the loss is available.” Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517,
533 (1984). Consequently, to state a due process claim for the intentional
deprivation of property, a plaintiff must plead that available state procedures for
redressing the wrong are inadequate. See Vicory v. Walton, 721 F.2d 1062, 1065-66
(6th Cir. 1983); see also Wilson v. Beebe, 770 F.2d 578, 584 (6th Cir. 1985) (en banc).
Plaintiff has not done so. The State of Michigan provides adequate post-deprivation
remedies to address Plaintiff’s concerns. See, e.g., Copeland v. Machulis, 57 F.3d
476, 480 (6th Cir. 1995); Etheridge v. Evers, 326 F. Supp. 2d 818, 824 (E.D. Mich.
2004); see also Brown, 2000 WL 1175615 at *2 (affirming dismissal of prisoner’s due
process claim arising from alleged wrongful deduction from prison account).
Plaintiff thus fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under § 1983.
Lastly, to the extent that Plaintiff asserts that one or more of the defendants
violated his constitutional rights by denying his grievances concerning his prison
account, 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.”). Moreover, 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. App’x 441, 445 (6th Cir. 2005); Argue v. Hofmeyer, 80 Fed.
App’x 427, 430 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing cases). To the extent that Plaintiff is
dissatisfied with the investigation of his concerns and responses to his grievance, he
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Carlton v. Jondreau, 76
Fed. App’x 642, 644 (6th Cir. 2003); Proctor v. Applegate, 661 F. Supp. 2d 743, 76667 (E.D. Mich. 2009).
Finally, any assertion that one or more of the defendants failed to supervise
another employee, should be vicariously liable for another employee’s conduct, erred
in denying his grievances, and/or did not properly respond to his complaints is
insufficient to state a civil rights claim. See, e.g., Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295,
300 (6th Cir. 1999); see also Martin v. Harvey, 14 Fed. App’x 307, 309 (6th Cir.
2001). Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under § 1983
as to this issue.
For the reasons stated, the Court concludes that Plaintiff fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in his pleadings.
Accordingly, the Court DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE his civil rights complaint
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b). The Court also concludes that
an appeal from this order cannot be taken in good faith. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3);
Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 445 (1962).
s/Terrence G. Berg
TERRENCE G. BERG
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: February 28, 2017
Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that this Order was electronically submitted on February 28,
2017, using the CM/ECF system, which will send notification to each party.
By: s/A. Chubb
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