Reitmeyer v. Brown
OPINION AND ORDER OF SUMMARY DISMISSAL; and the Court also DENIES as moot Plaintiffs request for immediate release and the appointment of counsel. Lastly, the Court concludes that an appeal from this order cannot be taken in good faith. Signed by District Judge Judith E. Levy. (WBar)
Case 5:22-cv-10578-JEL-PTM ECF No. 9, PageID.73 Filed 01/17/23 Page 1 of 9
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Norman T. Reitmeyer,
Case No. 5:22-CV-10578
Hon. Judith E. Levy
Judge Archie Brown,
OPINION AND ORDER OF SUMMARY DISMISSAL
This is a pro se civil rights case brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. In his complaint, Michigan prisoner Norman T. Reitmeyer
challenges his 2006 state criminal proceedings asserting that he was
sentenced illegally because the trial judge used a 30-year-old case to
enhance his sentence. Plaintiff names Washtenaw County Circuit Court
Judge Archie Brown as the Defendant in this action and sues him in his
official capacity. Plaintiff seeks release from custody, monetary damages,
and other relief. Plaintiff has also filed a request for immediate release
and the appointment of counsel. (ECF No. 6.)
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The Court has granted Plaintiff leave to proceed without
prepayment of the filing fee for this action. (ECF No 4.) For the reasons
set forth below, the Court dismisses the complaint, denies the request for
relief, and concludes that an appeal cannot be taken in good faith.
II. Legal Standard
Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 (“PLRA”), the Court
is required to, on its own, 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 from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 42
U.S.C. § 1997(e)(c); 28 U.S.C. § 915(e)(2)(B). The Court is similarly
required to dismiss a complaint seeking redress against government
entities, officers, or employees if the action is 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 in law or
in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams,
490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989).
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A pro se civil rights complaint is 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 requires more
than the bare assertion of legal principles or conclusions. Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555. 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
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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). A plaintiff must also allege that the
deprivation of rights was intentional, not merely negligent. Davidson v.
Cannon, 474 U.S. 344, 348 (1986); Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327,
Plaintiff challenges the validity of his state criminal proceedings,
namely the validity of his sentence. A claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is an
appropriate remedy for a state prisoner challenging a condition of
imprisonment, see Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 499 (1973),
however, not the validity of continued confinement. See Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486–87 (1994) (holding that a state prisoner
does not state a cognizable civil rights claim challenging his
imprisonment if a ruling on his claim would necessarily render his
continuing confinement invalid, until and unless the reason for his
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continued confinement has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by
executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal, or has been called
into question by a federal court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus
under 28 U.S.C. § 2254). This holds true regardless of the relief sought
by the plaintiff. Id. at 487–89.
Heck and other Supreme Court cases, when “taken together,
indicate that a state prisoner’s § 1983 action is barred (absent prior
no matter the relief sought (damages or equitable relief),
no matter the target of the prisoner’s suit (state conduct leading to
conviction or internal prison proceedings) if success in that action would
necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of confinement or its duration.”
Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81–82 (2005). The underlying basis for
the holding in Heck is that “civil tort actions are not appropriate vehicles
for challenging the validity of outstanding criminal judgments.” Heck,
512 U.S. at 486. If Plaintiff were to prevail on his claims, his continued
confinement would be called into question. Consequently, his complaint
is barred by Heck and must be dismissed.
Additionally, Plaintiff’s claims against Judge Brown in his official
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capacity are subject to dismissal, in part, based upon sovereign
immunity. The Eleventh Amendment bars civil rights actions against a
state and its agencies and departments unless the state has waived its
immunity and consented to suit or Congress has abrogated that
immunity. Will v. Michigan Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989).
Eleventh Amendment immunity applies “regardless of the nature of the
relief sought,” Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S.
89, 100–01 (1984), and “bars all suits, whether for injunctive, declaratory
or monetary relief, against the state and its departments by citizens of
another state, foreigners or its own citizens.” Thiokol Corp. v. Dep’t of
Treasury, State of Mich., Revenue Div., 987 F.2d 376, 381 (6th Cir. 1993)
(internal citations omitted); see also McCormick v. Miami Univ., 693 F.3d
654, 661 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing Thiokol). The Eleventh Amendment does
not preclude suits against state defendants for prospective injunctive
relief. See Carten v. Kent State Univ., 281 F.3d 391, 397 (6th Cir. 2002)
(citing Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908)); McCormick, 693 F.3d at 662
(citing McKay v. Thompson, 226 F.3d 752, 757 (6th Cir. 2000)).
“The State of Michigan . . . has not consented to being sued in civil
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rights actions in the federal courts,” Johnson v. Unknown Dellatifa, 357
F.3d 539, 545 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing Abick v. Michigan, 803 F.2d 874, 877
(6th Cir. 1986)), and Congress did not abrogate Eleventh Amendment
immunity when it passed § 1983. Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 341
(1979); Chaz Const., LLC v. Codell, 137 F. App’x 735, 743 (6th Cir. 2005).
The Michigan Supreme Court and its lower courts operate as arms of the
state and are entitled to the same sovereign immunity as the State of
Michigan. Pucci v. Nineteenth Dist. Ct., 628 F.3d 752, 762–64 (6th Cir.
2010); Chambers v. Michigan, No. 10-12509, 2011 WL 940830, *3–4 (E.D.
Mich. March 16, 2011); Young v. District & Supreme Cts. of Mich., No.
2:10-CV-15144, 2011 WL 166331, *2 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 18, 2011) (citing
cases). The Eleventh Amendment applies to state employees, such as
judges, who are sued in their official capacities. See Colvin v. Caruso, 605
F.3d 282, 289 (6th Cir. 2010) (citing Cady v. Arenac Co., 574 F.3d 334,
344 (6th Cir. 2009)). Judge Brown, a state-court judge who acted within
his authority as a judge, is thus entitled to Eleventh Amendment
immunity on any claims for relief other than prospective injunctive relief.
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For the reasons set forth above, the Court concludes that Plaintiff
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted in his complaint
and that Defendant Judge Brown is entitled to Eleventh Amendment
immunity. Accordingly, the Court DISMISSES the complaint pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b).1 Given this determination, the
Court also DENIES as moot Plaintiff’s request for immediate release and
the appointment of counsel. Lastly, the Court 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).
Dated: January 17, 2023
Ann Arbor, Michigan
s/Judith E. Levy
JUDITH E. LEVY
United States District Judge
This dismissal is without prejudice to any claims Plaintiff may bring
challenging his state criminal proceedings in a habeas action or in a civil rights action
should his convictions be overturned or otherwise declared invalid. The Court makes
no determination as to the substantive or procedural merits of any such actions.
Case 5:22-cv-10578-JEL-PTM ECF No. 9, PageID.81 Filed 01/17/23 Page 9 of 9
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
The undersigned certifies that the foregoing document was served
upon counsel of record and any unrepresented parties via the Court’s
ECF System to their respective email or first-class U.S. mail addresses
disclosed on the Notice of Electronic Filing on January 17, 2023.
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