Herndon #136007 v. Michigan Department of Corrections
OPINION; signed by Judge Gordon J. Quist (Judge Gordon J. Quist, jmt)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
CLARENCE WATSON HERNDON,
Case No. 1:11-cv-507
Honorable Gordon J. Quist
MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF
This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
The Court has granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Under the Prison Litigation
Reform Act, PUB. L. NO . 104-134, 110 STAT . 1321 (1996), 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, Plaintiff’s action will be dismissed because
Defendant is immune.
Plaintiff is incarcerated at the Ionia Maximum Correctional Facility. In his pro se
complaint, he sues the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC).
Plaintiff has been
incarcerated in administrative segregation since his murder of an MDOC employee in 1996.
Plaintiff contends that by keeping him in administrative segregation for fifteen years, Defendant is
treating him differently from other prisoners convicted of first-degree murder in violation of the
Equal Protection Clause. Plaintiff also claims that he is being denied the use of his personal
typewriter in violation of his First Amendment rights. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief.
Plaintiff may not maintain a § 1983 action against the MDOC. Regardless of the
form of relief requested, the states and their departments are immune under the Eleventh
Amendment from suit in the federal courts, unless the state has waived immunity or Congress has
expressly abrogated Eleventh Amendment immunity by statute. See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp.
v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98-101 (1984); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978); O’Hara
v. Wigginton, 24 F.3d 823, 826 (6th Cir. 1993). Congress has not expressly abrogated Eleventh
Amendment immunity by statute, Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 341 (1979), and the State of
Michigan has not consented to civil rights suits in federal court. Abick v. Michigan, 803 F.2d 874,
877 (6th Cir. 1986). In numerous unpublished opinions, the Sixth Circuit has specifically held that
the MDOC is absolutely immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. See, e.g., McCoy v.
Michigan, 369 F. App’x 646, 653-54 (6th Cir. Mar. 12, 2010); Turnboe v. Stegall, No. 00-1182,
2000 WL1679478, at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 1, 2000). In addition, the State of Michigan (acting through
the Michigan Department of Corrections) is not a “person” who may be sued under § 1983 for
money damages. See Lapides v. Bd. of Regents, 535 U.S. 613 (2002) (citing Will v. Mich. Dep’t of
State Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989)). Because the MDOC is entitled to sovereign immunity, Plaintiff’s
action must be dismissed.
Having conducted the review now required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the
Court determines that Plaintiff’s action will be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and
1915A(b), and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c), because Defendant is immune.
The Court must next decide whether an appeal of this action would be in good faith
within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3). See McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 611
(6th Cir. 1997). For the same reasons that the Court dismisses the action, the Court discerns no
good-faith basis for an appeal. Should Plaintiff appeal this decision, the Court will assess the
$455.00 appellate filing fee pursuant to § 1915(b)(1), see McGore, 114 F.3d at 610-11, unless
Plaintiff is barred from proceeding in forma pauperis, e.g., by the “three-strikes” rule of § 1915(g).
If he is barred, he will be required to pay the $455.00 appellate filing fee in one lump sum.
This is a dismissal as described by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).
A Judgment consistent with this Opinion will be entered.
Dated: July 22, 2011
/s/ Gordon J. Quist
GORDON J. QUIST
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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