Jackson #240101 v. Heyns et al
OPINION; Judgment to issue; signed by Judge Janet T. Neff (Judge Janet T. Neff, clb)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 1:14-cv-741
Honorable Janet T. Neff
DANIEL H. HEYNS et al.,
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, and Plaintiff has paid the initial
partial filing fee. 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 as frivolous or for failure to state a claim.
Plaintiff is incarcerated in the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility (MTU). In
his pro se complaint, Plaintiff sues Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) Director Daniel
Heyns, MTU Warden Dage Burton and MDOC Mental Health Director M. Davis.1
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Heyns and Burton (verbatim):
[H]ave a device mechanism that work some organism of some kind in my body from
eating food that works as an apparatus that control my hold bodly function. It can
make me walk, fall down hard, make my eyes water. It can make my hold body
move in a way that I cannot fully express in words for you to fully understand where
I’m coming from. It can stop blood flow in my arteries. Mental Health have
something to do with it by giving me medication and something in the meds othering
what it is.
(Compl., docket #1, Page ID#8.) He similarly claims that Defendants Heyns and Burton let mental
health put some live organism in his food which affects his muscle fibers and causes pain in his
muscles. (Compl., Page ID #9.) Plaintiff further claims that “they have some find of mechanism
device that make[s] pain in my muscle and feet.” (Id.)
Plaintiff also contends that Defendants Heyns and Burton are responsible for Plaintiff
receiving food containing a “hot substance” that went into his arteries and for placing a “live wire”
on Plaintiff’s body. He alleges in part (verbatim):
I remember when Officer Macomb gave me food in a holding cell by the office, and
the food had a hot substance to go in your arteries and blood line once you eat the
food. That happened in the morning at lunch time. Then once in the afternoon
officers came to work I didn’t eat and there was these foreign-born resident who put
a live wire on my body that made my body get tremendously hot. My arteries got
real hot that the degrees fahrenheit was up there. And degrees was so hot I had to
put cold water on my body. I had put cold water on my body and the water diffused
The instant action is one of five filed in this Court by Plaintiff between June 4 and July 17, 2014. See Jackson
v. Heyns et al., No. 1:14-cv-600 (W.D. Mich.); Jackson v. Heyns et al., No. 1:14-cv-645 (W.D. Mich.); Jackson v. Heyns
et al., No. 1:14-cv-741 (W.D. Mich.); Jackson v. Snyder, No. 1:14-cv-753 (W.D. Mich.); Jackson v. Heyns et al., No.
1:14-cv-780 (W.D. Mich.).
as vapor away in the air as I holler in a crying shout until my body cold or cooling
down in temperature. Words cannot tell the pain and hot temperature my body went
(Compl., Page ID #15.)
Plaintiff also claims that Defendants are denying his right of access to the courts by
making him wait too long to get copies, to get his papers notarized and to mail his pleadings to the
courts. With regard to legal copies, Plaintiff contends that Defendants are making the Legal Writer
wait 24 hours to get copies in the law library. Plaintiff further claims that his outgoing legal mail
to his attorney was opened and/or withheld. Finally, Plaintiff claims that Defendants are retaliating
against him for filing lawsuits. Additional facts will be provided below as necessary to resolve
Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and to have his body examined by a doctor and
A claim may be dismissed as frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in law or
in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196, 1198
(6th Cir.1990). Claims that lack an arguable or rational basis in law include claims for which the
defendants are clearly entitled to immunity and claims of infringement of a legal interest which
clearly does not exist; claims that lack an arguable or rational basis in fact describe fantastic or
delusional scenarios. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327-28; Lawler, 898 F.2d at 1199. The Court has the
“unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint’s factual allegations and dismiss those claims
whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Id., 490 U.S. at 327. “A finding of factual
frivolousness is appropriate when the facts alleged rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly
incredible, whether or not there are judicially noticeable facts available to contradict them.” Denton
v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992). Examples of claims lacking rational facts include a prisoner’s
assertion that Robin Hood and his Merry Men deprived prisoners of their access to mail or that a
genie granted a warden’s wish to deny prisoners any access to legal texts. See Neitzke, 490 U.S. at
327-28; Lawler, 898 F.2d at 1198-99. An in forma pauperis complaint may not be dismissed,
however, merely because the court believes that the plaintiff’s allegations are unlikely. Id.
Plaintiff’s claims that Defendants have a “device mechanism” that puts an organism
in his body that prevents him from eating food and causes pain in his muscle fibers lacks a rational
basis in fact. Likewise, Plaintiff’s claims regarding the “hot substance” in his food and the
placement of a “live wire” on his body are wholly incredible. Accordingly, the Court will dismiss
those claims as frivolous. See Burnes v. Clinton, No. 00-3208, 2000 WL 1800510, at *1 (6th Cir.
Nov. 30, 2000) (complaint alleging that President Clinton and various other high-ranking federal
officials were subjecting her to electronic surveillance, mind-reading, and remote torture due to her
bisexuality was properly dismissed as frivolous); Graves v. Cohen, No. 99-4476, 2000 WL 1720647,
at *1 (6th Cir. Nov. 7, 2000) (plaintiff’s claim concerning the AIDS virus being injected into the
American population by the Pentagon was properly dismissed as frivolous); Dowell v. Tennessee,
No. 92-6125, 1993 WL 169052, at *1 (6th Cir. May 18, 1993) (affirming district court’s dismissal
of claims of conspiracy to inflict emotional distress as fantastic and delusional).
Failure to State a Claim
A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it fails “‘to give the
defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.’” Bell Atl. Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While
a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff’s allegations must include more
than labels and conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements,
do not suffice.”). The court must determine whether the complaint contains “enough facts to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although
the plausibility standard is not equivalent to a “‘probability requirement,’ . . . it asks for more than
a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the
mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged – but it has not ‘show[n]’ – that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2)); see also Hill
v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility
standard applies to dismissals of prisoner cases on initial review under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1)
To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a
right secured by the federal Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was committed
by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Dominguez v.
Corr. Med. Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009). Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating
federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an action under § 1983 is to
identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271
Plaintiff named M. Davis as a Defendant in this action, but fails to make factual
allegations against him. It is a basic pleading essential that a plaintiff attribute factual allegations
to particular defendants. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 544 (holding that, in order to state a claim,
Plaintiff must make sufficient allegations to give a defendant fair notice of the claim). Where a
person is named as a defendant without an allegation of specific conduct, the complaint is subject
to dismissal, even under the liberal construction afforded to pro se complaints. See Frazier v.
Michigan, 41 F. App’x 762, 764 (6th Cir. 2002) (dismissing Plaintiff’s claims where the complaint
did not allege with any degree of specificity which of the named defendants were personally
involved in or responsible for each alleged violation of rights); Griffin v. Montgomery, No. 00-3402,
2000 WL 1800569, at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 30, 2000) (requiring allegations of personal involvement
against each defendant)); Rodriguez v. Jabe, No. 90-1010, 1990 WL 82722, at *1 (6th Cir. June 19,
1990) (“Plaintiff’s claims against those individuals are without a basis in law as the complaint is
totally devoid of allegations as to them which would suggest their involvement in the events leading
to his injuries.”); see also Wright v. Smith, 21 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1994); Krych v. Hvass, 83 F.
App’x 854, 855 (8th Cir. 2003); Potter v. Clark, 497 F.2d 1206, 1207 (7th Cir. 1974); Williams v.
Hopkins, No. 06-14064, 2007 WL 2572406, at *4 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 6, 2007); McCoy v. McBride,
No. 3:96-cv-227RP, 1996 WL 697937, at *2 (N.D. Ind. Nov. 5, 1996); Eckford-El v. Toombs, 760
F. Supp. 1267, 1272-73 (W.D. Mich. 1991). Plaintiff fails to even to mention Defendant Davis in
the body of his complaint. His allegations fall far short of the minimal pleading standards under
FED. R. CIV. P. 8 (requiring “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief”). Accordingly, Defendant Davis must be dismissed for failure to state a claim.
First Amendment - Access to the Courts
Plaintiff claims that Defendants Heyns and Burton violated his right of access to the
courts by making him wait too long to get copies, to get his papers notarized and to mail his
pleadings to the court. It is well established that prisoners have a constitutional right of access to
the courts. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821 (1977). The principal issue in Bounds was whether
the states must protect the right of access to the courts by providing law libraries or alternative
sources of legal information for prisoners. Id. at 817. The Court further noted that in addition to
law libraries or alternative sources of legal knowledge, the states must provide indigent inmates with
“paper and pen to draft legal documents, notarial services to authenticate them, and with stamps to
mail them.” Id. at 824-25. The right of access to the courts also prohibits prison officials from
erecting barriers that may impede the inmate’s accessibility to the courts. See Knop v. Johnson, 977
F.2d 996, 1009 (6th Cir. 1992).
An indigent prisoner’s constitutional right to legal resources and materials is not,
however, without limit. In order to state a viable claim for interference with his access to the courts,
a plaintiff must show “actual injury.” Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 349 (1996); see also Talley-Bey
v. Knebl, 168 F.3d 884, 886 (6th Cir. 1999); Knop, 977 F.2d at 1000. In other words, a plaintiff
must plead and demonstrate that the shortcomings in the prison legal assistance program or lack of
legal materials have hindered, or are presently hindering, his efforts to pursue a nonfrivolous legal
claim. Lewis, 518 U.S. at 351-53; see also Pilgrim v. Littlefield, 92 F.3d 413, 416 (6th Cir. 1996).
Plaintiff does not allege that he suffered any injury whatsoever as a result of the
alleged delays in making legal copies, getting documents notarized and mailing pleadings to the
court. Consequently, Plaintiff fails to state a claim.
First Amendment - Legal Mail
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Heyns and Burton “let” Deputy Shawn Young and
the administration open his outgoing legal mail to Attorney Arlene Woods. (Compl., Page ID#10.)
He further alleges that Defendants Heyns and Burton “let Deputy Shawn Young have the Mail
Room Lady Doreen Tissue” keep the legal 44 pages of documents that Plaintiff intended to send to
his attorney, Arlene Woods. (Compl., Page ID#14) (emphasis added.)
Young and Tissue are not Defendants in this action and Plaintiff fails to clearly allege
how Defendants Heyns and Burton were actively involved in opening or withholding Plaintiff’s
mail. Conclusory allegations of unconstitutional conduct without specific factual allegations fail
to state a claim under § 1983. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-69. Moreover, Defendants Heyns and
Burton may not be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates under a theory
of respondeat superior or vicarious liability. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676; Monell v. New York City Dep’t
of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691(1978); Everson v. Leis, 556 F.3d 484, 495 (6th Cir. 2009). A
claimed constitutional violation must be based upon active unconstitutional behavior. Grinter v.
Knight, 532 F.3d 567, 575 (6th Cir. 2008); Greene v. Barber, 310 F.3d 889, 899 (6th Cir. 2002).
The acts of one’s subordinates are not enough, nor can supervisory liability be based upon the mere
failure to act. Grinter, 532 F.3d at 575; Greene, 310 F.3d at 899; Summers v. Leis, 368 F.3d 881,
888 (6th Cir. 2004). “[A] plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through
the official’s own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676.
Plaintiff has failed to allege that Defendants Heyns and Burton engaged in any active
unconstitutional behavior. Accordingly, he fails to state a claim against them.
Plaintiff contends that Defendants Heyns and Burton “let” officers retaliate against
him for filing lawsuits against them. Plaintiff claims that the officers are “symmetrical and
harmoniously acting a [sic] unjust way by still putting some hot substance on and in my store food
and taking my store food at the same time.” (Compl., Page ID #15.)
He also alleges that
Defendants Heyns and Burton retaliated against him by “hav[ing]” Deputy Shawn Young and the
accounting office take money out of his prisoner account so that Plaintiff cannot pay for his court
costs and fees.
Retaliation based upon a prisoner’s exercise of his or her constitutional rights violates
the Constitution. See Thaddeus-X v. Blatter, 175 F.3d 378, 394 (6th Cir. 1999) (en banc). In order
to set forth a First Amendment retaliation claim, a plaintiff must establish that: (1) he was engaged
in protected conduct; (2) an adverse action was taken against him that would deter a person of
ordinary firmness from engaging in that conduct; and (3) the adverse action was motivated, at least
in part, by the protected conduct. Id. Moreover, a plaintiff must be able to prove that the exercise
of the protected right was a substantial or motivating factor in the defendant’s alleged retaliatory
conduct. See Smith v. Campbell, 250 F.3d 1032, 1037 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Mount Healthy City
Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 287 (1977)).
It is well recognized that “retaliation” is easy to allege and that it can seldom be
demonstrated by direct evidence. See Harbin-Bey v. Rutter, 420 F.3d 571, 580 (6th Cir. 2005);
Murphy v. Lane, 833 F.2d 106, 108 (7th Cir. 1987). “[A]lleging merely the ultimate fact of
retaliation is insufficient.” Murphy, 833 F.2d at 108. “[C]onclusory allegations of retaliatory motive
‘unsupported by material facts will not be sufficient to state . . . a claim under § 1983.’” HarbinBey, 420 F.3d at 580 (quoting Gutierrez v. Lynch, 826 F.2d 1534, 1538-39 (6th Cir. 1987)); see also
Murray v. Unknown Evert, 84 F. App’x 553, 556 (6th Cir. 2003) (in complaints screened pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, “[c]onclusory allegations of retaliatory motive with no concrete and relevant
particulars fail to raise a genuine issue of fact for trial”) (internal quotations omitted); Lewis v.
Jarvie, 20 F. App’x 457, 459 (6th Cir. 2001) (“bare allegations of malice on the defendants’ parts
are not enough to establish retaliation claims” that will survive § 1915A screening).
merely alleges the ultimate fact of retaliation in this action. He has not presented any facts
whatsoever to support his conclusion that Defendants Heyns and Burton retaliated against him
because of his law suits. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause
of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”). Moreover, as previously
discussed, Defendants Heyns and Burton cannot be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of
their subordinates. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676; Monell, 436 U.S. at 691; Everson, 556 F.3d at 495.
Plaintiff, therefore, fails to state a claim for retaliation.
Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court
determines that Plaintiff’s action will be dismissed as frivolous or for failure to state a claim
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b), and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c).
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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
$505.00 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 $505.00 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: August 20, 2014
/s/ Janet T. Neff
Janet T. Neff
United States District Judge
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