Callahan v. Muskegon, County of
MEMORANDUM OPINION; signed by Magistrate Judge Phillip J. Green(Magistrate Judge Phillip J. Green, jkw)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
DANIEL EDWARD CALLAHAN,
MUSKEGON COUNTY et al.,
Case No. 1:16-cv-00208-PJG
Honorable Phillip J. Green
Plaintiff, pro se, is pursuing this action against eight Muskegon county officials
in their official capacities, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims various civil
rights violations relating to an investigation and criminal prosecution of plaintiff, as
well as claims that he was denied needed medications during his thirty days of
incarceration at the Muskegon County Jail. (Amended Complaint, ECF No. 26).
This matter is before the Court on defendants Roesler, Burns, Waters,
Steinholm, Poulin, Hilson, Hedges, and Davis’ motions, pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. (ECF
No. 38, 39, 41, 44, 45, 46). Plaintiff’s response is styled as a “motion for default
judgment and response to defense motion to dismiss complaint.” (ECF No. 48). The
Court has determined that the motions can be denied without the need for oral
argument. On October 10, 2016, prior to the instant motions, this Court granted
defendant Muskegon County’s motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (ECF No.
43). Having considered defendants’ written submissions and plaintiff’s response, the
Court will grant defendants’ motions to dismiss.
Rule 12(b)(6) Standards
Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes the dismissal of a complaint for “failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted.” FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). Under Rule 8(a)(2)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must provide “ ‘a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief’ in order 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) (quoting Conley
v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957), and FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2)). While this notice
pleading standard does not require “detailed” factual allegations, it does require
more than labels and the bare assertion of legal conclusions. See Twombly, 550 U.S.
Generally, when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court
must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to plaintiff, accept the
plaintiff’s factual allegations as true, and draw all reasonable factual inferences in
plaintiff’s favor. See Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc. v. Anthem Blue Cross &
Blue Shield, 552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th Cir. 2008). “[C]ourts ‘are not bound to accept as
true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.’ ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555
(quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). “[A] plaintiff’s obligation to
provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief’ requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 680-81 (2009);
Albrecht v. Treon, 617 F.3d 890, 893 (6th Cir. 2010). Courts are not required to
conjure up unpleaded allegations, nor accept unwarranted factual inferences. See
Total Benefits Planning, 552 F.3d at 434. “To survive a motion to dismiss, [plaintiff]
must allege ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ ”
Traverse Bay Area Intermediate Sch. Dist. v. Michigan Dep’t of Educ., 615 F.3d 622,
627 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570); see Casias v. Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc., 695 F.3d 428, 435 (6th Cir. 2012).
Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings
drafted by licensed attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007);
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Even the lenient treatment generally
given pro se pleadings has its limits, however. See Jourdan v. Jabe, 951 F.2d 108,
110 (6th Cir. 1991). “A plaintiff must ‘plead [ ] factual content that allows the court
to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.’ ” Albrecht, 617 F.3d at 893 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). “A plaintiff
falls short if  he pleads facts ‘merely consistent with the defendant’s liability’ or if
the alleged facts do not ‘permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of
misconduct[.]’ ” Albrecht, 617 F.3d at 893 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79).
Plaintiff alleges various claims against individuals of the Muskegon County
Prosecutor’s office. (Amended Complaint, ECF No. 26, PageID.292-94). The various
allegations against defendant Hedges, in his official capacity as a Muskegon County
Prosecutor, include prosecutorial misconduct, malicious prosecution, “violation of the
 6th Amendment Rights of Plaintiff when constant false Felony criminal charges had
been manufactured and added as new Felony charges,” and “making a Fair and
Speedy Trial Impossible for this Plaintiff.” (Am. Compl., ECF No. 26, PageID.29293); (Defs. Hilson, Hedges, and Davis’ Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 46-1, PageID.54749).
Plaintiff alleges that defendant Hedges’ “prosecutorial misconduct” occurred
under the supervision of defendant Hilson, in his official capacity as Elected
Muskegon County Prosecutor. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 26, PageID.292); (ECF No. 461, PageID.547). The allegation against defendant “Randy” Davis,1 in his capacity as
a Muskegon County Prosecutor, was the wrongful pursuit of “Attempted Resisting
Arrest charges while knowingly and willingly violating Brady Disclosure.” (Am.
Compl., ECF No. 26, PageID.293); (ECF No. 46-1, PageID.548). Finally, plaintiff
alleges that his computer was the subject of a “study” that was talked about within
the Prosecutor’s office and among visitors, but plaintiff does not identify defendants
Hilson, Hedges, or Davis as participants in the aforementioned study. (Am. Compl.,
ECF No. 26, PageID.292-93); (ECF No. 46-1, PageID.548).
Plaintiff further alleges that defendant Waters, acting in her official capacity
as the Muskegon County Clerk, “engaged in the Obstruction of Justice when [she]
Defense counsel represents that there was not, nor is there currently, a “Randy”
Davis in the Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office. (Defs. Hilson, Hedges, and
Davis’ Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 46-1, Page ID.548). Notwithstanding this
representation, the Court will address the claims against defendant Randy Davis
failed to forward Plaintiff’s ‘Renewed Pleadings’ as properly filed by this Plaintiff with
the Muskegon County Clerks Office,” and that the “County Clerk’s office knowingly
violated the Michigan Freedom of Information Act rights of Plaintiff upon denying
access to public records to Plaintiff.” (Am. Compl., ECF No. 26, PageID.293); (Def.
Waters’ Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 41-1, PageID.456-57).
The allegations against defendant Poulin, in his official capacity as the
Muskegon County Emergency Response Team Commander, include violation of
plaintiff’s 4th and 8th Amendment rights for “conducting an unreasonable search and
seizure, resulting in excessive bail in the amount of $70,000.00 and violation of
citizenship rights and equal protection of laws.”
(Am. Compl., ECF No. 26,
PageID.293); (Def. Poulin’s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 45-1, PageID.517-18). Finally,
plaintiff alleges that defendants Roesler, Burns, and Steinholm, acting in their
official capacities of Muskegon County Sheriff, Jail Administrator, and Jail
Corrections Officer respectively, “enforce[d] a jail policy to absolutely deny life
sustaining medications to inmates,” including plaintiff. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 26,
PageID.294); (Defs. Roesler, Burns, and Steinholm’s Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 381, 39-1, 44-1, PageID.427, 441, 502). Assuming plaintiff’s allegations are true, and
construing them in a light most favorable to plaintiff, the complaint fails to state a
claim against the defendants.
Official Capacity Claims
Official-capacity lawsuits “generally represent only another way of pleading an
action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.” Kentucky v. Graham, 473
U.S. 159, 165 (1985) (citing Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S.
658, 690, n. 55 (1978)). An official-capacity suit is to be treated as a suit against the
entity itself. Id. at 166 (citing Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471-72 (1985)); See also
Matthew v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994). “Individuals sued in their
official capacities stand in the shoes of the entity they represent,” and the suit is not
against the official personally. Alkire v. Irving, 330 F.3d 802, 810 (6th Cir. 2003);
Graham, 473 U.S. at 165-66 (cited by Baar v. Jefferson County Bd. Of Education, 476
F. App’x 621, 634 (6th Cir. 2012)). See, e.g., Constantino v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police,
707 F. Supp. 2d 724, 732 (W.D. Mich. 2010); Swartz Ambulance Serv., Inc. v. Genesee
County, 666 F. Supp. 2d 721, 726 (E.D. Mich. 2009); R.S.S.W., Inc. v. City of Keego
Harbor, 18 F. Supp. 2d 738, 750 (E.D. Mich. 1998); see also Thompson v. Connick, 578
F.3d 293 (5th Cir. 2009) (holding that it is proper to dismiss allegations against
government officers in their official capacities when the allegations duplicate claims
against the governmental entity itself).
Accordingly, plaintiff’s claims here are
duplicative of the claims against Muskegon County and are dismissed, as were the
claims against Muskegon County for failure to state a claim of municipal liability.
“Qualified immunity shields government officials from civil damages liability
unless the official (1) violated a statutory or constitutional right that was (2) clearly
established at the time of the challenged conduct.” Richle v. Howards, 566 U.S. 658,
664 (2012) (citing Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 735 (2011)). A statutory or
constitutional right is clearly established such that a “reasonable official would [have
understood] that what he is doing violates that right.” Ashcroft, 563 U.S. at 741. The
“clearly established” standard supports the balance between protecting constitutional
rights and enabling government officials to effectively perform their duties. Anderson
v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987) (citing Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183, 191, 195
(1984)). If either element of the standard is not met, the official is entitled to qualified
immunity. Perez v. Oakland County, 466 F.3d 416, 427 (6th Cir. 2006); Ashcroft, 563
U.S. at 735.
This standard, especially regarding the second prong of identifying a clearly
established right, depends on not defining the right too generally or too restrictively
to give effect to qualified immunity and the purpose of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. It is the
plaintiff’s burden to show that a right was beyond debate at the time of the violation.
Perez, 466 F.3d at 427; Ashcroft, 563 U.S. at 741. The plaintiff must “show that the
right was clearly established in light of the specific context of the case” and that the
defendant’s personal involvement and actions violated the plaintiff’s right. Perez, 466
F.3d at 427 (quoting Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001)); Hayerman v. County
of Calhoun, 680 F.3d 642, 647 (6th Cir. 2012); see also Hagans v. Franklin County
Sheriff’s Office, 695 F.3d 505, 508-09 (6th Cir. 2012). It is not for the courts to “guess
at the nature of the claim[s] asserted.” Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir.
Even if plaintiff’s claims were not barred as duplicative of claims against
Muskegon County, plaintiff’s claims against defendants Roesler, Burns, Steinholm,
and Poulin do not defeat their qualified immunity as government officials. Plaintiff’s
complaint fails to allege violations of clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights. Plaintiff’s statements regarding defendants Roesler, Burns, and Steinholm’s
enforcement of a jail policy that corrections officers refer inmates to jail doctors to
determine necessary medications do not allege a violation of a specific statutory act
or constitutional right. (Am. Compl., PageID.294). Plaintiff’s statements regarding
defendant Poulin, including that he “conducted an unreasonable search and seizure
that resulted in an excessive bail and violation of citizenship rights and equal
protection of laws,” are conclusory statements that do not assert recognized legal
rights or assert facts to support these conclusions. (Id., PageID.293). The generality
of the rights violation is not at issue because plaintiff has not properly alleged a
violation of any statute or constitutional right.
Further, plaintiff’s complaint does not provide concrete, demonstrable facts
that connect defendants Roesler, Burns, Steinholm, and Poulin to plaintiff’s alleged
violations of statutory or constitutional law. Plaintiff does not allege how defendants
Roesler, Burns, and Steinholm were personally involved in the alleged policy of
referring inmates to jail doctors to determine necessary medications or refusing to
give him “life sustaining medications” that had been prescribed for him.
PageID.294). Plaintiff also fails to allege when the “unreasonable search and seizure”
by defendant Poulin occurred and how defendant Poulin participated in it. Finally,
plaintiff fails to include factual allegations to link defendant Poulin – the Emergency
Response Team Commander – to the amount of bail the Court imposed in plaintiff’s
Accordingly, plaintiff’s allegations are insufficient to defeat defendants
Roesler, Burns, Steinholm, and Poulin’s qualified immunity, so the aforementioned
defendants have immunity against plaintiff’s claims.
“It is well established that judges and other court officers enjoy absolute
immunity from suit on claims arising out of the performance of judicial or quasijudicial functions.” Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 553-54 (1967) (discussing immunity
for judges); Denman v. Leedy, 479 F.2d 1097, 1098 (6th Cir. 1973) (discussing
immunity for municipal court clerks). “Quasi-judicial immunity extends to those
persons performing tasks so integral or intertwined with the judicial process that
these persons are considered an arm of the judicial officer who is immune.” Bush v.
Rauch, 38 F.3d 842, 847 (6th Cir. 1994).
A court clerk performs quasi-judicial
functions when he or she accepts and dockets filings, and “authority also weighs in
favor of extending quasi-judicial immunity for any failure to timely mail an order.”
Petersen v. Garett, No. 04-60196, 2007 WL 465732 at * 3 (E.D. Mich. Feb 6, 2007)
(citing Smith v. Shelby County, 3 F. App’x 436 (6th Cir. 2001); Shavers v. Liefer, No.
1:06-cv-196, 2006 WL 1360965 at * 1 (W.D. Mich. May 15, 2006); Lyle v. Jackson, 49
F. App’x 492 (6th Cir. 2002)).
Plaintiff’s claim against defendant Waters does not defeat her quasi-judicial
immunity in her capacity as the Muskegon County Clerk at the 14th Judicial Circuit
Court for Muskegon County, though plaintiff’s claim is also barred as duplicative of
claims against Muskegon County. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Waters “failed to
forward Plaintiff’s ‘Renewed Pleadings’ as properly filed by this Plaintiff with the
Muskegon County Clerks Office…” and that “the County Clerk’s office knowingly
violated the Michigan Freedom of Information Act rights of Plaintiff upon denying
access to public records to Plaintiff…” (Am. Compl., PageID.293). Though plaintiff
does not identify his “Renewed Pleadings” with a description or date filed, the 14th
Circuit Court’s docket sheet indicates that the “Renewed Pleadings” were sent via
certified mail to the 48th Circuit Court, where plaintiff’s case had been reassigned, on
August 17, 2015. (Def. Waters’ Mot. to Dismiss ECF No. 41-2, 41-6, PageID.466, 48586).2 Even if the renewed pleadings were not forwarded properly, filing, docketing,
and forwarding filed documents are considered quasi-judicial tasks that qualify for
quasi-judicial immunity. Further, there are no facts alleged that plaintiff tried to
access records and was denied, nor are there any facts alleged that connect defendant
Waters, or any other judicial, quasi-judicial, or government official for that matter, to
plaintiff’s alleged denial of access to public records.
Accordingly, plaintiff’s allegations are insufficient to defeat defendant Waters’
quasi-judicial immunity, and defendant Waters has immunity against plaintiff’s
In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court may only consider “the
[c]omplaint and any exhibits attached thereto, public records, items appearing in
the record of the case and exhibits attached to defendant’s motion to dismiss so long
as they are referred to in the [c]omplaint and are central to the claims contained
therein.” Bassett v. Nat’l Collegiate Athletic Ass’n, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir.
2008). This Court will consider the 14th Circuit Court Register of Actions and
Receipts because they are incorporated into plaintiff’s complaint by reference and
are central to defendant’s motion to dismiss.
Courts determine whether the actions of a government official, such as a
prosecutor, are protected by absolute immunity or qualified immunity by looking at
the nature of the function performed. Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 269
(1993) (citing Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 486 (1991); Forrester v. White, 484 U.S.
219, 229 (1988)). Prosecutors are absolutely immune for conduct in “initiating a
prosecution and in presenting the State’s case.” Burns, 500 U.S. at 486 (quoting
Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 431 (1976)). Additionally, absolute immunity is
extended to prosecutors for their decision to file a criminal complaint and seek an
arrest warrant and for investigative acts undertaken in direct preparation of judicial
proceedings, though it is not extended to those investigative acts typically done by
police officers. Ireland v. Tunis, 113 F.3d 1435, 1446 (6th Cir. 1997); Rogers v.
O’Donnell, 737 F.3d 1026, 1032 (6th Cir. 2013); Buckley, 509 U.S. at 273-74. The
decision to seek and pursue criminal charges, “even if malicious and founded in bad
faith, is unquestionably advocatory” and afforded absolute immunity so that
prosecutors are not inhibited from aggressively prosecuting their cases with suits for
malicious prosecution or abuse of process. Grant v. Hollenbach, 870 F.2d 1135, 1138
(6th Cir. 1989) (citing Joseph v. Patterson, 795 F.2d 549, 557 (6th Cir. 1986); Imbler,
424 U.S. at 424-25)).
Plaintiff’s allegations against defendant Hedges, while numerous, do not fall
outside the scope of defendant Hedges’ prosecutorial immunity.
whether the charges pursued by defendant Hedges were false or if he violated Brady
Disclosure rules, these charges, as well as defendant Hedges’ alleged actions of
seeking revocation of plaintiff’s bond, prolonging legal proceedings, and conducting
investigations in preparation of judicial proceedings – including the study of
plaintiff’s computer evidence – were not outside of defendant Hedges’ prosecutorial
immunity. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 26, PageID.292-93). Plaintiff’s other allegations,
including denial of freedom, life, and liberty are not recognizable legal claims.
Additionally, plaintiff refers to malicious prosecution by defendant Hedges “while
violating Michigan State Bar Association ethics rules,” (Am. Compl., ECF No. 26,
PageID.292), violations of which are determined by the Michigan Bar Association
disciplinary authority, not this Court. See Mich. Prof’l Conduct R. 8.5 (Mich. Bar
Plaintiff has provided no legal authority or alleged facts that are not protected
by defendant Hedges’ prosecutorial immunity. Accordingly, plaintiff has failed to
state a claim against this defendant.
In regards to the claims against defendant Davis, plaintiff alleges that
defendant Davis “wrongly pursue[d] Attempted Resisting Arrest charges while
knowingly and willingly violating Brady Disclosure.” (Am. Compl., PageID.293).
Initiation and pursuit of a criminal prosecution is not outside the scope of a
prosecutor’s immunity, regardless of the prosecutor’s motive for his actions.
Suppression of exculpatory evidence in violation of the Brady Doctrine is also
protected by a prosecutor’s absolute immunity. Buckley, 509 U.S. at 269; Ireland, 113
F.3d at 1447; Koubriti v. Convertino, 593 F.3d 459, 470 (6th Cir. 2010). Plaintiff has
not provided any factual allegations or legal authority in support of plaintiff’s claims
against defendant Davis, and, whether the charges against plaintiff were false or
violated Brady Disclosure rules.
Accordingly, defendant Davis is immune from
plaintiff’s claims under prosecutorial immunity.
Plaintiff’s only allegation against defendant Hilson is that defendant Hedges’
prosecutorial misconduct occurred under defendant Hilson’s supervision.
Compl., PageID.292). As such, plaintiff does not allege facts sufficient to attach
individual liability to defendant Hilson, though he would be entitled to absolute
prosecutorial immunity regardless. Defendant Hilson is also not liable for defendant
Hedges’ conduct based on supervisor liability principles. Plaintiff has not alleged
facts that show defendant Hilson’s personal and active encouragement or tolerance
of wrongful actions by defendant Hedges, and plaintiff is unable to sustain a claim of
supervisor liability against defendant Hilson. Bass v. Robinson, 167 F.3d 1041, 1048
(6th Cir. 1999).
Accordingly, plaintiff’s allegations are insufficient to defeat defendants Hilson,
Hedges, and Davis’ prosecutorial immunity against all of plaintiff’s claims, though
these allegations are dismissed as duplicative of the claims that were dismissed
against Muskegon County.
Plaintiff’s Motion for Default Judgment
In plaintiff’s response to defendants’ motions to dismiss, plaintiff “requests
default judgment as a matter of law in the amount of $13,288,000.00.” (ECF No. 48,
PageID.573). Additionally, defendant attempts to persuade the Court that it should
not allow defendants’ argument of 11th Amendment immunity defense, though the
defendants’ motions to dismiss do not assert this immunity defense. (Id.); See (ECF
No. 38, 39, 41, 44, 45, 46, 51).
This Court denies plaintiff’s motion for default
judgment as a matter of law for failure to state grounds upon which to grant the
motion and because granting the defendants’ motions to dismiss terminates this case.
For the foregoing reasons, defendants Roesler, Burns, Waters, Steinholm,
Poulin, Hilson, Hedges, and Davis’ motions to dismiss, pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim (ECF No. 38, 39, 41, 44, 45, 46)
are GRANTED. The aforementioned defendants are dismissed from this case, and
a judgment will be enter in favor of defendants on all plaintiffs claims.
Date: June 22, 2017
/s/ Phillip J. Green
PHILLIP J. GREEN
United States Magistrate Judge
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