Jennings #711938 v. Crompton et al
OPINION; signed by Chief Judge Robert J. Jonker (Chief Judge Robert J. Jonker, sdb)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
MARK COLIN JENNINGS, II,
Case No. 1:16-cv-921
Honorable Robert J. Jonker
ROBERT CROMPTON 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. 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, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint against
Defendants Murphy and Unknown Part(y)(ies) ##1-4. The Court also will dismiss Plaintiff’s Eighth
and Fourteenth Amendment claims arising from his placement in administrative segregation. The
Court will serve Plaintiff’s remaining Eighth Amendment and retaliation claims against Defendants
Crompton, Hall and Stone.
Plaintiff is incarcerated in the Oaks Correctional Facility (ECF). In his pro se
complaint, Plaintiff sues the following ECF employees: Doctor Robert Crompton; Law Librarian
(unknown) Murphy; Corrections Officers (unknown) Stone and (unknown) Hall; and Unknown
Part(y)(ies) #1, named as “John/Jane” at the Oaks Correctional Facility. Plaintiff also sues Unknown
Part(y)(ies) #2, named as “any and all MDOC state and affiliates,” Unknown Part(y)(ies) #3, named
as “any and all Michigan prisoners and affiliates” and Unknown Part(y)(ies) #4, named as “All
MDOC state and affiliates.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, Page ID#8.)
Plaintiff was transferred to ECF on February 24, 2016. He alleges that on March 18
and April 7, 2016, Defendant Dr. Crompton denied him treatment for pain in his “cervical, thorasic,
lumbar spine, right hip and right shoulder from ongoing injuries.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.9.)
He further claims that Dr. Crompton refused to treat the pain from his cervical fusion on July 8, 9
and 11, 2016.
Plaintiff, who was sexually assaulted at another prison before his transfer to ECF,
claims that he requested the Rape Elimination Act national standards from Defendant Murphy.
Murphy, however, only provided him with five pages every three days at “1/2 font size,” (Compl.,
ECF No. 1, PageID.9), despite the fact that Plaintiff is partially blind and has depth perception
issues. Plaintiff filed three civil rights actions in this Court in April and May of 2016 and has other
legal actions pending in the state courts. Plaintiff alleges that on May 11, 2016, Defendant Murphy
denied him supplies necessary to litigate his pending legal actions. On June 6, 2016, Plaintiff asked
Defendant Murphy for paper, photocopies, envelopes and use of a typewriter to be paid for by the
Prisoner Benefit Fund. Murphy refused and advised Plaintiff to write everything by hand on scrap
paper. Murphy also refused Plaintiff’s request for copies of summons and complaints and envelopes
to serve two of his lawsuits.
Plaintiff claims that on June 29, 2016, he complained to Defendant Hall that Murphy
was denying his right of access to the courts. In response, Hall allegedly threatened to write a false
misconduct ticket against Plaintiff and “to throw [him] in the hole (segregation) so [he] can’t use the
law library.” (Id.) The same day, Plaintiff “wrote a grievance about CO Hall’s threats and asked for
assistance from John/Jane Doe, Oaks Correctional Facility Staff. No one provided any assistance.”
On July 8, 2016, Defendants Hall and Stone walked over to the table where Plaintiff
was eating and told him to leave. Plaintiff asked for a couple more seconds to finish his food.
Defendants Hall and Stone allegedly slammed Plaintiff to the table and put handcuffs on him.
Plaintiff contends that they pulled his arms up so hard that they tore the acromioclavicular joint in
his right arm, causing pain and disfigurement. Defendants Hall and Stone wrote a false misconduct
ticket against Plaintiff for assault and battery and disobeying a direct order, which resulted in
Plaintiff’s placement in administrative segregation.
Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages.
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)
Unknown Part(y)(ies) ##2-4
Plaintiff sues Unknown Part(y)(ies) #2, named as “any and all MDOC state and
affiliates,” Unknown Part(y)(ies) #3, named as “any and all Michigan prisoners and affiliates” and
Unknown Part(y)(ies) #4, named as “All MDOC state and affiliates.” To the extent Plaintiff sues
the State of Michigan or the MDOC, they are entitled to sovereign immunity. 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. 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)). Therefore, the
Court will dismiss Unknown Part(y)(ies) ##2 and 4.
To the extent Plaintiff sues “any and all Michigan prisoners and affiliates,” he fails
to state claims. 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); Street v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810,
814 (6th Cir. 1996). In order for a private party’s conduct to be under color of state law, it must be
“fairly attributable to the State.” Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 937 (1982); Street, 102
F.3d at 814. There must be “a sufficiently close nexus between the State and the challenged action
of [the defendant] so that the action of the latter may be fairly treated as that of the State itself.”
Skelton v. Pri-Cor, Inc., 963 F.2d 100, 102 (6th Cir. 1991) (citing Jackson v. Metro. Edison Co., 419
U.S. 345, 351 (1974)). Plaintiff has not presented any allegations by which the conduct of other
prisoners could be fairly attributed to the State. Accordingly, he fails to state a § 1983 claim against
Unknown Part(y)(ies) #3.
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Murphy violated his right of access to the courts by
denying him supplies necessary to litigate multiple pending lawsuits, including paper, photocopies,
envelopes and the use of a typewriter. 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 access 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). The
Supreme Court has strictly limited the types of cases for which there may be an actual injury:
Bounds does not guarantee inmates the wherewithal to transform themselves into
litigating engines capable of filing everything from shareholder derivative actions to
slip-and-fall claims. The tools it requires to be provided are those that the inmates
need in order to attack their sentences, directly or collaterally, and in order to
challenge the conditions of their confinement. Impairment of any other litigating
capacity is simply one of the incidental (and perfectly constitutional) consequences
of conviction and incarceration.
Lewis, 518 U.S. at 355. “Thus, a prisoner’s right to access the courts extends to direct appeals,
habeas corpus applications, and civil rights claims only.” Thaddeus-X v. Blatter, 175 F.3d 378, 391
(6th Cir. 1999) (en banc). Moreover, the underlying action must have asserted a non-frivolous claim.
Lewis, 518 U.S. at 353; accord Hadix v. Johnson, 182 F.3d 400, 405 (6th Cir. 1999) (Lewis changed
actual injury to include requirement that action be non-frivolous).
Plaintiff does not allege any injury resulting from Defendant’s Murphy’s alleged
denials of legal materials. Moreover, in addition to filing this case, Plaintiff successfully filed two
other cases in 2016. One of those case was dismissed by the Court for failure to state a claim, see
Jennings v. McQueeney et al., 1:16-cv-1218 (W.D. Mich.), and the other case remains pending, see
Jennings v. Washington et al., 1:16-cv-483 (W.D. Mich.). Accordingly, Plaintiff fails to state a claim
against Defendant Murphy.
Unknown Part(y)(ies) #1
Plaintiff’s only allegation in the complaint concerning Unknown Part(y)(ies) #1,
“John/Jane” at the Oaks Correctional Facility, is that Plaintiff “wrote a grievance about CO Hall’s
threats and asked for assistance from John/Jane Doe, Oaks Correctional Facility Staff. No one
provided any assistance.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.9.) Where the defendant’s only involvement
in the allegedly unconstitutional conduct is “the denial of administrative grievances or the failure to
act,” the defendant cannot be liable under § 1983. Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 300 (6th Cir.
1999). The reason is that there must be active unconstitutional behavior. Failing to intervene on a
prisoner’s behalf to remedy reported acts of unconstitutional behavior does not amount to active
unconstitutional behavior by a person who merely denies an administrative grievance.
Consequently, Plaintiff’s allegation that Unknown Part(y)(ies) #1 failed to take action in response
to his grievance fails to state a claim.
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Dr. Crompton denied him treatment for pain in his
“cervical, thorasic, lumbar spine, right hip and right shoulder from ongoing injuries” on March 18
and April 7, 2016. (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.9.) He further claims that Dr. Crompton refused
to treat the pain from his cervical fusion on July 8, 9 and 11, 2016. At this stage of the proceedings,
Plaintiff’s allegations are sufficient to warrant service of Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment medical
claim against Defendant Crompton.
Defendants Hall and Stone
Plaintiff claims that on June 29, 2016, he complained to Defendant Hall that Murphy
was denying his right of access to the courts. In response, Hall allegedly threatened to write a false
misconduct ticket against Plaintiff and to throw him in the hole. Nine days later, on July 8, 2016,
Defendants Hall and Stone walked over to the table where Plaintiff was eating and told him to leave.
When Plaintiff asked for a couple more seconds to finish his food, Defendants Hall and Stone
allegedly slammed Plaintiff to the table and put handcuffs on him. Plaintiff contends that they pulled
his arms up so hard that they tore the acromioclavicular joint in his right arm. Defendants Hall and
Stone wrote a false misconduct ticket against Plaintiff for assault and battery and disobeying a direct
order, which resulted in Plaintiff’s placement in administrative segregation.
To the extent Plaintiff asserts a due process claim arising from his placement in
administrative segregation, he fails to state a claim. The Supreme Court long has held that the Due
Process Clause does not protect every change in the conditions of confinement having an impact on
a prisoner. See Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 225 (1976). In Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472,
484 (1995), the Court set forth the standard for determining when a prisoner’s loss of liberty
implicates a federally cognizable liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause. According
to the Sandin Court, a prisoner is entitled to the protections of due process only when a deprivation
“will inevitably affect the duration of his sentence” or imposes an “atypical and significant hardship
on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.” Sandin, 515 U.S. at 486-87; see
also Jones v. Baker, 155 F.3d 810, 812 (6th Cir. 1998); Rimmer-Bey v. Brown, 62 F.3d 789, 790-91
(6th Cir. 1995).
Confinement in administrative segregation “is the sort of confinement that inmates
should reasonably anticipate receiving at some point in their incarceration.” Hewitt v. Helms, 459
U.S. 460, 467-73 (1983). Thus, it is considered atypical and significant only in “extreme
circumstances.” Joseph v. Curtin, 410 F. App’x 865, 868 (6th Cir. 2010). Generally, courts will
consider the nature and duration of a stay in segregation to determine whether it imposes an “atypical
and significant hardship.” Harden–Bey v. Rutter, 524 F.3d 789, 794 (6th. Cir. 2008).
In Sandin, the Supreme Court concluded that the segregation at issue in that case
(disciplinary segregation for 30 days) did not impose an atypical and significant hardship. Sandin,
515 U.S. at 484. Similarly, the Sixth Circuit has held that mere placement in administrative
segregation, and placement for a relatively short period of time, do not require the protections of due
process. Rimmer-Bey, 62 F.3d at 790-91; see Joseph v. Curtin, 410 F. App’x 865, 868 (6th Cir.
2010) (61 days in segregation is not atypical and significant). The Sixth Circuit has also held, in
specific circumstances, that confinement in segregation for a relatively long period of time does not
implicate a liberty interest. See, e.g., Baker, 155 F.3d at 812-23 (two years of segregation while the
inmate was investigated for the murder of a prison guard in a riot); Mackey v. Dyke, 111 F.3d 460
(6th Cir. 1997) (one year of segregation following convictions for possession of illegal contraband
and assault, including a 117-day delay in reclassification due to prison crowding). But cf. Selby v.
Caruso, 734 F.3d 554, 559 (6th Cir. 2013) (13 years of segregation implicates a liberty interest);
Harden-Bey, 524 F.3d at 795 (remanding to the district court to consider whether the plaintiff's
allegedly “indefinite” period of segregation, i.e., three years without an explanation from prison
officials, implicates a liberty interest); Harris v. Caruso, 465 F. App’x 481, 484 (6th Cir. 2012)
(eight years of segregation implicates a liberty interest). Thus, even assuming that Plaintiff has been
in administrative segregation since July 8, 2016, the nature and duration of his confinement do not
implicate a liberty interest.
Likewise, Plaintiff fails to state an Eighth Amendment claim arising from his
segregated confinement. The Eighth Amendment prohibits any punishment which violates the
civilized standards of humanity and decency, or involves the unnecessary and wanton infliction of
pain. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102-03 (1976). To prove an Eighth Amendment violation,
an inmate must show that he has been deprived of the minimum civilized measures of life's
necessities. See Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981). Because placement in segregation
is a routine discomfort that is a part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay for their offenses
against society, it is insufficient to support an Eighth Amendment claim. See Hudson v. McMillian,
503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992).
At this stage of the proceedings, Plaintiff’s allegations are sufficient to warrant
service of Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claim for excessive use of force against Defendant Hall and
Stone. The Court also will serve Plaintiff’s retaliation claim against Defendants Hall and Stone.
Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court
determines that Defendants Murphy and Unknown Part(y)(ies) ##1-4 will be dismissed 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). The
Court also will dismiss Plaintiff’s Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment claims arising from his
placement in administrative segregation. The Court will serve Plaintiff’s remaining Eighth
Amendment and retaliation claims against Defendants Crompton, Hall and Stone.
An Order consistent with this Opinion will be entered.
November 18, 2016
/s/ Robert J. Jonker
ROBERT J. JONKER
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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