Foster #297674 v. Smith
OPINION; signed by District Judge Paul L. Maloney (Judge Paul L. Maloney, cmc)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 1:16-cv-1150
Honorable Paul L. Maloney
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 for failure to state a claim.
Plaintiff Robert Foster presently is incarcerated at the Ionia Correctional Facility (ICF).
He sues ICF Warden Willie Smith.
Plaintiff alleges that, on August 21, 2016, he was given a food tray that was dirty. He
allegedly tried to point out the dirty food tray to Officers McNeely and Reese, but they ignored him.
Plaintiff then broke the tray into pieces because of his anger and frustration caused by the alleged continuing
abuse of food service personnel and correctional officers. As the result of Plaintiff’s action in breaking the
food tray, Plaintiff was placed on food loaf, ostensibly in violation of prison policy and the Eighth
Amendment. On August 22, 2016, Officer Watkins delivered food loaf to Plaintiff. Plaintiff complains that
Officer Watkins continues to antagonize him and that Watkins was one of several officers who attempted
to kill Plaintiff in 2001, by overdosing him with eight shots of thorazine.
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Smith must be held accountable for the actions of his
employees. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, together with an order directing that
Plaintiff’s meals be delivered by food-service rather than custody staff.
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) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)).
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 (1994).
Plaintiff fails to make specific factual allegations against Defendant Smith, other than his
claim that Smith failed to supervise his subordinates. Government officials 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, 575-76 (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 576; Greene, 310 F.3d
at 899; Summers v. Leis, 368 F.3d 881, 888 (6th Cir. 2004). Moreover, § 1983 liability may not be
imposed simply because a supervisor denied an administrative grievance or failed to act based upon
information contained in a grievance. See Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 300 (6th Cir. 1999). “[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 Defendant Smith
engaged in any active unconstitutional behavior. Accordingly, he fails to state a claim against him.
Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court
determines that Plaintiff’s action 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 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: November 3, 2016
/s/ Paul L. Maloney
Paul L. Maloney
United States District Judge
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