Abdullah v. Quist 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. 1:17-cv-24
Honorable Janet T. Neff
GEORGE JAY QUIST 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, Plaintiff’s action will be dismissed on grounds of
immunity and failure to state a claim.
Plaintiff Saabir Abdullah presently is detained at the Kent County Correctional
Facility. Plaintiff sues Kent County Circuit Judge George Jay Quist; the Kent County Courthouse;
the Kent County Sheriff’s Department; the Kent County Correctional Facility (KCCF); and the State
Plaintiff alleges that he was arrested and brought before Defendant Quist in Kent
County Circuit Court on December 1, 2016. He allegedly demanded an “Avernment [sic] of
Jurisdiction,” which was denied. His case was adjourned on that date, and Plaintiff was bound over
for jury trial. At the end of the court session, Judge Quist ordered that Plaintiff be taken to jail if he
did not provide the Kent County deputies a urine sample. Plaintiff indicated that, despite the fact
that the deputies had no warrant, he would provide a urine sample. Upon testing, the urine sample
was positive for marijuana. Plaintiff’s bond therefore was revoked and he has since been held at
Plaintiff complains that he has written to the Sheriff and undersheriffs, the Michigan
Attorney General William Schuette, former Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth, and KCCF
about being held in custody for a bond violation. He has received no relief from any addressee.
For relief, Plaintiff seeks the recusal of Defendant Quist in the criminal case. He also
seeks substantial compensatory and punitive damages. In addition, in the affidavit attached to his
complaint, Plaintiff seeks release from KCCF.
Plaintiff appears to claim that Judge Quist violated his due process rights when he
ordered Plaintiff to submit to a urine test on threat of being jailed on a bond violation. Generally,
a judge is absolutely immune from a suit for monetary damages. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 9-10
(1991) (“[I]t is a general principle of the highest importance to the proper administration of justice
that a judicial officer, in exercising the authority vested in him, shall be free to act upon his own
convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself.”) (internal quotations
omitted); Barrett v. Harrington, 130 F.3d 246, 254 (6th Cir. 1997); Barnes v. Winchell, 105 F.3d
1111, 1115 (6th Cir. 1997). Absolute judicial immunity may be overcome in only two instances.
First, a judge is not immune from liability for non-judicial actions, i.e., actions not taken in the
judge’s judicial capacity. Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11; see Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 229 (1988)
(noting that immunity is grounded in “the nature of the function performed, not the identity of the
actor who performed it”). Second, a judge is not immune for actions, though judicial in nature,
taken in complete absence of all jurisdiction. Id. at 12.
Plaintiff’s allegations clearly fail to implicate either of the exceptions to judicial
immunity. There is no doubt that ordering Plaintiff to submit a urine sample and revoking Plaintiff’s
bond were judicial acts and that Judge Quist was acting within his jurisdiction in taking those
actions. Accordingly, Judge Quist is absolutely immune from liability. Because Judge Quist is
clearly immune from liability in this case, Plaintiff may not maintain an action for monetary
damages against him. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii).
Moreover, injunctive relief is also not available under § 1983, because, under the
1996 amendments to that statute, injunctive relief “shall not be granted” in an action against “a
judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity . . . unless a
declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983; accord
Savoie v. Martin, 673 F.3d 488, 496 (6th Cir. 2012). Plaintiff does not allege that a declaratory
decree was violated or that declaratory relief was unavailable. Consequently, his claim for
injunctive relief is barred. Montero v. Travis, 171 F.3d 757, 761 (2d Cir. 1999). The Court therefore
will dismiss Defendant Quist from the action.
Plaintiff may not maintain a § 1983 action against the Michigan Department of
Corrections. 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 dismisses the Michigan Department of
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 sues the Kent County Courthouse and KCCF. Both the courthouse
and the jail are buildings, not entities capable of being sued in its own right.
Plaintiff also sues the Kent County Sheriff’s Department. The sheriff’s department
does not exist as a separate legal entity; it is simply an agent of the county. Vine v. Cnty. of Ingham,
884 F. Supp. 1153, 1158 (W.D. Mich. 1995) (citing Hughson v. Cnty. of Antrim, 707 F. Supp. 304,
306 (W.D. Mich. 1988), and Bayer v. Almstadt, 185 N.W.2d 40, 44 (Mich. Ct. App. 1970)).
Accordingly, the Court will dismiss the Kent County Sheriff’s Department.
However, construing Plaintiff’s pro se complaint with all required liberality, Haines,
404 U.S. at 520, the Court assumes that Plaintiff intended to sue Kent County. Kent County may
not be held vicariously liable for the actions of its employees under § 1983. See Connick v.
Thompson, 131 S. Ct. 1350, 1359 (2011); City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 392 (1989);
Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). Instead, a county is liable only when its
official policy or custom causes the injury. Id.
Plaintiff’s allegations against the county essentially rest on a theory of vicarious
liability and therefore do not state a claim. Id. To the extent that Plaintiff suggests the existence of
a custom of warrantless arrests or warrantless demands for urine samples, his allegations are wholly
conclusory. As the Supreme Court has instructed, to demonstrate that a municipality had an
unlawful custom, a plaintiff must show that the municipality was deliberately indifferent to
“practices so persistent and widespread as to practically have the force of law.” Connick, 131 S. Ct.
at 1359. Plaintiff cites no prior incidents demonstrating a widespread pattern. He merely suggests
that such a pattern exists. Conclusory allegations of unconstitutional conduct without specific
factual allegations fail to state a claim under § 1983. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 555 (2007). Plaintiff therefore fails to state a claim against Kent County. Accordingly, the Court
will dismiss the Kent County Sheriff’s Department.
Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court
determines that Plaintiff’s action will be dismissed on grounds of immunity and 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: February 28, 2017
/s/ Janet T. Neff
Janet T. Neff
United States District Judge
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