Maddox v. Washington et al
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. 1:17-cv-657
Honorable Paul L. Maloney
HEIDI E. WASHINGTON et al.,
This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner, through counsel, pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has paid the entire civil action 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. § 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). Applying this standard, Plaintiff’s action will be
dismissed for failure to state a claim.
Plaintiff Anthony Maddox presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department
of Corrections (MDOC) and housed at the Michigan Reformatory (RMI). The actions about which
he complains occurred both at RMI and at the Oaks Correctional Facility (ECF), where Plaintiff
previously was housed. Plaintiff sues MDOC Director Heidi E. Washington, RMI Warden Carmen
Palmer, and ECF Warden Thomas Mackie.
Plaintiff has been incarcerated with the MDOC since September 12, 2014. Prior to
being imprisoned, the Social Security Administration determined that Plaintiff was fully disabled,
due to his mental and physical ailments. Specifically, Plaintiff discusses his sleep apnea and his
closed head injury. He also mentions in passing his mood disorder, memory loss, lack of
concentration, sleep disorder, and breathing impairment. (Compl. ECF No. 1, PageID.6.)
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendments. He contends that Defendants had “supervisory, policy making and custodial
responsibilities” to Plaintiff and that they
collectively and individually made decisions and enforced the decisions that have, to
this date, prevented the Plaintiff from receiving medical treatment that has been
prescribed and is known to be effective at no cost to Defendants and implemented
hearings and imposed resultant discipline without compliance with rudimentary due
(Id., PageID.5-6.) He asserts that Defendants had a special duty of care to Plaintiff, requiring them
to safeguard Plaintiff from foreseeable threats of harm.
According to the complaint, Plaintiff requires a continuous positive airway pressure
(CPAP) medical device to treat his sleep apnea. Plaintiff asserts that, absent the CPAP machine, he
suffers “daytime dysfunction, lack of oxygenation, [and] impairment of brain function,” leading to
depression. (Id., PageID.7.) Plaintiff presented his personally owned CPAP machine to prison
officials and asked to be permitted to use it. Unspecified prison officials apparently declined to
In addition, Plaintiff alleges that his closed head injury causes him to slur his words.
On October 12, 2014, Correctional Officer K. Sisson allegedly charged Plaintiff with a Class I
misconduct for substance abuse, solely on the observation that Plaintiff’s speech was slurred.
Plaintiff also was charged with Class II misconduct for interference with the administration of rules
when he entered “into the day room as was his accepted and customary practice, pursuant to
physician advice to eat food before ingesting his prescribed oral medication.” (Id., PageID.11-12.)
On November 3, 2016, a disciplinary hearing was held, and Plaintiff was found guilty of both
charges, despite the fact that no blood or breathalizer test was performed to confirm the officer’s
observations. These convictions, in turn, led to Plaintiff’s loss of visitation for the period of a year.
Plaintiff contends that Defendant Wardens and Director of the MDOC deprived him
of necessary medical treatment – the CPAP machine – in violation of his rights under the Eighth
Amendment. Plaintiff also contends that Defendants violated the Eighth Amendment when they
failed to ensure that Plaintiff received proper, though unspecified, care for his traumatic brain injury.
In addition, he alleges that Defendants are responsible for the “deleterious effects on a disabled
mentally ill person caused by the complete deprivation of all family visits,” which, he contends, were
arbitrarily and capriciously denied.” (Id., PageID.8.)
In addition, Plaintiff complains that Defendants violated his rights to procedural due
process, when they found him guilty of the charged misconducts, despite having no objective tests
to support the correctional officer’s subjective observations. Finally, he alleges that the discipline
Defendants imposed, including the loss of visitation, was arbitrary and capricious, in violation of his
right to substantive due process.
For relief, Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief barring Defendants from operating their
discipline system, together with compensatory and punitive damages.
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 (1994).
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants had “supervisory, policy making and custodial
responsibilities” to provide necessary health care, to ensure disciplinary proceedings that meet the
requirements of due process, and to prevent the arbitrary and capricious imposition of disciplinary
sanctions. (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.5) Plaintiff, however, makes absolutely no factual
allegations about active conduct taken by the named Defendants.
Government officials may not be held individually 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 Defendants engaged in any active unconstitutional behavior. Plaintiff therefore fails to
state a claim respecting Defendants’ supervisory responsibility for their subordinates’ alleged failures
to adequately treat his medical needs, adequately conduct disciplinary proceedings, and adequately
meet their duty of care.
Violation of Policy
Plaintiff generally alleges that Defendants had a pattern or policy of depriving
prisoners of CPAP machines and other necessary medical care. He also suggests that Defendants
have implemented a disciplinary policy that violates procedural and substantive due process.
Plaintiff’s claims concerning the existence of a policy or custom are wholly
conclusory. Plaintiff neither cites prior incidents demonstrating a widespread pattern nor points to
a particular policy. Instead, he simply asserts that such a policy or pattern exists. In fact, the only
facts stated in the complaint have to do with Plaintiff’s personal deprivation of a medical device by
unknown persons and a guilty finding on two misconduct charges with which he disagrees. Such
allegations utterly fail to allege or show the existence of an unconstitutional policy.
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’s complaint simply does not contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.
Moreover, the express policy of the MDOC directly contradicts Plaintiff’s claim.
Policy Directive 03.04.100 begins with the following policy statement: “Prisoners shall be provided
with a continuum of medically necessary health care services that are supported by evidence based
medical research.” MICH. DEP’T OF CORR., Policy Directive 03.04.100. Plaintiff therefore fails to
allege facts supporting his claim the Defendants created or enforced a policy of not providing CPAP
machines or other medical care. Further, Plaintiff utterly fails to point to a defect in the formal
policy governing misconduct proceedings set forth in MICH. DEP’T OF CORR., Policy Directive
For all these reasons, Plaintiff fails to allege facts suggesting that Defendants created
or enforced an unconstitutional policy.
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.
§ 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: August 15, 2017
/s/ Paul L. Maloney
Paul L. Maloney
United States District Judge
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