Weatherspoon #471817 v. Unknown Parties 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
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 1:17-cv-792
Honorable Janet T. Neff
UNKNOWN PARTIES 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 for failure to state a claim.
Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections
(MDOC) at Baraga Correctional Facility (AMF) in Baraga, Baraga County, Michigan. The events
about which he complains, however, occurred at the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility
(MTU) in Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues dozens of Defendants who are employed
at MTU, including the following: MDOC Director Daniel Heyns, Warden C. Stoddard; Deputy
Warden Unknown Laurer; Grievance Coordinator C. Heffelbower; Director of Mental Health Greg
Johnson; Health Unit Manager Michelle Pilon; Doctors Unknown Huyge and Richard Czop;
Psychiatrists Armando Santiago, Unknown Shafer, Kathleen Mutschler, and Unknown
Gildersleeve; Psychologists Jay Choi, Rebbeca Busman, and Unknown Gould; Mental Health
Professional Erica Enz; Social Workers Jeffery Caler and Ashley Detman; Nurse Supervisor
Joshua Lanedon; Nurses Unknown Harding, Sherri Hernandez-Cruz, Mark Castor, Unknown
Smith, Unknown Lorentz, Kay Stouffer, Unknown Lewis, Unknown Wendt, Unknown Hasseldor,
Jarita Unknown, and Rodney Unknown; Case Manager Unknown Lean; Housing Unit Manager
Unknown Kirsdorf; Lieutenants Unknown Wood, Unknown Allen and Unknown Cook; Sergeants
Unknown Cassel and Unknown Sutton; Corrections Officers J. Somers, Unknown Desjardan,
Unknown Clark, Unknown Heard, Unknown Griffith, Unknown Bolano, Unknown Slater,
Unknown Kolowickzi, Unknown Eerdman, Unknown Rosewizki, Unknown Ruthruff, Unknown
Kolsten, Unknown Castle, Unknown Mullins, and Unknown Johnston; Unknown Parties of
Corizon Health (Health Care Provider to the MDOC); Unknown Parties of Maxor (Pharmaceutical
Supplier to the MDOC); and Unknown Parties of the MDOC Bureau of Health Care Services.
Plaintiff contends that each Defendant, prior to May of 2013, and during May and
June of 2013, participated in a plan to improperly diagnose Plaintiff as mentally ill and that many
harms befell him because of that improper diagnosis, including: forcible injections of powerful
antipsychotic drugs; false misconduct allegations regarding a knife; improper medical treatment;
retaliation for grievances; false imprisonment; exposure to dangerous, assaultive, and predatory
mentally ill prisoners; serious bodily injury; withholding of property; and the use of excessive
force. Plaintiff attributes each of these improper actions to the Defendants as a group. Plaintiff
claims Defendants’ actions violated his First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment
rights, as well as the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 19611968; the False Claim Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729, the Torture Prevention Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1350, and
the Terrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2331. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief as well as
an award of compensatory and punitive damages against each Defendant.
Plaintiff acknowledges that these allegations have already been the subject of an
action in this Court: Weatherspoon v. Choi et al, No. 1:14-cv-707 (W.D. Mich.) (herein “Choi I”).
In the instant suit, Plaintiff has added one group of unknown Defendants (Unknown Parties of the
MDOC Bureau of Health Care Services) and omitted two others (Corrections Officers Unknown
Perez and Unknown Miller), but the parties are otherwise identical. Moreover, Plaintiff alleges
the same facts, attempts to state the same causes of action for violation of his constitutional rights,
and seeks the same relief in the instant suit as in Choi I.
In Choi I, the Court dismissed most of the Defendants upon initial review of
Plaintiff’s amended complaint because he had failed to make specific allegations against them.
(1:14-cv-707, Op. and Ord., ECF Nos. 13-14.) The Court dismissed a few others for failure to
state a claim. (Id.) The Court ordered service of Plaintiff’s amended complaint upon seventeen
of the Choi I Defendants. (Id.) The case proceeded through discovery; however, the Court granted
summary judgment in favor of the remaining Defendants on the merits and entered judgment on
September 8, 2017. (1:14-cv-707, Reports and Recommendations, Ops. and Ords., and Judgment,
ECF Nos. 88, 105, 219, 231-232.) The matter is presently before the Sixth Circuit Court of
Plaintiff filed the instant action before judgment was entered in Choi I.
Duplicative actions are frivolous
Plaintiffs generally have “no right to maintain two separate actions involving the
same subject matter at the same time in the same court and against the same defendants.” Walton
v. Eaton Corp., 563 F.2d 66, 70 (3d Cir. 1977). Accordingly, as part of its inherent power to
administer its docket, a district court may dismiss a suit that is duplicative of another federal court
suit. See Colo. River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 817 (1976); Adams
v. California Dep’t of Health Serv., 487 F.3d 684, 688 (9th Cir. 2007); Missouri v. Prudential
Health Care Plan, Inc., 259 F.3d 949, 953-54 (8th Cir. 2001); Curtis v. Citibank, N.A., 226 F.3d
133, 138-39 (2d Cir. 2000); Smith v. SEC, 129 F.3d 356, 361 (6th Cir. 1997). The power to dismiss
a duplicative lawsuit is meant to foster judicial economy and the “comprehensive disposition of
litigation,” Kerotest Mfg. Co. v. C-O-Two Fire Equip. Co., 342 U.S. 180, 183 (1952), and protect
parties from “the vexation of concurrent litigation over the same subject matter.” Adam v. Jacobs,
950 F.2d 89, 93 (2d Cir. 1991).
In addition, courts have held that an in forma pauperis complaint that merely
repeats pending or previously litigated claims may be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(i)
as frivolous or malicious. See, e.g. McWilliams v. Colorado, 121 F.3d 573, 574 (10th Cir. 1997)
(holding that repetitious litigation of virtually identical causes of action may be dismissed under
the in forma pauperis statute as frivolous or malicious); Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1105
n.2 (9th Cir. 1995) (noting that an action may be dismissed as frivolous under 28 U.S.C. § 1915
when the complaint “merely repeats pending or previously litigated claims); Pittman v. Moore,
980 F.2d 994, 994-95 (5th Cir. 1993) (finding that it is “malicious” for a pauper to file a lawsuit
that duplicates allegations of another pending federal lawsuit by the same plaintiff); Bailey v.
Johnson, 846 F.2d 1019, 1021 (5th Cir. 1988) (holding that it was appropriate to dismiss an in
forma pauperis civil rights suit by prison inmate where suit was duplicative of facts and allegations
made in previously dismissed suit, and merely named a different defendant whose actions formed
a partial basis for the previous suit); Risley v. Hawk, 918 F. Supp. 18, 22 (D.D.C. Cir. 1996)
(holding that the district court may dismiss an in forma pauperis action where the complaint
duplicates the allegations of other pending or previously filed litigation, even where the previously
filed actions were filed in different districts); Hahn v. Tarnow, No. 06-cv-12814, 2006 WL
2160934, at *3 (E.D. Mich. July 31, 2006).
A complaint is duplicative and subject to dismissal if the claims, parties and
available relief do not significantly differ from an earlier-filed action. Serlin v. Arthur Andersen
& Co., 3 F.3d 221, 223 (7th Cir. 1993). Although complaints may not “significantly differ,” they
need not be identical. Courts focus on the substance of the complaint. See, e.g., Bailey, 846 F.2d
at 1021 (holding that a complaint was duplicative although different defendants were named
because it “repeat[ed] the same factual allegations” asserted in the earlier case). Considering the
substantial similarities between the parties, legal claims, factual allegations, temporal
circumstances and relief sought in the present complaint and the complaint in Choi I, the Court
concludes that the present complaint is duplicative.
Plaintiff’s action is barred by res judicata
The doctrine of res judicata, also called claim preclusion, means a final judgment
on the merits of an action precludes the parties or their privies from relitigating claims that were
or could have been raised in that action. Federated Department Stores, Inc. v. Moitie, 452 U.S.
394, 398 (1981). Res judicata is an affirmative defense, FED. R. CIV. P. 8(c), and “‘[c]ourts
generally lack the ability to raise an affirmative defense sua sponte.” Neff v. Flagstar Bank, FSB,
520 F. App’x 323, 327 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Hutcherson v. Lauderdale Cty., 326 F.3d 747, 757
(6th Cir. 2003)). The Court “may take the initiative to assert the res judicata defense sua sponte
in ‘special circumstances.’” Id. (quoting Arizona v. California, 530 U.S. 392, 412 (2000)). One
such special circumstance occurs when “a court is on notice that it has previously decided the issue
presented.” Arizona, 530 U.S. at 412. That special circumstance is present in this case.
Choi I resulted in a final judgment on the merits. “The dismissal for failure to state
a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is a ‘judgment on the merits.’” Federated
Department Stores, Inc., 452 U.S. at 399 n.3. The remaining Defendants’ summary judgment
motions were also on the merits. The fact that the judgment is on appeal does not render it any
less final for purposes of res judicata analysis. “[A] federal judgment becomes final for . . . claim
preclusion purposes when the district court disassociates itself from the case, leaving nothing to
be done at the court of first instance save execution of the judgment.” Clay v. United States, 537
U.S. 522, 527 (2003); see also Smith v. S.E.C., 129 F.3d 356, 362 n.7 (6th Cir. 1997) (“The fact
that Smith has an appeal of that judgment pending does not deprive that judgment of res judicata
effect.”); Commodities Export Co. v. U.S. Customs Serv., 957 F.2d 223, 228 (6th Cir. 1992) (“[I]t
is well established that a final trial court judgment operates as res judicata while an appeal is
Because the Choi I judgment is final, it operates as an absolute bar to any
subsequent action on the same cause between the same parties or their privies, with respect to
every matter that was actually litigated in the first case, as well as every ground of recovery that
might have been presented. Black v. Ryder/P.I.E. Nationwide, Inc., 15 F.3d 573, 582 (6th Cir.
1994). Claim preclusion operates to relieve parties of the cost and vexation of multiple lawsuits,
conserve judicial resources, and by preventing inconsistent decisions, encourage reliance on
adjudication. Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980). In order to apply the doctrine of claim
preclusion, the court must find that (1) the previous lawsuit ended in a final judgment on the merits;
(2) the previous lawsuit was between the same parties or their privies; and (3) the previous lawsuit
involved the same claim or cause of action as the present case. Allen, 449 U.S. at 94; accord
Federated Dept Stores, Inc., 452 U.S. at 398. All of the elements that raise the bar are present
here. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s action is barred by res judicata. Thus, it is properly dismissed as
legally frivolous. See, e.g., Taylor v. Reynolds, 22 F. App’x 537, 538-539 (6th Cir. 2001) (“A
complaint may be dismissed as frivolous if the claims lack an arguable or rational basis in law or
fact. . . . [A] completely duplicative complaint lacks an arguable basis in law or in fact and . . .
[is] properly dismissed on the basis of res judicata.”); Murray v. Reed, No. 02–2458, 2003 WL
21377472, at *1 (6th Cir. June 12, 2003) (affirming dismissal of claim barred by res judicata as
frivolous); Gwyddioniaid v. O’Neil, No. 88-6436, 1989 WL 68601 (6th Cir. June 26, 1989) (same).
Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the
Court determines that Plaintiff action will be dismissed as frivolous because it is entirely
duplicative of Choi I and barred by the doctrine of res judicata. This is a dismissal as described
by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).
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.
A judgment consistent with this Opinion will be entered.
Dated: October 26, 2017
/s/ Janet T. Neff
Janet T. Neff
United States District Judge
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