Bradford #891157 v. Bostwick et al
OPINION; Judgment to issue; signed by Judge Janet T. Neff (Judge Janet T. Neff, clb)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 1:21-cv-26
Honorable Janet T. Neff
UNKNOWN BOSTWICK et al.,
This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (PLRA), 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 the Oaks Correctional Facility (OCF) in Manistee, Manistee County, Michigan. The
events about which he complains occurred at that facility. Plaintiff sues Corrections Officers
Unknown Bostwick, Unknown Wart, Unknown Anderson, Unknown McGlone, and Unknown
Mayhew, Lieutenant / Sergeant Chris Ward, and Warden Les Parish.
Plaintiff alleges that during the pertinent time-period, he was housed in Unit 3 at
OCF. Plaintiff states that during October of 2020, he was attempting to file a grievance addressing
issues he was having with Defendant Bostwick. Plaintiff received help from inmate Aaron
Michael-Christopher Spyker #981528 to file a grievance on one of his issues. Plaintiff placed the
grievance in the U.S. mailbox around October 30, 2020, but it was never processed. Plaintiff
claims that staff on the unit have access to the mailbox and sort the mail, which causes conflicts.
Plaintiff also contends that Assistant Resident Unit Manager Holden holds onto complaints and
grievances filed by multiple prisoners against Defendant Bostwick.
On November 9, 2020, Plaintiff filed a PREA [Prison Rape Elimination Act]
grievance on Defendants Mayhew and Bostwick. Plaintiff claims that, on November 27, 2020,
Defendants Mayhew and Bostwick admitted to the wrongdoing alleged in the grievance and that,
on January 4, 2021, Defendant Mayhew apologized to Plaintiff and asked him not to file a lawsuit.
Plaintiff states that on November 23, 2020, Defendant Bostwick called him a fag and used “race
slang” toward him.
On December 4, 2020, Plaintiff filed a motion asserting new facts in Case No. 1:20cv-1150, which was pending in this Court. Later that day, Defendant Mayhew came up to Plaintiff
and squeezed his shoulders in a manner that caused Plaintiff to drop to the ground. Defendants
Mayhew and Wart laughed and threatened Plaintiff. Plaintiff also contends that Defendant
Bostwick pushed him after he exited the dayroom. On December 14, 2020, Defendant Bostwick
ripped up Plaintiff’s personal papers and that Defendant Wart stated that was what Plaintiff got for
Plaintiff states that Defendant Parish had ample opportunity to correct problems
with the inmate grievance system. Plaintiff’s attempts to copy his grievances have been foiled
because the Law Library has been closed due to outbreaks of COVID-19.
Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his due process rights and engaged in
retaliation, excessive force, and harassment in violation of his rights under the First, Eighth, and
Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff seeks a preliminary injunction ordering Defendants to cease
verbal and physical abuse toward Plaintiff. Plaintiff also seeks compensatory damages and
recovery of the cost of litigation.
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); Street v. Corr.
Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir. 1996). 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
In his complaint in this case, Plaintiff alleges that on November 9, 2020, he filed a
PREA [Prison Rape Elimination Act] grievance on Defendants Mayhew and Bostwick. Plaintiff
claims that Defendants fail to process grievances in general and that no action was taken on his
PREA complaint. The Court notes that Plaintiff also asserted this claim in a previous lawsuit in
this Court. See Bradford v. Mayhew et al., Case No. 1:20-cv-1150 (W.D. Mich., Dec. 21, 2020).
That action was dismissed for failure to state a claim on December 21, 2020. Id. Plaintiff named
Defendants Bostwick and Mayhew as defendants in the previous complaint.
The doctrine of claim preclusion, sometimes referred to as res judicata, provides
that if an action results in a judgment on the merits, that judgment 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); see Kremer v. Chem. Const. Corp., 456 U.S. 461, 467 n.6 (1982); see also Bowen v. Gundy,
No. 96-2327, 1997 WL 778505, at * 1 (6th Cir. Dec. 8, 1997). Claim preclusion operates to relieve
parties of the cost and vexation of multiple lawsuits, conserve judicial resources, and by preventing
inconsistent decisions, encourages 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 Dep’t Stores, Inc. v. Moitie, 452 U.S.
394, 398 (1981). Because Plaintiff’s claim regarding the November 9, 2020, PREA grievance
against Defendants Bostwick and Mayhew in this case meets all three of the requirements, it is
barred by the doctrine of claim preclusion.
Plaintiff claims that Defendants Mayhew, Bostwick, and Wart violated his rights
under the Eighth Amendment. The Eighth Amendment imposes a constitutional limitation on the
power of the states to punish those convicted of crimes. Punishment may not be “barbarous,” nor
may it contravene society’s “evolving standards of decency.” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337,
345–46 (1981). The Amendment, therefore, prohibits conduct by prison officials that involves the
“unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” Ivey v. Wilson, 832 F.2d 950, 954 (6th Cir. 1987)
(per curiam) (quoting Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 346). The deprivation alleged must result in the denial
of the “minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities.” Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347; see also Wilson
v. Yaklich, 148 F.3d 596, 600–01 (6th Cir. 1998). The Eighth Amendment is only concerned with
“deprivations of essential food, medical care, or sanitation” or “other conditions intolerable for
prison confinement.” Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 348 (citation omitted). Moreover, “[n]ot every
unpleasant experience a prisoner might endure while incarcerated constitutes cruel and unusual
punishment within the meaning of the Eighth Amendment.” Ivey, 832 F.2d at 954. “Routine
discomfort is ‘part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society.’”
Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992) (quoting Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347). As a consequence,
“extreme deprivations are required to make out a conditions-of-confinement claim.” Id.
In order for a prisoner to prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim, he must show
that he faced a sufficiently serious risk to his health or safety and that the defendant official acted
with “‘deliberate indifference’ to [his] health or safety.” Mingus v. Butler, 591 F.3d 474, 479–80
(6th Cir. 2010) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (applying deliberate
indifference standard to medical claims)); see also Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 35 (1993)
(applying deliberate indifference standard to conditions of confinement claims)). The deliberateindifference standard includes both objective and subjective components. Farmer, 511 U.S. at
834; Helling, 509 U.S. at 35–37. To satisfy the objective prong, an inmate must show “that he is
incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834.
Under the subjective prong, an official must “know of and disregard an excessive risk to inmate
health or safety.” Id. at 837. “[I]t is enough that the official acted or failed to act despite his
knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm.” Id. at 842. “It is, indeed, fair to say that acting
or failing to act with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm to a prisoner is
the equivalent of recklessly disregarding that risk.” Id. at 836. “[P]rison officials who actually
knew of a substantial risk to inmate health or safety may be found free from liability if they
responded reasonably to the risk, even if the harm ultimately was not averted.” Id. at 844.
Initially, the Court notes that the use of harassing or degrading language by a prison
official, although unprofessional and deplorable, does not rise to constitutional dimensions. See
Ivey, 832 F.2d 950, 954–55 (6th Cir. 1987); see also Johnson v. Dellatifa, 357 F.3d 539, 546 (6th
Cir. 2004) (harassment and verbal abuse do not constitute the type of infliction of pain that the
Eighth Amendment prohibits); Violett v. Reynolds, No. 02-6366, 2003 WL 22097827, at *3 (6th
Cir. Sept. 5, 2003) (verbal abuse and harassment do not constitute punishment that would support
an Eighth Amendment claim); Thaddeus-X v. Langley, No. 96-1282, 1997 WL 205604, at *1 (6th
Cir. Apr. 24, 1997) (verbal harassment is insufficient to state a claim); Murray v. U.S. Bureau of
Prisons, No. 95-5204, 1997 WL 34677, at *3 (6th Cir. Jan. 28, 1997) (“Although we do not
condone the alleged statements, the Eighth Amendment does not afford us the power to correct
every action, statement, or attitude of a prison official with which we might disagree.”); Clark v.
Turner, No. 96-3265, 1996 WL 721798, at *2 (6th Cir. Dec. 13, 1996) (“Verbal harassment or idle
threats are generally not sufficient to constitute an invasion of an inmate’s constitutional rights.”);
Brown v. Toombs, No. 92-1756, 1993 WL 11882 (6th Cir. Jan. 21, 1993) (“Brown’s allegation that
a corrections officer used derogatory language and insulting racial epithets is insufficient to
support his claim under the Eighth Amendment.”). Accordingly, Plaintiff fails to state an Eighth
Amendment claim against Defendants Mayhew, Bostwick, and Wart arising from their alleged
Plaintiff alleges that on December 4, 2020, Defendant Mayhew squeezed his
shoulders in a manner that caused Plaintiff to drop to the ground and that, in a separate incident,
Defendant Bostwick pushed Plaintiff. Plaintiff fails to allege any other circumstances surrounding
either incident, nor does he allege that he suffered any injury as a result. The Court notes that the
“absence of serious injury” is relevant to the Eighth Amendment inquiry. Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559
U.S. 34, 37 (2010) (citing Hudson, 503 U.S. at 7).
“[T]he extent of injury suffered by an inmate is one factor that may suggest
‘whether the use of force could plausibly have been thought necessary’ in a
particular situation.” [Hudson, at 7 (quoting Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 321
(1986)]. The extent of injury may also provide some indication of the amount of
force applied. As we stated in Hudson, not “every malevolent touch by a prison
guard gives rise to a federal cause of action.” 503 U.S. at 9. “The Eighth
Amendment’s prohibition of ‘cruel and unusual’ punishments necessarily excludes
from constitutional recognition de minimis uses of physical force, provided that the
use of force is not of a sort repugnant to the conscience of mankind.” Id., at 9–10
(some internal quotation marks omitted). An inmate who complains of a “‘push or
shove’” that causes no discernible injury almost certainly fails to state a valid
excessive force claim. Id., at 9 (quoting Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028, 1033 (2d
Wilkins, 559 U.S. at 37–38. The Court added that “an inmate who is gratuitously beaten by guards
does not lose his ability to pursue an excessive force claim merely because he has the good fortune
to escape without serious injury.” Id. at 38.
In Wilkins, the plaintiff alleged that he was “punched, kicked, kneed, choked, and
body slammed ‘maliciously and sadistically’ and ‘[w]ithout any provocation.’” Id. at 38. The
assault allegedly left the plaintiff with a bruised heel, back pain, hypertension, migraine headaches,
dizziness, depression, panic attacks, and nightmares. Id. at 35. The Court held that given the
allegations regarding the nature of the assault, the district court erred in dismissing the plaintiff’s
complaint on the basis that his injuries were “de minimis.” The Court remanded the case for
further proceedings regarding whether the defendant’s use of force was malicious and sadistic. Id.
In this case, Defendant Mayhew’s alleged use of force in this case consisted of a
simple squeeze of Plaintiff’s shoulders, which Plaintiff claims caused him to drop to the floor. In
addition, Defendant Bostwick allegedly pushed Plaintiff. Unlike the alleged assault by the
defendant in Wilkins, the conduct described by Plaintiff is not “the sort repugnant to the conscience
of mankind.” Wilkins, 559 U.S. at 37–38. Consequently, Plaintiff has failed to state an excessive
force claim against Defendant Mayhew or Defendant Bostwick.
Plaintiff has no due process right to file a prison grievance. The courts repeatedly
have held that there exists no constitutionally protected due process right to an effective prison
grievance procedure. See Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 467 (1983); Walker v. Mich. Dep’t of
Corr., 128 F. App’x 441, 445 (6th Cir. 2005); Argue v. Hofmeyer, 80 F. App’x 427, 430 (6th Cir.
2003); Young v. Gundy, 30 F. App’x 568, 569–70 (6th Cir. 2002); Carpenter v. Wilkinson, No. 993562, 2000 WL 190054, at *2 (6th Cir. Feb. 7, 2000); see also Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422,
1430 (7th Cir. 1996); Adams v. Rice, 40 F.3d 72, 75 (4th Cir. 1994) (collecting cases). Michigan
law does not create a liberty interest in the grievance procedure. See Olim v. Wakinekona, 461
U.S. 238, 249 (1983); Keenan v. Marker, 23 F. App’x 405, 407 (6th Cir. 2001); Wynn v. Wolf, No.
93-2411, 1994 WL 105907, at *1 (6th Cir. Mar. 28, 1994). Because Plaintiff has no liberty interest
in the grievance process, Defendants’ alleged interference with the process did not deprive him of
First Amendment - right to petition the government
Nor was Plaintiff’s right to petition government violated by Defendant’s failure to
process or act on his grievances. The First Amendment “right to petition the government does not
guarantee a response to the petition or the right to compel government officials to act on or adopt
a citizen’s views.” Apple v. Glenn, 183 F.3d 477, 479 (6th Cir. 1999).
Moreover, Defendants’ actions have not barred Plaintiff from seeking a remedy for
his grievances. See Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 321 (1972). “A prisoner’s constitutional right to
assert grievances typically is not violated when prison officials prohibit only ‘one of several ways
in which inmates may voice their complaints to, and seek relief, from prison officials’ while
leaving a formal grievance procedure intact.” Griffin v. Berghuis, 563 F. App’x 411, 415–16 (6th
Cir. 2014) (citing Jones v. N.C. Prisoners’ Labor Union, Inc., 433 U.S. 119, 130 n.6 (1977)).
Indeed, Plaintiff’s ability to seek redress is underscored by his pro se invocation of the judicial
process. See Azeez v. DeRobertis, 568 F. Supp. 8, 10 (N.D. Ill. 1982). Even if Plaintiff had been
improperly prevented from filing a grievance, his right of access to the courts to petition for redress
of his grievances (i.e., by filing a lawsuit) cannot be compromised by his inability to file
institutional grievances, and he therefore cannot demonstrate the actual injury required for an
access-to-the-courts claim. See, e.g., Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 355 (1996) (requiring actual
injury); Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821–24 (1977). The exhaustion requirement only
mandates exhaustion of available administrative remedies. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). If Plaintiff
were improperly denied access to the grievance process, the process would be rendered
unavailable, and exhaustion would not be a prerequisite for initiation of a civil rights action. See
Ross v. Blake, 136 S. Ct. 1850, 1858–59 (2016) (reiterating that, if the prisoner is barred from
pursuing a remedy by policy or by the interference of officials, the grievance process is not
available, and exhaustion is not required); Kennedy v. Tallio, 20 F. App’x 469, 470–71 (6th Cir.
2001). In light of the foregoing, the Court finds that Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim.
Plaintiff makes a conclusory assertion that the alleged misconduct of the
Defendants in this case was all motivated by a desire to retaliate against him for his use of the
grievance system and for filing a lawsuit. Retaliation based upon a prisoner’s exercise of his or
her constitutional rights violates the Constitution. See Thaddeus-X v. Blatter, 175 F.3d 378, 394
(6th Cir. 1999) (en banc). In order to set forth a First Amendment retaliation claim, a plaintiff
must establish three elements: (1) he was engaged in protected conduct; (2) an adverse action was
taken against him that would deter a person of ordinary firmness from engaging in that conduct;
and (3) the adverse action was motivated, at least in part, by the protected conduct. Id. Moreover,
a plaintiff must be able to prove that the exercise of the protected right was a substantial or
motivating factor in the defendant’s alleged retaliatory conduct. See Smith v. Campbell, 250 F.3d
1032, 1037 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Mount Healthy City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 429 U.S.
274, 287 (1977)).
The filing of a nonfrivolous prison grievance is constitutionally protected conduct
for which a prisoner cannot be subjected to retaliation. See Smith v. Campbell, 250 F.3d 1032,
1037 (6th Cir. 2001); Herron v. Harrison, 203 F.3d 410, 415 (6th Cir. 2000). However, in
Thaddeus-X, the Sixth Circuit recognized that some threats and deprivations are too minimal to
constitute adverse action. Citing Bart v. Telford, 677 F.2d 622 (7th Cir. 1982), the Thaddeus-X
court held that minor harassment is insufficient to constitute adverse action, because recognition
of such a standard would “‘trivialize the First Amendment.’” Thaddeus 175 F.3d at 398-99 (citing
Bart, 677 F.2d at 625). With regard to his claim that Defendants verbally harassed him, the Court
concludes that such claims are not sufficiently adverse to support a First Amendment retaliation
As noted above, Plaintiff does not have a protected right to file grievances and could
not prevent him from exercising his right of access to the courts. Many courts, including this one,
have held that the denial or or interference with a grievance is not an adverse action. See, e.g.,
Cameron v. Gurnoe, No. 2:19-cv-71, 2019 WL 2281333, at *4–5 (W.D. Mich. May 29, 2019)
(citing cases); Branch v. Houtz, No. 1:16-cv-77, 2016 WL 737779, at *6 (W.D. Mich. Feb. 26,
2016); Ross v. Westchester Cnty. Jail, No. 10 Civ. 3937(DLC), 2012 WL 86467, at *8 (S.D.N.Y.
Jan. 11, 2012) (the refusal to file a grievance is, without more, insufficient to constitute an adverse
action); Stone v. Curtin, No. 1:11-cv-820, 2011 WL 3879505, at *4 (W.D. Mich. Aug. 31, 2011)
(the failure to process a prison grievance would not deter a prisoner of ordinary firmness from
exercising his right to file a grievance); Green v. Caruso, No. 1:10-cv-958, 2011 WL 1113392, at
*10 (W.D. Mich. Mar. 24, 2011) (the denial of a prisoner’s grievances was not sufficiently adverse
to support a retaliation claim); Burgos v. Canino, 641 F. Supp. 2d 443, 454 (E.D. Pa. 2009), aff’d,
358 F. App’x 302 (3d Cir. 2009) (the rejection or denial of prison grievances does constitute an
adverse action for purposes of a retaliation claim). Therefore, Defendants alleged interference
with his use of the grievance system is not sufficiently adverse to support a retaliation claim.
Finally, the Court notes that the alleged conduct of Defendants Mayhew and
Bostwick in squeezing his shoulders and giving him a single push, is not sufficiently adverse to
support a First Amendment retaliation claim. In addition, Plaintiff’s claims of retaliatory motive
with regard to Defendants Mayhew and Bostwick are entirely conclusory. Temporal proximity
“may be ‘significant enough to constitute indirect evidence of a causal connection so as to create
an inference of retaliatory motive.’” Muhammad v. Close, 379 F.3d 413, 417-18 (6th Cir. 2004)
(quoting DiCarlo v. Potter, 358 F.3d 408, 422 (6th Cir. 2004)).
allegations of temporal proximity are not sufficient to show a retaliatory motive.” Skinner v.
Bolden, 89 F. App’x 579, 580 (6th Cir. 2004). Moreover,
. . . Muhammad does not stand for the proposition that temporal proximity alone is
sufficient to create an issue of fact as to retaliatory motive. In Muhammad the Sixth
Circuit did not resolve the issue, but merely observed that “temporal proximity
alone may be ‘significant enough to constitute indirect evidence of a causal
connection so as to create an inference of retaliatory motive.’” Id. at 418 (quoting
DiCarlo v. Potter, 358 F.3d 408, 422 (6th Cir. 2004) (emphasis added). Even if
temporal proximity may in some cases create an issue of fact as to retaliatory
motive, it would only be sufficient if the evidence was “significant enough.”
Plaintiff’s conclusory and ambiguous evidence is not “significant enough” to create
an issue of fact as to retaliatory motive.
Brandon v. Bergh, No. 2:08-cv-152, 2010 WL 188731, at *1 (W.D. Mich. Jan. 16, 2010).
In this case, Plaintiff alleges that at some point on December 4, 2020, he filed a
motion to supplement a complaint in a pending action which included Defendants Mayhew and
Bostwick. Plaintiff claims that later the same day, in two separate incidents, Defendants Mayhew
and Bostwick independently mistreated him as described above. However, Plaintiff fails to allege
facts showing that this behavior was actually motivated by his conduct in filing a motion. In fact,
its not clear from Plaintiff’s complaint whether Defendants Mayhew and Bostwick were even
aware of the motion. Nor does Plaintiff allege facts showing that they were motivated by his use
of the grievance system. Because Plaintiff has failed to show any causal connection between his
protected conduct and the actions of Defendants Mayhew and Bostwick, his retaliation claims
against them are properly dismissed.
Substantive due process
To the extent that Plaintiff seeks to assert a substantive due process claim, such a
claim also fails. The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from “depriv[ing] any person of life,
liberty, or property, without due process of law[.]” U.S. Const. amend. XIV. “Substantive due
process ‘prevents the government from engaging in conduct that shocks the conscience or
interferes with rights implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.’” Prater v. City of Burnside, 289
F.3d 417, 431 (6th Cir. 2002) (quoting United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 746 (1987)).
“Substantive due process . . . serves the goal of preventing governmental power from being used
for purposes of oppression, regardless of the fairness of the procedures used.” Pittman v.
Cuyahoga Cnty. Dep’t of Child. & Fam. Servs., 640 F.3d 716, 728 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Howard
v. Grinage, 82 F.3d 1343, 1349 (6th Cir. 1996)). “Conduct shocks the conscience if it ‘violates
the “decencies of civilized conduct.”’” Range v. Douglas, 763 F.3d 573, 589 (6th Cir. 2014)
(quoting Cnty. of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 846–47 (1998) (quoting Rochin v.
California, 342 U.S. 165, 172-73 (1952))). The Sixth Circuit has held that framing an inmate by
planting evidence may violate substantive due process where a defendant’s conduct shocks the
conscience and constitutes an “egregious abuse of governmental power.” Cale v. Johnson, 861
F.2d 943, 950 (6th Cir. 1988), overruled in other part by Thaddeus-X v. Blatter, 175 F.3d 378, 388
(6th Cir. 1999); see also Davis v. Gallagher, No. 1:16-cv-1405, 2016 WL 7403941, *4 (W.D.
Mich. Dec. 22, 2016); Robinson v. Schertz, No. 2:07-cv-78, 2007 WL 4454293 (W.D. Mich. Dec.
“Where a particular [a]mendment ‘provides an explicit textual source of
constitutional protection’ against a particular sort of government behavior, ‘that [a]mendment, not
the more generalized notion of “substantive due process,” must be the guide for analyzing these
claims.’” Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 269 (1994) (quoting Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386,
394 (1989) (holding that the Fourth Amendment, not substantive due process, provides the
standard for analyzing claims involving unreasonable search or seizure of free citizens, and the
Eighth Amendment provides the standard for such searches of prisoners), overruled on other
grounds by Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001)). If such an amendment exists, the substantive
due process claim is properly dismissed. Heike v. Guevara, 519 F. App’x 911, 923 (6th Cir. 2013).
In this case, there are specific constitutional amendments that apply to Plaintiff’s
claims. For example, the Eighth Amendment provides an explicit source of constitutional
protection to Plaintiff concerning his excessive force and harassment claims. See Graham, 490
U.S. at 394 (citing Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 327 (1986) (rejecting a substantive due process
claim where the Eighth Amendment supplies a textual source for prison-condition claims); Dodson
v. Wilkinson, 304 F. App’x 434, 438 (6th Cir. 2008) (because the Eighth Amendment supplies the
explicit textual source of constitutional protection for claims governing a prisoner’s health and
safety, the plaintiff’s substantive due process claim was subject to dismissal). Similarly, the First
Amendment provides an explicit textual source of constitutional protection for Plaintiff’s
retaliation claims. Thus, the standard applicable to that source, the First Amendment right to be
free from retaliation, and not the more generalized notion of substantive due process should be
applied. Graham, 490 U.S. at 395; see also Bell v. Johnson, 308 F.3d 594, 610 (6th Cir. 2002)
(holding that, after Graham, the First Amendment standard is the sole source of substantive
protection); Brandenburg v. Housing Auth. of Irvine, 253 F.3d 891, 900 (6th Cir. 2001) (A
“substantive due process right to free speech is duplicative of [a] First Amendment retaliation
claim.”). Likewise, the Fourteenth Amendment Procedural Due Process Clause would apply to
protect Plaintiff’s liberty interest in the major misconduct proceedings. Consequently, Plaintiff’s
substantive due process claim will be dismissed.
Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the
Court determines that Plaintiff’s complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim, under 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). Although the
Court concludes that Plaintiff’s claims are properly dismissed, the Court does not conclude that
any issue Plaintiff might raise on appeal would be frivolous. Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S.
438, 445 (1962). Accordingly, the Court does not certify that an appeal would not be taken in
good faith. 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.
June 7, 2021
/s/ Janet T. Neff
Janet T. Neff
United States District Judge
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