Brown #163849 v. Caruso et al

Filing 5

OPINION; signed by Judge Gordon J. Quist (Judge Gordon J. Quist, jmt)

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-TPG Brown #163849 v. Caruso et al Doc. 5 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN NORTHERN DIVISION ANTHONY BROWN, Plaintiff, v. PATRICIA L. CARUSO et al., Defendants. ______________________________/ Case No. 2:10-cv-180 Honorable Gordon J. Quist OPINION 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, and Plaintiff has paid the initial partial 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. 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. Dockets.Justia.com Discussion I. Factual allegations Plaintiff presently is incarcerated at Marquette Branch Prison, but the events underlying his complaint occurred at Alger Correctional Facility and Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility (AMF). In his pro se complaint, Plaintiff sues Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) Director Patricia Caruso, Regional Prison Administrator Jeri-Ann Sherry and AMF Warden Capello. Plaintiff alleges that he was placed in solitary confinement, also known as administrative segregation, for 940 days in retaliation for having assaulted a staff member. He further alleges that the stress of solitary confinement caused him to develop emotional and physical problems. Plaintiff states that he has been diagnosed with Intestinal Bowel Disease requiring medication. He also claims that he has suffered from hallucinations, feelings of worthlessness and suicidal thoughts. (Compl., Page ID ##3-4, docket #1.) He seeks injunctive relief and punitive damages. II. 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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (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, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (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 -2- the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. 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." Ashcroft, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (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." Ashcroft, 129 S. Ct. at 1950 (quoting FED. R. CIV . P. 8(a)(2)). 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). A. Retaliation Plaintiff claims that Caruso retaliated against him because he assaulted a staff member at a facility where she had served as warden, and he contends she had a close personal relationship with the staff member. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Sherry kept him in solitary confinement because she was serving as warden at the time the assault took place, and she also had a relationship with the staff member. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Capello approved his placement in solitary confinement to please the other Defendants. 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 -3- to set forth a First Amendment retaliation claim, a plaintiff must establish that: (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. Thaddeus-X, 175 F.3d at 394. 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)). Plaintiff fails to meet the first prong of the retaliation claim. He does not allege that any Defendant retaliated against him for engaging in protected conduct. Rather, he claims that Defendants retaliated against him because he assaulted a staff member. Assaulting a prison officer clearly is not protected conduct. Therefore, Plaintiff's claim of retaliation fails. B. Eighth Amendment Plaintiff claims that his his 940-day placement in administrative segregation violated his Eighth Amendment rights. (Compl., Page ID ##3-4.) Plaintiff states that he has suffered mental and physical illness as a result of solitary confinement. He claims that he has been diagnosed with Intestinal Bowel Disease requiring medication and that he has suffered from hallucinations, feelings of worthlessness and suicidal thoughts. (Id.) The Eighth Amendment prohibits punishments that are not only physically barbaric, but also those which are incompatible with "the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society," or which "involve the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102-103(1976). To establish an Eighth Amendment claim, the prisoner must show that he was deprived of the "minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981). Conditions that are restrictive or even harsh, but -4- are not cruel and unusual under contemporary standards, are not unconstitutional. Id. Thus, federal courts may not intervene to remedy conditions that are merely unpleasant or undesirable. Placement in segregation is a routine discomfort that 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); see also Jones v. Waller, No. 98-5739, 1999 WL 313893, at *2 (6th Cir. May 4, 1999). Plaintiff does not allege that he has not received necessary medical treatment or that the conditions of his cell violated the constitution. Instead, he alleges only that his placement in administrative segregation, by itself, caused his medical conditions. Plaintiff may have been denied certain privileges as a result of his administrative segregation, but he does not allege or show that he was denied basic human needs and requirements. The Sixth Circuit has held that without a showing that basic human needs were not met, the denial of privileges as a result of administrative segregation cannot establish an Eighth Amendment violation. See Bradley v. Evans, No. 98-5861, 2000 WL 1277229, at *8 (6th Cir. Aug. 23, 2000); Collmar v. Wilkinson, No. 97-4374, 1999 WL 623708, at *3 (6th Cir. Aug.11, 1999). Plaintiff fails to state an Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants.1 Conclusion Having conducted the review now 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). Plaintiff does not allege that he was placed and kept in segregation without due process of law. See Sandin v . Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 486-87 (1995) (holding that a prisoner is entitled to the protections of due process only when th e sanction "will inevitably affect the duration of his sentence" or when a deprivation imposes an "atypical and s ig n ific a n t hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.") Therefore, the Court need not a d d r e s s whether Plaintiff's was placement in administrative segregation for 940 days deprived him of a liberty interest. However, the Court notes that the Sixth Circuit held in Jones v. Baker, 155 F.3d 810, 812-18 (6th Cir. 1998), that c o n fin e m e n t in administrative segregation for two and one-half years did not constitute an atypical and significant h a r d s h ip necessary to create a liberty interest under Sandin. 1 -5- 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 $455.00 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 $455.00 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: September 17, 2010 /s/ Gordon J. Quist GORDON J. QUIST UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE -6-

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