Weatherspoon #471817 v. Williams et al
ORDER APPROVING AND ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION 64 , denying 54 Defendants' motion to dismiss on grounds of qualified immunity ; signed by Judge Robert Holmes Bell (Judge Robert Holmes Bell, kcb)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
File No. 2:14-cv-108
HON. ROBERT HOLMES BELL
C. WILLIAMS et al.,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
On August 31, 2016, United States Magistrate Judge Timothy P. Greeley issued a
Report and Recommendation (“R&R”), recommending that Defendants’ motion to dismiss
on the basis of qualified immunity be denied. Plaintiff and Defendants have filed objections
to the R&R.
This Court is required to make a de novo review of those portions of a R&R to which
specific objections are made, and may accept, reject, or modify any or all of the Magistrate
Judge’s findings or recommendations. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3).
A. Plaintiff’s Objections
For reasons that are not clear, Plaintiff objects to the denial of Defendants’ motion.
Plaintiff apparently claims that the Court ignored allegations of deliberate indifference, but
the only claim at issue in the R&R is a retaliation claim. Thus, Plaintiff’s objections are
irrelevant and will be denied.
B. Defendants’ Objections
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants retaliated against him for filing grievances, and
Defendants acknowledge that Plaintiff has stated a retaliation claim. Nevertheless,
Defendants contend that they are entitled to qualified immunity because Plaintiff has not
alleged sufficient facts to plead a clearly-established violation. Defendants note that the filing
of grievances which violate prison regulations is not protected conduct. They contend that
there is a possibility that Plaintiff’s grievances did not comply with prison regulations,
because he was placed on modified access to the grievance process. Thus, according to
Defendants, Plaintiff must do more than merely plead that he filed grievances; he must plead
specific facts about the grievances that he filed to demonstrate that he engaged in protected
conduct. Defendants contend that it is Plaintiff’s burden to demonstrate that he can overcome
the affirmative defense of qualified immunity, and that he has not done so.
Defendants’ argument is without merit. Plaintiff has alleged a viable retaliation claim
based on a right that is clearly established. Plaintiff is not required to plead more specific
details about his claim in order to avoid Defendants’ affirmative defense of qualified
immunity. In effect, Defendants seek to revive a heightened pleading standard that was
rejected by the Court of Appeals many years ago. In Veney v. Hogan, 70 F.3d 917 (6th Cir.
1995), the Court of Appeals held that
when a plaintiff pleads his claim in generalized “notice” form, and the defense
of qualified immunity is asserted through a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff is
required to respond to that defense. If his original complaint is deficient in that
regard, he must amend his complaint to include the specific, non-conclusory
allegations of fact that will enable the district court to determine that those
facts, if proved, will overcome the defense of qualified immunity. For
example, if the original complaint alleged that a police officer “used excessive
force,” and qualified immunity is asserted, then plaintiff would be required to
amend with allegations of evidence sufficient to demonstrate that the force
used against him was, indeed, unreasonable. It is in this sense that a
heightened standard attaches to plaintiff’s pleading.
Id. at 922. The “heightened standard” in Veney is essentially what Defendants seek to impose
on Plaintiff in this action, but this standard was abrogated in Goad v. Mitchell, 297 F.3d 497,
505 (6th Cir. 2002). Hughlett v. Romer-Sensky, 98 F. App’x 360, 364 (6th Cir. 2004). Thus,
the Court will not apply it in this case.
Defendants also object to the magistrate judge’s denial of a motion to stay discovery.
Defendants sought to delay discovery until their motion to dismiss was resolved. Because the
Court has resolved the motion to dismiss, Defendants’ motion to stay discovery is moot. In
short, Plaintiff’s and Defendants’ objections will be denied.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s objections to the Report
and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge (ECF Nos. 68, 75) are DENIED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 64)
is APPROVED and ADOPTED as the opinion of this Court.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendants’ motion to dismiss on grounds of
qualified immunity (ECF No. 54) is DENIED.
/s/ Robert Holmes Bell
ROBERT HOLMES BELL
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated:October 17, 2016
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