Thompson #726007 v. Stenglein et al
OPINION ; signed by Judge Robert Holmes Bell (Judge Robert Holmes Bell, kcb)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 2:15-cv-163
Honorable Robert Holmes Bell
UNKNOWN STENGLEIN, 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 against Defendants Russell, Napel, Baldini, and Caron. The Court will serve the
complaint against Defendants Stenglein, Ogle, Johnson, Holman, Schroderus, and Priesk.
Plaintiff Lanier Thompson, a state prisoner currently confined at the Macomb
Correctional Facility, filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against
Defendants Corrections Officer Unknown Stenglein, Hearing Administrator Richard Russell, and
Corrections Officers Unknown Ogle, Unknown Johnson, Unknown Holman, and Unknown
Schroderus. Plaintiff also names Chaplain Unknown Priesk, Warden Robert Napel, Sergeant
Unknown Baldini, and Grievance Coordinator Glenn Caron as Defendants.
In Plaintiff’s complaint, he alleges that on June 24, 2015, while he was confined at
the Marquette Branch Prison (MBP), he was falsely accused of eating from a regular tray before
sunset during Ramadan. Plaintiff states that as a result, he was removed from the Ramadan list and
was not given his Ramadan meal after sundown for a period of 15 days. Plaintiff states that he
continued to fast during the day because of his religious beliefs and was thus deprived of all food,
which resulted in a weight loss of 12 pounds, causing Plaintiff’s weight to drop from 226 pounds to
Plaintiff contends that Defendants Ogle, Johnson, and Holman all refused to give
Plaintiff Ramadan meals during the 15 day time period. Plaintiff alleges that on July 9, 2015, he told
Defendant Priesk that he had been improperly removed from the Ramadan meal list. Defendant
Priesk stated that he was aware of the problem and had told Food Service to place Plaintiff back on
the Ramadan list. Defendant Priesk told Plaintiff that he would be getting a Ramadan meal bag that
evening. Defendant Priesk apologized to Plaintiff for having to go through that experience, but also
said that maybe it was good that Plaintiff had lost some weight. When Plaintiff became angry,
Defendant Priesk said he was just joking with Plaintiff.
Approximately one hour later, Defendant Schroderus told Plaintiff that paperwork
was being completed to keep Plaintiff off of the Ramadan meal list. Plaintiff claims that at
approximately 4:00 pm, Defendant Schroderus reviewed a Notice of Intent with Plaintiff. The
Notice of Intent had been written by Defendant Stenglein and indicated that he had observed Plaintiff
accepting a meal tray. Plaintiff states that Defendant Stenglein could not have seen Plaintiff eating
in his cell from his work area and was obviously lying in the Notice of Intent. Defendant Schroderus
told Plaintiff that he could lie about Plaintiff and get away with it, that Plaintiff would not be
believed, and that Plaintiff had better eat his regular meal or he would starve. Defendant Schroderus
also said that he hated all Muslims because they were terrorists. Consequently, Plaintiff took his
dinner tray and wrapped up the food until the sun went down, after which Plaintiff ate for the first
time in 15 days.
Plaintiff alleges that he was seen by a nurse on July 8, 9, 10, and 14, 2015, and was
found to be suffering from weight loss and high blood pressure. By the time that Plaintiff was seen
by the doctor on July 14, 2015, he had been eating regularly and his blood pressure had returned to
normal. Plaintiff claims that Defendants Russell and Baldini improperly denied his grievance
regarding the denial of Ramadan meals. Plaintiff states that Defendant Napel failed to intervene on
Plaintiff’s behalf while he was being denied food or to properly supervise Defendants Stenglein,
Ogle, Johnson, Holman, and Schroderus. Plaintiff claims that following the issuance of the Notice
of Intent, Defendant Priesk refused to place Plaintiff back on a vegan menu in compliance with
policy. Finally, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Caron failed to process his grievance at step I, so that
Plaintiff was forced to file his grievance with Defendant Russell directly to step III. Plaintiff seeks
damages and equitable relief.
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); 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 (1994).
Plaintiff fails to make specific factual allegations against Defendants Russell, Napel
and Baldini, other than his claim that they failed to conduct an investigation in response to his
grievances or to properly supervise subordinates. Government officials may not be held 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 Russell, Napel and Baldini engaged in any active
unconstitutional behavior. Accordingly, he fails to state a claim against them.
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Caron refused to process his grievance at step I, so
Plaintiff was forced to file it directly with Defendant Russell at step III. 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. 99-3562, 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, Defendant Caron’s conduct did not
deprive him of due process.
Moreover, Defendant Caron’s actions have not barred Plaintiff from seeking a remedy
for his grievances. See Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 321 (1972). Indeed, his 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. 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 Kennedy v. Tallio, 20 F. App’x 469, 470 (6th Cir. 2001). In light of the
foregoing, the Court finds that Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim against Defendant Caron.
The Court concludes that Plaintiff’s First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment claims
against Defendants Stenglein, Ogle, Johnson, Holman, Schroderus, and Priesk are not clearly
frivolous and may not be dismissed on initial review.
Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court
determines that Defendants Russell, Napel, Baldini, and Caron 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). The Court
will serve the complaint against Defendants Stenglein, Ogle, Johnson, Holman, Schroderus, and
An Order consistent with this Opinion will be entered.
Dated: May 9, 2016
/s/ Robert Holmes Bell
ROBERT HOLMES BELL
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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