Finley #266147 v. Huss et al
OPINION; signed by Judge Gordon J. Quist (Judge Gordon J. Quist, jmt)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 2:16-cv-253
Honorable Gordon J. Quist
ERICA HUSS, 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, Plaintiff’s action will be dismissed for failure to state
Plaintiff Timothy Finley, a state inmate currently confined at the Marquette Branch
Prison (MBP), filed this pro se civil rights action against Defendants Deputy Warden Erica Huss
and Deputy Warden Sarah Schroeder. Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from a severe mental illness
which is recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Plaintiff has a long history
of suicide attempts and self injurious behavior. Plaintiff states that from August 30, 2016, to
October 5, 2016, he cut himself with a razor at least twenty-five times, and swallowed a razor on
nine different occasions. Plaintiff has had multiple surgeries to remove razors from his throat and
Plaintiff alleges that on September 29, 2016, Defendant Huss classified Plaintiff to
administrative segregation for using a razor to harm himself. Plaintiff claims that this violated his
rights because Defendant Huss failed to have a qualified mental health professional’s input on the
placement form. Plaintiff attaches a copy of the form, which shows that the section “to be
completed if prisoner is receiving outpatient mental health services or special education services”
is empty. See ECF No. 1-5. Plaintiff also attaches a copy of the misconduct sanction assessment
form dated September 12, 2016, which was completed by mental health professional M. Salmi, and
which indicates that prolonged segregation placement “is likely to deteriorate [Plaintiff’s] mental
health status.” See ECF No. 1-6. On October 7, 2016, Plaintiff was seen by Psychiatrist Dr. Terry
Meden, who ordered that Plaintiff receive involuntary treatment with antipsychotic medications.
Plaintiff states that all departments in the prison are aware of Plaintiff’s mental illness and treatment
recommendations. Plaintiff claims that his placement in administrative segregation subjected him
to needless suffering because of his mental illness.
Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendments. Plaintiff’s complaint seeks a temporary restraining order and / or preliminary
injunction releasing Plaintiff from administrative segregation and placing him in a mental health
program. However, on January 12, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion to withdraw the motion for a
temporary restraining order and / or preliminary injunction because he had been released from
administrative segregation and transferred to the prison’s mental health program. See ECF No. 9.
Plaintiff also seeks a permanent injunction preventing his placement in administrative segregation
and declaratory 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); 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
Plaintiff claims that his placement in administrative segregation violated his rights
under the Eighth Amendment because it constituted punishment for his mental illness. 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). Restrictions that are restrictive or even harsh, but 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.
The Eighth Amendment also requires prison officials to provide medically necessary
mental health treatment to inmates. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976); Gov’t of the
Virgin Islands v. Martinez, 239 F.3d 293, 301 (3d Cir. 2001); Lay v. Norris, No. 88-5757, 1989 WL
62498, at *4 (6th Cir. June 13, 1989); Potter v. Davis, No. 82-5783, 1985 WL 13129, at * 2 (6th Cir.
April 26, 1985). In Easley v. Nixon-Hughes, 2009 WL 237733 (S.D. Ohio, Jan. 29, 2009), a prisoner
claimed that he was mentally ill and had attempted suicide on several occasions. The plaintiff
further claimed that he was denied treatment for his illness and was being punished for his mental
illness by being placed in a “23-1 hour isolation cell with ‘supermax’ conditions.” Id. at *1. The
plaintiff in Easley alleged that he was improperly housed with non-mentally ill inmates, that
untrained officers were used to perform suicide watches, and that he attempted suicide on one
occasion when the officer assigned to monitor him fell asleep. In addition, he alleged that another
officer “refused to summon mental health personnel and told Plaintiff to hang himself.” Id.
In this case, Plaintiff alleges that pursuant to MDOC Policy Directive 04.06.182, once
Plaintiff was placed in administrative segregation by Defendant Huss, his mental health provider,
Ms. Salmi, appealed the placement to Defendant Schroeder. Plaintiff states that in the appeal, Ms.
Salmi recommended that Plaintiff be placed in the mental health program at the prison. As noted
above, Plaintiff filed this complaint in November of 2016, while he was confined in administrative
segregation. However, Plaintiff has since been admitted to the mental health program and is no
longer confined in administrative segregation. In addition, Plaintiff’s allegations indicate that he
received mental health treatment during his placement in administrative segregation. As noted
above, on October 7, 2016, Plaintiff was seen by Psychiatrist Dr. Terry Meden, who ordered that
Plaintiff receive involuntary treatment with antipsychotic medications. Plaintiff does not claim that
he was denied treatment during his stay in administrative segregation. Nor does he claim that he
was encouraged to commit suicide or given the opportunity to do so by untrained corrections
officers. Therefore, the Court concludes that Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claim is properly
Plaintiff also claims that Defendants Huss and Schroeder violated his due process
rights when they allowed him to be confined in administrative segregation after M. Salmi indicated
that prolonged segregation placement “is likely to deteriorate [Plaintiff’s] mental health status.”
Plaintiff cites MDOC Policy Directive 04.06.182 in support of this claim. However, Defendants’
alleged failure to comply with an administrative rule or policy does not itself rise to the level of a
constitutional violation. Laney v. Farley, 501 F.3d 577, 581 n.2 (6th Cir. 2007); Brody v. City of
Mason, 250 F.3d 432, 437 (6th Cir. 2001); Smith v. Freland, 954 F.2d 343, 347-48 (6th Cir. 1992);
Barber v. City of Salem, 953 F.2d 232, 240 (6th Cir. 1992); McVeigh v. Bartlett, No. 94-23347, 1995
WL 236687, at *1 (6th Cir. Apr. 21, 1995) (failure to follow policy directive does not rise to the
level of a constitutional violation because policy directive does not create a protectable liberty
interest). Section 1983 is addressed to remedying violations of federal law, not state law. Lugar
v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 924 (1982); Laney, 501 F.3d at 580-81.
Moreover, the Due Process Clause does not protect every change in the conditions
of confinement having an impact on a prisoner. See Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 225 (1976).
In Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995), the Court set forth the standard for determining
when a prisoner’s loss of liberty implicates a federally cognizable liberty interest protected by the
Due Process Clause. According to the Sandin Court, a prisoner is entitled to the protections of due
process only when a deprivation “will inevitably affect the duration of his sentence” or imposes an
“atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.”
Sandin, 515 U.S. at 486-87; see also Jones v. Baker, 155 F.3d 810, 812 (6th Cir. 1998); Rimmer-Bey
v. Brown, 62 F.3d 789, 790-91 (6th Cir. 1995).
Confinement in administrative segregation “is the sort of confinement that inmates
should reasonably anticipate receiving at some point in their incarceration.” Hewitt v. Helms, 459
U.S. 460, 467-73 (1983). Thus, it is considered atypical and significant only in “extreme
circumstances.” Joseph v. Curtin, 410 F. App’x 865, 868 (6th Cir. 2010). Generally, courts will
consider the nature and duration of a stay in segregation to determine whether it imposes an
“atypical and significant hardship.” Harden–Bey v. Rutter, 524 F.3d 789, 794 (6th. Cir. 2008).
In this case, Plaintiff was confined to administrative segregation for approximately
three months before being placed in the mental health program. This placement was prompted by
Plaintiff’s conduct in using a razor to harm himself, after having attempted suicide on several other
occasions. During this confinement, Plaintiff received treatment with antipsychotic medications.
There is no indication that Plaintiff was allowed the opportunity to further harm himself during this
time. Plaintiff was transferred from administrative segregation to the mental health treatment
program in January of 2017. The Court concludes that such circumstances do not rise to the level
of an atypical and significant hardship. Therefore, Plaintiff’s due process claim is properly
Having conducted the review 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).
In addition, the Court grants Plaintiff’s motion to withdraw his request for a
temporary restraining order and / or preliminary injunction (ECF No. 9), and denies Plaintiff’s
motions for a temporary restraining order and / or preliminary injunction and to expedite (ECF Nos.
1 and 8).
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.
This is a dismissal as described by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).
A Judgment consistent with this Opinion will be entered.
Dated: February 9, 2017
/s/ Gordon J. Quist
GORDON J. QUIST
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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