Taylor #120631 v. Woods, et al
OPINION; Order to issue; signed by Judge Janet T. Neff (Judge Janet T. Neff, clb)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
DAVID ALAN TAYLOR,
Case No. 2:17-cv-00085
Honorable Janet T. Neff
JEFFREY WOODS et al.,
This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner in state court asserting
violations of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, as well as under state law. The case was removed to
this Court on May 9, 2017. 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.
§§ 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 Woods and Isard. The Court will also dismiss Plaintiff’s due process
claims against Defendants Ross and Lumsden, but will not dismiss Plaintiff’s retaliation claims
against Defendants Ross and Lumsden.
Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections
(MDOC) at the Saginaw County Correctional Facility (SRF) in Freeland, Saginaw County,
Michigan. The events about which he complains, however, occurred at the Chippewa Correctional
Facility (URF) in Kincheloe, Chippewa County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues Warden Jeffrey Woods,
Deputy Warden David Isard, and Corrections Officers Unknown Ross and Unknown Lumsden.
Plaintiff alleges that in May of 2016, while Plaintiff was confined at URF, the Lime
Unit staff began a methodical ticket writing campaign against him. Initially, the campaign was
not focused solely on Plaintiff, but on a number of prisoners in an effort to harass them and retaliate
against them. When the ticket writing became more focused on Plaintiff, he began writing letters
of complaint to both Defendant Woods and Defendant Isard. Plaintiff did not receive any response
to his letters. Plaintiff attempted to send a request for an investigation to the Civil Service
Commission, but does not believe that the complaint was ever mailed because he never received a
receipt. Plaintiff filed a step I grievance on Defendants Woods and Isard for failure to initiate
“checks and balances.”
Plaintiff further claims that when the misconduct ticket campaign
amplified against him, he wrote to Defendant Woods and Acting Deputy Warden LaLonde, as well
as to Internal Affairs and the Civil Service Commission.
Defendant Ross wrote the first retaliatory misconduct on Plaintiff on May 19, 2016,
claiming that Plaintiff was “covered up” at 4:50 a.m. When Plaintiff asked him why he had written
the ticket, Defendant Ross told him that he would write as many tickets as he wanted and that
Plaintiff should keep filing lawsuits. Immediately thereafter, Defendant Ross wrote a ticket on
Plaintiff for “Interfering with the Administration of Rules,” which falsely stated that Plaintiff had
asked why Defendant Ross was always writing tickets on him. Plaintiff was found not guilty of
Plaintiff filed grievances against Defendant Ross and another staff officer, asserting
deliberate abuse of the misconduct process. Plaintiff states that his grievance against Defendant
Ross was initially returned to him for a more definite statement, which Plaintiff supplied. When
Plaintiff was interviewed on the grievance, he stated that he would sign off on the grievance if
Defendant Ross agreed to stop harassing him and writing false misconducts on him. Shortly
thereafter, Plaintiff’s cellmate overheard Defendant Ross say that he was going to “get [Plaintiff’s]
ass,” and that Plaintiff “thinks he can file all that shit and get away with it.”
On September 18, 2016, Defendant Ross wrote a false sexual misconduct ticket on
Plaintiff without any supporting evidence. Plaintiff sought to appeal the misconduct conviction,
but was not provided with the appeal packet. On September 19, 2016, Plaintiff filed a step I
grievance against Defendant Ross, which was rejected as nongrievable. Defendant Ross wrote
another false misconduct on Plaintiff for being out of place in the hallway outside the bathroom
during count. Plaintiff claims that the security camera would have shown the falsity of this ticket
and filed a grievance regarding this issue. The grievance was rejected as nongrievable. On
December 12, 2016, Plaintiff refused to go to the “West-Side” because it was an open dorm setting
and would be bad for Plaintiff due to his old age. Consequently, Plaintiff received a misconduct
for disobeying a direct order. Plaintiff was warned that if he received any more misconducts, he
could be classified to administrative segregation.
Plaintiff alleges that on December 14, 2016, Defendant Lumsden searched his cell
and claimed to have found a Bic razor under Plaintiff’s locker. Defendant Lumsden wrote a
misconduct ticket on Plaintiff for possession of dangerous contraband. While Plaintiff was being
reviewed on the ticket, prisoner James Coleman overheard Defendant Lumsden tell Plaintiff,
“How do you like us now? Go ahead and write more letters and grievances to the Warden against
Ross.” Hearing Officer O’Brien found Plaintiff guilty of the misconduct. Plaintiff’s request for
rehearing was denied. Plaintiff filed a grievance against Defendant Lumsden, which was rejected
Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth
Amendments, as well as under state law. Plaintiff seeks damages, as well as declaratory and
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
Plaintiff claims that Defendants Woods and Isard failed to conduct an investigation
in response to his grievances or to properly supervise their 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
Woods and Isard engaged in any active unconstitutional behavior. Accordingly, he fails to state a
claim against them.
Plaintiff claims that Defendants Ross and Lumsden violated his Fourteenth
Amendment due process rights by writing false misconduct tickets on him. Plaintiff received Class
I, II, and III misconduct tickets during the pertinent time period, and was found not guilty of at
least one of the misconduct charges. A prisoner’s ability to challenge a prison misconduct
conviction depends on whether the convictions implicated any liberty interest. A prisoner does
not have a protected liberty interest in prison disciplinary proceedings unless the sanction “will
inevitably affect the duration of his sentence” or the resulting restraint imposes an “atypical and
significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.” See Sandin
v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 486-87 (1995). Under Michigan Department of Corrections Policy
Directive 03.03.105, & B, a Class I misconduct is a “major” misconduct and Class II and III
misconducts are “minor” misconducts. The policy further provides that prisoners are deprived of
good time or disciplinary credits only when they are found guilty of a Class I misconduct. (See
Policy Directive 03.03.105, & AAAA). Therefore, contrary to the assertion in his complaint,
Plaintiff should not have been denied good time or disciplinary credits as a result of his Class II
and III misconduct convictions. The Sixth Circuit routinely has held that misconduct convictions
that do not result in the loss of good time are not atypical and significant deprivations and therefore
do not implicate due process. See, e.g., Ingram v. Jewell, 94 F. App’x 271, 273 (6th Cir. 2004);
Carter v. Tucker, 69 F. App’x 678, 680 (6th Cir. 2003); Green v. Waldren, No. 99-1561, 2000 WL
876765, at *2 (6th Cir. June 23, 2000); Staffney v. Allen, No. 98-1880, 1999 WL 617967, at *2
(6th Cir. Aug. 12, 1999). Plaintiff, therefore, fails to state a due process claim arising from his
Class II and III misconduct convictions.
Plaintiff claims that the Class I major misconduct charges against him were “false.”
A prisoner’s ability to challenge a prison misconduct conviction depends on whether the
convictions implicated any liberty interest. In the seminal case in this area, Wolff v. McDonnell,
418 U.S. 539 (1974), the Court prescribed certain minimal procedural safeguards that prison
officials must follow before depriving a prisoner of good-time credits on account of alleged
misbehavior. The Wolff Court did not create a free-floating right to process that attaches to all
prison disciplinary proceedings; rather the right to process arises only when the prisoner faces a
loss of liberty, in the form of a longer prison sentence caused by forfeiture of good-time credits:
It is true that the Constitution itself does not guarantee good-time
credit for satisfactory behavior while in prison. But here the State
itself has not only provided a statutory right to good time but also
specifies that it is to be forfeited only for serious misbehavior.
Nebraska may have the authority to create, or not, a right to a
shortened prison sentence through the accumulation of credits for
good behavior, and it is true that the Due Process Clause does not
require a hearing “in every conceivable case of government
impairment of private interest.” But the State having created the
right to good time and itself recognizing that its deprivation is a
sanction authorized for major misconduct, the prisoner’s interest has
real substance and is sufficiently embraced within Fourteenth
Amendment “liberty” to entitle him to those minimum procedures
appropriate under the circumstances and required by the Due
Process Clause to insure that the state-created right is not arbitrarily
Wolff, 418 U.S. at 557 (citations omitted).
Plaintiff does not allege that his major misconduct convictions resulted in any loss
of good-time credits, nor could he. The Sixth Circuit has examined Michigan statutory law, as it
relates to the creation and forfeiture of disciplinary credits1 for prisoners convicted of crimes
occurring after April 1, 1987. In Thomas v. Eby, 481 F.3d 434 (6th Cir. 2007), the court determined
that loss of disciplinary credits does not necessarily affect the duration of a prisoner’s sentence.
Rather, it merely affects parole eligibility, which remains discretionary with the parole board. Id.
at 440. Building on this ruling, in Nali v. Ekman, 355 F. App’x 909 (6th Cir. 2009), the court held
that a misconduct citation in the Michigan prison system does not affect a prisoner’s
constitutionally protected liberty interests, because it does not necessarily affect the length of
confinement. 355 F. App’x at 912; accord, Taylor v. Lantagne, 418 F. App’x 408, 412 (6th Cir.
2011); Wilson v. Rapelje, No. 09-13030, 2010 WL 5491196, at * 4 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 24, 2010)
(Report & Recommendation) (holding that “plaintiff’s disciplinary hearing and major misconduct
sanction does not implicate the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause”), adopted as
judgment of court, 2011 WL 5491196 (Jan. 4, 2011). In the absence of a demonstrated liberty
interest, Plaintiff has no due-process claim based on the loss of disciplinary credits. See Bell v.
Anderson, 301 F. App’x 459, 461-62 (6th Cir. 2008).
For crimes committed after April 1, 1987, Michigan prisoners earn “disciplinary credits” under a statute that
abolished the former good-time system. MICH. COMP. LAWS § 800.33(5).
Even in the absence of a protectable liberty interest in disciplinary credits, a
prisoner may be able to raise a due-process challenge to prison misconduct convictions that result
in a significant, atypical deprivation. See Sandin v. Connor, 515 U.S. 472 (1995). Plaintiff has
not identified any significant deprivation arising from his convictions. Unless a prison misconduct
conviction results in an extension of the duration of a prisoner’s sentence or some other atypical
hardship, a due-process claim fails. Ingram v. Jewell, 94 F. App’x 271, 273 (6th Cir. 2004).
Therefore, Plaintiff’s due process claims against Defendants Ross and Lumsden are properly
Finally, the Court notes that Plaintiff’s retaliation claims against Defendants Ross
and Lumsden are not clearly frivolous and are not properly dismissed on initial review.
Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the
Court determines that Defendants Woods and Isard will be dismissed for failure to state a claim,
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court will also dismiss Plaintiff’s
due process claims against Defendants Ross and Lumsden, but will not dismiss Plaintiff’s
retaliation claims against Defendants Ross and Lumsden.
An Order consistent with this Opinion will be entered.
Dated: November 14, 2017
/s/ Janet T. Neff
Janet T. Neff
United States District Judge
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