New #419145 v. Michigan Department of Corrections
OPINION ; signed by Chief Judge Robert J. Jonker (Chief Judge Robert J. Jonker, ymc)
Case 2:20-cv-00184-RJJ-MV ECF No. 4 filed 10/13/20 PageID.19 Page 1 of 6
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
DANIEL LEE NEW,
Case No. 2:20-cv-184
Honorable Robert J. Jonker
MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF
This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
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. 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.
Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections
(MDOC) at the Newberry Correctional Facility (NCF) in Newberry, Luce County, Michigan. The
events about which he complains occurred at that facility. Plaintiff sues the MDOC.
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Plaintiff alleges, on his own behalf and on behalf of others similarly situated, that
he is incarcerated under conditions that are inconsistent with the recommendations of the Center
for Disease Control, in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights.
Plaintiff seeks damages of $1000.00 per day for each day he has been held in an
unsafe environment. Plaintiff also asks for release to home confinement.
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)).
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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 alleges the MDOC has violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel
and unusual punishment.
Plaintiff as a representative of other prisoners
Plaintiff purports to bring this action on behalf of himself and other individuals
similarly situated. In general, a party may plead and conduct his or her case in person or through
a licensed attorney; he may not act in a representative capacity on behalf of others. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1654; Garrison v. Mich. Dep’t of Corr., 333 F. App’x 914, 919 (6th Cir. 2009). Only a licensed
attorney may represent other persons. See Rowland v. Calif. Men’s Colony, Unit II Men’s Advisory
Council, 506 U.S. 194, 201-03 (1993); United States v. 9.19 Acres of Land, 416 F.2d 1244, 1245
(6th Cir. 1969).
In addition, an adult litigant who wishes to proceed pro se must personally sign the
complaint. See Steelman v. Thomas, No. 87-6260, 1988 WL 54071, at *1 (6th Cir. May 26, 1988);
see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(a) (stating that “[e]very pleading, written motion, and other paper must
be signed by at least one attorney of record . . . or by a party personally if the party is
unrepresented”). Only Plaintiff signed the complaint. He is not an attorney. Consequently, his
signature is not effective to bring claims on behalf of other individuals identified as plaintiffs.
Thus, the Court does not recognize the other individuals as plaintiffs in this action.
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Furthermore, Plaintiff does not have standing to assert the rights of these other
individuals. See Newsom v Norris, 888 F.2d 371, 381 (6th Cir. 1989); Raines v. Goedde, No. 923120, 1992 WL 188120, at *2 (6th Cir. Aug. 6, 1992). As a layman, Plaintiff may only represent
himself with respect to his own claims. He cannot bring claims asserting the constitutional rights
of other people. Thus, to the extent Plaintiff’s claims are based on the rights of other prisoners, he
does not state a viable claim.
Plaintiff may not maintain a § 1983 action against the MDOC. Regardless of the
form of relief requested, the states and their departments are immune under the Eleventh
Amendment from suit in the federal courts, unless the state has waived immunity or Congress has
expressly abrogated Eleventh Amendment immunity by statute. See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp.
v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98-101 (1984); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978); O’Hara
v. Wigginton, 24 F.3d 823, 826 (6th Cir. 1993). Congress has not expressly abrogated Eleventh
Amendment immunity by statute, Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 341 (1979), and the State of
Michigan has not consented to civil rights suits in federal court. Abick v. Michigan, 803 F.2d 874,
877 (6th Cir. 1986). In numerous opinions, the Sixth Circuit has specifically held that the MDOC
is absolutely immune from a § 1983 suit under the Eleventh Amendment. See, e.g., Harrison v.
Michigan, 722 F.3d 768, 771 (6th Cir. 2013); Diaz v. Mich. Dep’t of Corr., 703 F.3d 956, 962
(6th Cir. 2013); McCoy v. Michigan, 369 F. App’x 646, 653-54 (6th Cir. 2010). Therefore,
Plaintiff’s complaint seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief,
Plaintiff’s claim against the MDOC is properly dismissed on grounds of immunity under 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii), 1915A(b), and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c).
In addition, the State of Michigan (acting through the MDOC) is not a “person”
who may be sued under § 1983 for money damages. See Lapides v. Bd. of Regents, 535 U.S. 613,
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617 (2002) (citing Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989)); Harrison, 722 F.3d
at 771. Therefore, Plaintiff’s claim against the MDOC is also properly dismissed for failure to
state a claim.
Release as a remedy under § 1983
In addition to damages, Plaintiff asks to be released from prison to home
confinement. Plaintiff is not entitled to such relief under § 1983. A challenge to the fact or duration
of confinement should be brought as a petition for habeas corpus and is not the proper subject of
a civil rights action brought pursuant to § 1983. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500
(1973) (holding that, “when a state prisoner is challenging the very fact or duration of his physical
imprisonment, and the relief he seeks is a determination that he is entitled to immediate release or
a speedier release from that imprisonment, his sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus”).
Therefore, Plaintiff’s complaint fails to state a claim to the extent the relief he requests is release.
Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the
Court determines that Plaintiff’s complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim, under 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b), and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). 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 the Court concludes that Plaintiff’s claims are properly dismissed, the Court also concludes
that any issue Plaintiff might raise on appeal would be frivolous. Coppedge v. United States, 369
U.S. 438, 445 (1962). Accordingly, the Court certifies that an appeal would not be taken in good
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This is a dismissal as described by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).
A judgment consistent with this opinion will be entered.
October 13, 2020
/s/ Robert J. Jonker
Robert J. Jonker
Chief United States District Judge
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