Annabel v. Mich. Dep't of Corr.

Decision Date18 July 2018
Docket NumberCase No. 1:16-cv-543
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Michigan

Honorable Paul L. Maloney


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, and relying on the Court's inherent authority under Fed. R. Civ. P. 21 to sua sponte dismiss parties and claims for misjoinder, the Court reviewed Plaintiff's 42-page complaint and issued a lengthy opinion on October 14, 2016. In that opinion, the Court concluded that Plaintiff had filed an omnibus complaint that attempted to link every action with which he disagreed over a one-year period with a conclusory allegation of conspiracy. The Court rejected the conspiracy claim. The Court next determined that Plaintiff's first claim - that the Michigan Department of Corrections or MDOC had violated his rights to adequate medical care under the Eighth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Rehabilitation Act (RA) - was unrelated to any of Plaintiff's claims and Defendants and that those other claims and Defendants were misjoined. The Court held that Plaintiff's conspiracy claim and his claims against the MDOC were meritless or that the MDOC was immune. The Court therefore dismissed the MDOC with prejudice. In addition, although technically not properly joined, the Court also dismissed numerous claims that had previously been decided against Plaintiff in another action, holding that those claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata and therefore were frivolous. Finally, the Court, exercising its authority under Fed. R. Civ. P. 21, concluded that the remaining misjoined claims and Defendants should be dismissed without prejudice.

Plaintiff appealed the Court's decision to the Sixth Circuit. In an unpublished order issued on October 2, 2017, the Sixth Circuit upheld all of the Court's merits-based determinations: dismissal of the conspiracy claim; dismissal of the MDOC as a Defendant; dismissal of the ADA and RA claims; and the dismissal of numerous claims on grounds of res judicata. The court of appeals concluded, however, that the misjoined claims were not subject to dismissal under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c).1 The court also concluded that Fed. R. Civ. P. 21 did not permit dismissal of a complaint for misjoinder. Concluding that, because the properly joined claims were addressed first, the dismissal of the misjoined claims and Defendants amounted to an improper dismissal of the complaint under Rule 21.

The Sixth Circuit has remanded the case to this Court to take action consistent with its appellate decision. This Court must now consider whether any further claims raised by Plaintiff may be dismissed on the merits in order to determine which of the previously misjoined claims should go forward. In order to properly ground the Court's consideration in the lengthy facts of the case, the Court will substantially reiterate the factual allegations set forth in the Court's October 14, 2016, opinion.

I. Factual allegations

Plaintiff Robert Wayne Annabel, II presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Ionia Correctional Facility (ICF). He sues the MDOC, its former Director Daniel Heyns, and its former food service provider Aramark Corporation, Inc. He also sues the following ICF officials: Warden Willie Smith; Deputy Wardens Nannette Norwood, Erica Huss, and John Christiansen; Captain Kevin Woods; Lieutenants Christopher King, (unknown) Zwiker, and S. Rykse; Resident Unit Manager (RUM) E. Smith; Sergeant Dennis Grandy; Correctional Officers J. VanNortrick, (unknown) Scott, (unknown) Berrington, (unknown) Bennett, (unknown) Burns, (unknown) Eyer, D. Christiansen, and Joseph Novak; Social Workers James Apol and Robert Davis; Psychiatrist Dr. W. Yee; Nurse Practitioner (unknown) Sleight; Nurse Kronk; Food Service Manager J. Daugherty; and Chaplain C. Cheney.

In his lengthy complaint, Plaintiff lists the many hardships he allegedly has suffered while housed with the MDOC since 2008. Plaintiff has filed numerous prior lawsuits, in which he complained about being inadequately medicated for his bipolar disorder; being retaliated against for his many grievances and lawsuits; being defamed; being denied his Kosher diet; having his food poisoned; being subjected to the use of excessive force; having his property and mail stolen;being denied due process; and having prison officials interfere with his access to the courts. He has alleged that all prior defendants have been engaged in a conspiracy to deny him his rights. The first ten pages of the instant complaint describe incidents that occurred prior to the stated period of the complaint (March 24, 2014, through April 24, 2015) and recite the lawsuits previously filed by Plaintiff. The remainder of the complaint consists of allegations about a litany of disparate events between March 24, 2014 and April 24, 2015, ostensibly linked by a conclusory claim that all events were part of a single, global conspiracy headed by Defendant Heyns, the then-Director of the MDOC; claims involving retaliation against Plaintiff; denial of Plaintiff's access to the courts; interference with Plaintiff's mail; violations of Plaintiff's rights under the Eighth Amendment; violations of the Equal Protection Clause, the ADA and the RA; interference with Plaintiff's legal mail; violations of RICO; and deprivations of Plaintiff's property without due process. A substantial number of Plaintiff's allegations and the Defendants he names overlap with allegations he previously raised in Annabel v. Mich. Dep't of Corr. et al., No. 1:14-cv-756 (W.D. Mich.). Many of those claims previously were dismissed with prejudice, though a few were subsequently dismissed without prejudice after Plaintiff failed to comply with the Court's orders.2

The following is a summary of Plaintiff's allegations that fall within the time-frame Plaintiff purports to cover in his complaint. On March 24, 2014, a magistrate judge from Eastern District of Michigan issued a report and recommendation (R&R) to grant one defendant's motion for summary judgment and to deny Plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order. See Annabel v. Heyns et al., No. 2:12-cv-13590 (E.D. Mich.) (R&R Mar. 24, 2014) (ECF No. 85). Plaintiff alleged in Annabel v. Mich. Dep't of Corr. et al., No. 1:14-cv-756 (W.D. Mich.), that interference with his mail prevented him from receiving the R&R. Also on that date, three other events allegedly occurred: (1) MI-CURE sent Plaintiff a letter declining to investigate corruption in the grievance process; (2) two of Plaintiff's grievances were rejected; and (3) Plaintiff was placed on modified grievance access. Plaintiff contends that all of these actions were retaliatory and designed to prevent him from making additional filings.

On April 30, 2014, three additional events occurred, which Plaintiff alleges were related, in some unexplained fashion, to one another and to Plaintiff's allegations. First, in the absence of objections from him, the district judge adopted the R&R in Annabel v. Heyns et al., No. 2:12-cv-13590 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 20, 2014) (ECF No. 89). Second, prisoner Abkedya Boyd apparently committed suicide at the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility (ARF). Third, the defendants in Annabel v. Frost et al., No. 2:14-v-10244 (E.D. Mich.) (none of whom are Defendants in this action) allegedly transferred the only prisoner representative in Unit 4 to Unit 5. Plaintiff alleges that Prisoner Boyd was housed near Plaintiff and that Plaintiff had assisted prisoner Boyd to file a Step-II grievance and to prepare for litigation of an incident at MacombCorrectional Facility. Plaintiff previously raised these allegations in Annabel v. Mich. Dep't of Corr. et al., No. 1:14-cv-756 (W.D. Mich.), and the Court concluded the allegations failed to state a claim. Id. (Op. & Ord. Aug. 21, 2014).

On May 1, 2014, Officer Pigg (who is not a defendant in the instant action) mocked Plaintiff for assisting other prisoners in preparing affidavits for a potential suit by Boyd's estate. Plaintiff contends that Boyd's suicide was induced by staff harassment. Plaintiff complains that the same pattern had occurred with another suicide in 2013, which involved another prisoner who was engaged in protected activity with Plaintiff.

On May 13, 2014, Plaintiff told his therapist, James Dickson (not a Defendant) that he wanted to be discharged from his mental health program at ARF, ostensibly to avoid further retaliation by ARF employees. According to Plaintiff, in response to his request, "[D]efendants transferred him to the MDOC's most notoriously brutal Maximum Security, at Ionia Correctional Facility, where Plaintiff had previously suffered substantial staff abuse." (Compl., ECF No.1, PageID.13.) Plaintiff alleges that, although he had been scored since 2008 to a Level-V security classification, he had spent nearly six consecutive years waived down to a Level-IV residential treatment program (RTP) or a Level-IV Outpatient Treatment Facility. He suggests that he was transferred to Level V at ICF in retaliation for filing several lawsuits. Plaintiff also alleges that the transfer to...

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