Smith v. Heyns, Case No. 1:13-cv-694

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
Writing for the CourtPaul L. Maloney
PartiesDERRICK LEE SMITH, Plaintiff, v. DANIEL H. HEYNS et al., Defendants.
Decision Date16 October 2013
Docket NumberCase No. 1:13-cv-694

DANIEL H. HEYNS et al., Defendants.

Case No. 1:13-cv-694


Dated: October 16, 2013

Honorable Paul L. Maloney


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) (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 amended complaint for failure to state a claim against all Defendants except Defendant Alford. The Court will serve the complaint against Defendant Alford.

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I. Factual allegations

Plaintiff Derrick Lee Smith is a state prisoner presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility (LRF). Plaintiff complains about events that occurred while he was incarcerated at LRF and at the Michigan Reformatory (RMI). On October 29, 2008, Plaintiff was sentenced to 22 years and 6 month to 75 years, after pleading nolo contendere to two counts of kidnapping, MICH. COMP. LAWS § 750.349, and six counts of criminal sexual conduct, first degree, MICH. COMP. LAWS § 750.520b(1) (during the commission of a felony). Plaintiff sues the following Defendants: Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) Daniel Heyns; the Detroit Police Department (DPD); Northern District/9th Precinct; Lincoln Park Police Department (LPPD); LPPD Officers Jeremy Craig and Ulysses Boykin; former DPD Sgt. David Cobb; DPD Detective Ortiz; Wayne County Prosecutors Kim L. Worthy, Suzette Samuels and Elizabeth Van Marke; Judges Nancy Blount,Willie Lipscomb III and Daniel P. Ryan; complaining witnesses Tina Bommaritto and Andrea Bommaritto; witnesses Christianna Graham, Heather Green, and Tia Skinner; Wayne County Sheriff Robert Evans; Wayne County Jail; RMI Warden Carmen Palmer; RMI Deputy Warden Anthony Stewart; RMI Correctional Officer W. Alford; RMI Registered Nurses Todd Lambert, Laura Kinder and Bryan Deerden; MDOC Grievance Section Manager Richard Russell; Health Care Services at RMI and LRF; LRF Hobbycraft Director J. Dickerson; LRF Assistant Resident Unit Supervisor (ARUS) Unknown Irby; LRF Warden Mary Berghuis; LRF Classification Director Mario Vialpando; and LRF Deputy Warden J. Verbencouer.

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Plaintiff's amended complaint is approximately 75 typed, single-spaced, pages without punctuation or paragraphs. The multiple attachments filed by Plaintiff account for an additional 83 pages. Plaintiff complains about a wide range of issues. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that his constitutional rights were violated in connection with the following: (1) his arrest and the subsequent investigation into the crimes for which he was convicted; (2) the criminal proceedings and trial that resulted in his convictions; (3) an assault by Defendant Alford; (4) inadequate medical treatment of the injuries he suffered as a result of the assault; (5) the theft of personal property; (6) being forced to work an unacceptable job assignment that he was physically unfit to handle; and (7) LRF personnel failing to reclassify him for more than 90 days.

Plaintiff seeks the following relief:

judgment against all Defendants in the amount of $10,000,000 . . . and judgment . . . against each Defendant specifically stating that they did in fact violate Plaintiff's 6th, 8th, 13th & 14th Amendment constitutionally protected rights, and [an] order [for] compensatory, punitive and monetary damages against all Defendants in their individual and official capacit[ies] and [a] declar[ation that] the Defendants are in fact responsible for the damages done to Plaintiff by their actions, and [to] allow Plaintiff to proceed to trial on the claims contained within this complaint . . .

(Docket #14-2, Page ID#241.)1

II. Claims Based on Plaintiff's Criminal Conviction

A. Plaintiff's Claims are Barred by Heck

Plaintiff sues the law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, Judges and witnesses, including the complaining witnesses, involved in his arrest, trial and conviction. He alleges that

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Defendants violated his constitutional rights by giving, using and convicting him on false and perjurious testimony.

To the extent Plaintiff seeks injunctive, declaratory and monetary relief for alleged violations of Constitutional rights, his claims are barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994), which held that "in order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been [overturned]." See Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 646 (1997) (emphasis in original). In Heck, the Supreme Court held that a state prisoner cannot make a cognizable claim under § 1983 for an allegedly unconstitutional conviction or for "harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid" unless a prisoner shows that the conviction or sentence has been "reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus." Id. at 486-87 (footnote omitted). The holding in Heck has been extended to actions seeking injunctive or declaratory relief. See Edwards, 520 U.S. at 646-48 (declaratory relief); Clarke v. Stalder, 154 F.3d 186, 189-90 (5th Cir. 1998) (claim for injunctive relief intertwined with request for damages); Wilson v. Kinkela, No. 97-4035, 1998 WL 246401, at *1 (6th Cir. May 5, 1998) (injunctive relief). Plaintiff's allegations against these Defendants clearly call into question the validity of his convictions. Therefore, his action is barred under Heck until his criminal convictions have been invalidated. Consequently, the following Defendants will be dismissed: Craig, Boykin, Cobb,2 Ortiz, Worthy, Samuels, Van Marke, Blount, Lipscomb, Ryan,

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Tina and Andrea Bommaritto, Graham, Green, Skinner and Evans, DPD, LPPD, Northern District/9th Precinct and Wayne County Jail.3

B. Plaintiff's Claims are Barred by the Statute of Limitations

As noted above, Plaintiff was sentenced on October 29, 2008. Plaintiff filed the instant action on September 11, 2013, nearly five years after he was sentenced. Plaintiff does not identify the dates on which the allegedly unlawful events that occurred in connection with his arrest, trial and conviction took place. However, because he was sentenced in 2008, the events that Plaintiff alleges violated his Constitutional rights must have occurred prior to his sentencing. Plaintiff does not claim that he only recently discovered the information on which he bases his Constitutional claims.

State statutes of limitations and tolling principles apply to determine the timeliness of claims asserted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 268-69 (1985). For civil rights suits filed in Michigan under § 1983, the statute of limitations is three years. See MICH. COMP. LAWS § 600.5805(10); Carroll v. Wilkerson, 782 F.2d 44, 44 (6th Cir. 1986) (per curiam); Stafford v. Vaughn, No. 97-2239, 1999 WL 96990, at *1 (6th Cir. Feb. 2, 1999). Accrual of the claim for relief, however, is a question of federal law. Collyer v. Darling, 98 F.3d 211, 220 (6th Cir. 1996); Sevier v. Turner, 742 F.2d 262, 272 (6th Cir. 1984). The statute of limitations begins to run

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when the aggrieved party knows or has reason to know of the injury that is the basis of his action. Collyer, 98 F.3d at 220.4

Plaintiff's claims based on events that occurred prior to 2008 are untimely. Plaintiff had reason to know of the "harms" done to him at or around the time they occurred. Hence, his claims accrued in 2008. However, he did not file his complaint until September, 2013, well past Michigan's three-year limit. Moreover, Michigan law no longer tolls the running of the statute of limitations when a plaintiff is incarcerated. See MICH. COMP. LAWS § 600.5851(9). Further, it is well established that ignorance of the law does not warrant equitable tolling of a statute of limitations. See Rose v. Dole, 945 F.2d 1331, 1335 (6th Cir. 1991); Jones v. Gen. Motors Corp., 939 F.2d 380, 385 (6th Cir. 1991); Mason v. Dep't of Justice, No. 01-5701, 2002 WL 1334756, at *2 (6th Cir. June 17, 2002).

A complaint "is frivolous where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A complaint...

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