Ward v. Thompson, Case No. 1:13-cv-580

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
Writing for the CourtHonorable Janet T. Neff
PartiesNATHANIEL WARD et al., Plaintiffs, v. G. THOMPSON et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCase No. 1:13-cv-580
Decision Date29 June 2015

NATHANIEL WARD et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
G. THOMPSON et al., Defendants.

Case No. 1:13-cv-580

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN SOUTHERN DIVISION

June 29, 2015


Honorable Janet T. Neff

OPINION

This is a civil rights action brought by two state prisoners pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has granted both Plaintiffs 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 Plaintiffs' pro se second amended complaint (docket #27) indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiffs' allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, Plaintiffs' action against MTF Defendants Kitchen, Groenhof and Thompson will be dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a claim. However, Plaintiffs' action against STF Defendants Daniels, Shaheen, Sorenson, Betts and Bennett will be dismissed without prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21 for misjoinder.

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Factual Allegations

Plaintiffs Nathaniel Ward-El1 and Terry Scott are presently incarcerated at the Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF) and the Central Michigan Correctional Facility (STF), respectively, but complain of events that occurred at STF and the West Shoreline Correctional Facility (MTF). In their pro se second amended complaint (docket #27), Plaintiffs Ward-El and Scott are suing the following STF Defendants: Assistant Resident Unit Supervisors (ARUS) Terri Fighter Daniels, J. Shaheen and David Betts, and Librarian Technicians Melinda Bennett and Marcie Sorenson (collectively, "STF Defendants"). They are also suing the following MTF Defendants: Law Librarian Technician G. Thompson, Grievance Coordinator and Hearings Investigator James Kitchen and Business Manager Dave Groenhof (collectively, "MTF Defendants").

Plaintiff Scott first complains about a major misconduct ticket that he received. On March 14, 2013, Plaintiff Scott reviewed the major misconduct ticket and requested to meet with MTF Hearings Investigator Kitchen. Without being given "reasonable notice" or a meeting with Kitchen, Plaintiff Scott states that his misconduct hearing was held on March 18, 2013. (2d Am. Compl., docket #27, Page ID#321.) As a result, Plaintiff Scott complains that Kitchen violated his due process rights, his First Amendment rights, MICH. COMP. LAWS § 791.252 and the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) Employee Handbook.

Around April 9, 2013, Plaintiff Scott met with Defendant Kitchen to review a grievance. Plaintiff Scott also questioned Kitchen about another grievance filed on April 1, 2013, which was on Kitchen's desk. Apparently, Kitchen had not yet addressed that grievance. On May

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1, 2013, Kitchen told Plaintiff Ward-El to inform Plaintiff Scott that he never received the grievance in question. Plaintiff Scott alleges that Defendant Kitchen violated his due process rights by failing to review the grievance, violated MDOC Policy Directive 02.03.100, "Employee Discipline," (effective Apr. 14, 2008), MDOC Policy Directive 03.02.130, "Prisoner/Parolee Grievances," (effective July 9, 2007), the MDOC Employee Handbook and 18 U.S.C. § 242.

Plaintiff Ward-El then raises several claims regarding the funds in his prison trust account. Plaintiff Ward-El alleges that MTF prison officials claim that he owes a tax obligation of $350.45 but Ward-El has never seen any court order or proof of this obligation. Because of his debt, Plaintiff Ward-El complains that his prison account balance is only $10 or $11. As a result, he is not eligible for indigent status and cannot purchase over-the-counter medications, typing paper, carbon paper, copies for legal documents, personal hair care items, personal skin care items and dental items. Plaintiff Ward-El complains that prison officials are violating his right to access the courts and MDOC Policy Directive 03.03.130, ¶ C, "Humane Treatment and Living Conditions for Prisoners," (effective Feb. 23, 2009).

Plaintiff Ward-El also complains that MDOC Policy Directive 04.02.105, ¶ W, "Prisoner Funds," (effective Jan. 1, 2010), which authorizes prison officials to take the filing fee from unsuccessful prisoner litigants, is an unconstitutional attempt to stop inmates from accessing the courts. Plaintiff Ward-El further complains of the following state law violations due to the removal of money from his prisoner trust fund account: MICH. COMP. LAWS § 24.207(K), MICH. STATUTES ANNOTATED § 3.506(107)(K), Administrative Code, Rule 791.6639, Administrative Procedures Act of 1969, MDOC Policy Directive 01.04.110, ¶¶ A, B, C, "Administrative Rules, Policies & Procedures,"(effective Aug. 1, 2013), MDOC Policy Directive 03.02.130,

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"Prisoner/Parolee Grievances," (effective July 9, 2007) and the Michigan constitution. Plaintiff Ward-El contends that the court's order regarding the filing fee also violates state law because it is essentially a "'writ[] of garnishment' which requires the garnishee defendant to turn over any of Plaintiff-Appellant's assets," that might come into its possession. (2d Am. Compl., docket #27, Page ID#327.)

Plaintiff Ward-El also argues that the court orders directing the MDOC to take 50% of all the funds that he receives until his debt of $717.00 is paid is essentially a writ of garnishment in violation of MICH. COMP. LAWS § 600.4012(1) and MICH. CT. R. 3.101(B)((1)(A)(II) & (E)(2). Plaintiff Ward-El contends that it is an unconstitutional attempt to hinder a prisoner's right to access the courts. Plaintiff further complains that the practice violates the Equal Protection Clause, the United States Supreme Court's holding in James v. Strange, 407 U.S. 128 (1972), 15 U.S.C. § 1673(a), and the Michigan constitution.

Plaintiff Ward-El complains that the court essentially appointed a receiver over his wages but the procedures to appoint a receiver were not followed. Under MICH. COMP. LAWS § 600.6104, Plaintiff Ward-El alleges that a motion, notice and a hearing on the motion are required under the Fourteenth Amendment and MICH. CT. R. 2.119(C).

As to MTF Defendant Thompson, Plaintiff Ward-El argues that Thompson violated his First Amendment right to access the courts by failing to copy a policy directive that Plaintiff needed for Ward v. Luckey, No. 2:12-cv-14875 (E.D. Mich. Oct. 11, 2013). Plaintiff Ward-El further argues that Defendant Thompson violated his due process rights and equal protection rights by denying Plaintiff access to the law library. Further, Plaintiff complains that Defendant Thompson violated MDOC Policy Directive 05.03.116, ¶¶ K, L, "Prisoners' Access to the Courts," (effective

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Oct. 17, 2014), the Michigan Constitution, and federal statutes, 18 U.S.C. § 242, 18 U.S.C. § 1509 and 18 U.S.C. § 1346. Plaintiff Ward-El also seeks to have Thompson prosecuted for violating MDOC Policy Directive 03.02.130.

In their second amended complaint, Plaintiffs Ward-El and Scott also assert constitutional claims against STF Defendants that occurred after the filing of their original complaint. (See 2d Am. Compl., docket #27, Page ID#337.) The Court will address the improper joinder of STF Defendants in Section I below.

For relief, Plaintiff requests monetary damages and injunctive relief.

Discussion

I. Improper Joinder of Parties

Plaintiffs Scott and Ward-El's second amended complaint involves new claims against STF Defendants, who allegedly violated Plaintiff Ward-El's constitutional rights after the filing of Plaintiffs' original complaint. Plaintiff Ward-El's claims against the STF Defendants include violating Ward-El's First Amendment right against retaliation and his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a) limits the joinder of parties in a single lawsuit, while Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a) limits the joinder of claims. Rule 20(a)(2) governs when multiple defendants may be joined in one action: "[p]ersons . . . may be joined in one action as defendants if: (A) any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and (B) any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the

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action." Rule 18(a) states: "[a] party asserting a claim . . . may join, as independent or alternative claims, as many claims as it has against an opposing party."

Where multiple parties are named, as in this case, the analysis under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20 precedes that under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure18:

Rule 20 deals solely with joinder of parties and becomes relevant only when there is more than one party on one or both sides of the action. It is not concerned with
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