Clayton v. Michigan Department of Corrections, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 170366 (W.D. Mich. Dec. 9, 2016)

Court and Agency Decisions and Orders (including case law)

Clayton, a prisoner living with HIV, filed a civil rights action under §1983 against the Michigan Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) and others, including medical staff contractors, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan.  The plaintiff had been put under administrative segregation for engaging in sexual activity with another inmate. Corrections facility staff claimed to act under a state law stating “sexual misconduct that could transmit HIV” is subject to administrative segregation, as well as a state corrections policy that presumes any sexual penetration could transmit HIV. The plaintiff contends there is no risk of transmission because he is “functionally cured” (although the language of the holding is unclear, the plaintiff might be referring to having an undetectable viral load).

The plaintiff claims that, as a result of his administrative segregation, he no longer receives visitors; is confined to his cell virtually all the time; is restrained in handcuffs, leg shackles, and belly chains; is limited to five one-hour exercise periods in a six by nine foot cage each week; cannot send email or uncensored mail; is permitted only three brief showers per week; must eat in his cell; may not work; and is denied direct access to the law library, the general library, group recreation, therapeutic activities, outpatient mental health programs, and educational or religious programming. The plaintiff asks, among other things, for a transfer to a facility that meets his health needs, that enforcement of the applicable state law and state policy be enjoined, and that the law and policy be declared to violate the ADA and RA.

After screening the complaint under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court dismissed the claims against some of the individual defendants and contractors, but determined that a proper claim had been stated under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act (RA) against the MDOC and certain other individual defendants in their official capacity.  In analyzing the claims, the Court found that the State of Michigan, acting through the MDOC, did not necessarily enjoy state sovereign immunity, as in certain instances the ADA “validly abrogates state sovereign immunity,” as does the RA.  The Court noted that it will serve the complaint against the remaining defendants.