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Johnson v. Caterpillar Global Mining LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

January 19, 2016

BERT JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CATERPILLAR GLOBAL MINING LLC and KIMBERLY CROXTON, Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER DENYING AS MOOT PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS (DKT. NO. 2), SCREENING PLAINTIFF’S COMPLAINT (DKT. NO. 1), AND DIRECTING PLAINTIFF TO FILE AN AMENDED COMPLAINT ON OR BEFORE FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2016

HON. PAMELA PEPPER United States District Judge

Bert Johnson, a state prisoner, filed a pro se complaint alleging violations of his civil rights and of federal law regarding his termination from Caterpillar Global Mining Company. Dkt. No. 1. The case is before the court on the plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Dkt. No. 2) and for screening of the plaintiff’s complaint.

I. MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS

The Prison Litigation Reform Act applies to this case because the plaintiff was incarcerated when he filed his complaint. 28 U.S.C. §1915. That law allows a court to give an incarcerated plaintiff the ability to proceed with his lawsuit without pre-paying the civil case-filing fee, as long as he meets certain conditions. One of those conditions is a requirement that the plaintiff pay an initial partial filing fee. 28 U.S.C. §1915(b). Once the plaintiff pays the initial partial filing fee, the court may allow the plaintiff to pay the balance of the $350 filing fee over time through deductions from his prisoner account. Id.

On June 19, 2015, the court issued an order requiring the plaintiff to pay an initial partial filing fee of $46.83 on or before July 20, 2015. Dkt. No. 4. On June 29, 2015, however, the plaintiff paid the full filing fee of $400.00. Accordingly, the court will deny as moot the plaintiff’s motion for leave to proceed without pre-paying the filing fee, and will screen his complaint.

II. SCREENING OF THE PLAINTIFF’S COMPLAINT

A. Standard for Screening Complaints

The law requires the court to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. §1915A(a). The court must dismiss part or all of a complaint if the plaintiff raises claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious, " that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §1915A(b).

To state a claim under the federal notice pleading system, the plaintiff must provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A plaintiff does not need to plead specific facts, and his statement need only “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A complaint, however, that offers “labels and conclusions” or “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). To state a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, “that is plausible on its face.” Id. (quoting 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.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).

In considering whether a complaint states a claim, courts follow the principles set forth in Twombly. First, the court must “identify[] pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. A plaintiff must support legal conclusions with factual allegations. Id. Second, if there are well-pleaded factual allegations, courts must “assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id.

To state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. §1983, a plaintiff must allege that the defendants: 1) deprived the plaintiff of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and 2) acted under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore v. County of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Kramer v. Village of North Fond du Lac, 384 F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The court is obliged to give the plaintiff’s pro se allegations, “however inartfully pleaded, ” a liberal construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

B. Facts Alleged in the Complaint

The plaintiff alleges that in January of 2013, he was employed by Caterpillar Global Mining in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Dkt. No. 1 at 3. The plaintiff asserts that on January 29, 2013, he “was terminated for not reporting [his] absences for five days, while [he] was out on a medical leave per company doctor and did not need to call in daily.” Id. at 3. According to the plaintiff, however, the real reason for his termination was the ...


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