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Wright v. Wolfe

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

January 29, 2016

ROBERT J. WRIGHT, Plaintiff,
v.
CO WOLFE and CO JOHN DOE, Defendants.

SCREENING ORDER

LYNN ADELMAN, District Judge.

The pro se plaintiff is a Wisconsin state prisoner. He filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his civil rights were violated. This matter comes before the court on plaintiff's petition to proceed in forma pauperis. He has been assessed and paid an initial partial filing fee of $1.92.

The court is required 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 a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised 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).

A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Hutchinson ex rel. Baker v. Spink, 126 F.3d 895, 900 (7th Cir. 1997). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. "Malicious, " although sometimes treated as a synonym for "frivolous, " "is more usefully construed as intended to harass." Lindell v. McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107, 1109-10 (7th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted).

To state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading system, the plaintiff is required to provide a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief[.]" Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). It is not necessary for the plaintiff 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)). However, a complaint 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 should follow the principles set forth in Twombly by first, "identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations. Id . If there are well-pleaded factual allegations, the court must, second, "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: 1) he was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and 2) the deprivation was visited upon him by a person or persons acting 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)).

Plaintiff is incarcerated at the Waupun Correctional Institution. He alleges that on August 23, 2015, after he told defendant Officer Wolfe that he was suicidal, Wolfe gave him ten brown capsules of someone else's medication. Plaintiff did not take the pills right away because he was "still afraid and nervous while I was thinking about what I should do." On August 27, 2015, plaintiff alleges that after being depressed for five straight days, he pushed the medical button in his cell and told defendant Officer John Doe that he had ten brown pills that Officer Wolfe had given him, that he was thinking about taking them, and that he was ready to die. Officer Doe allegedly told plaintiff to tell his range officer and plaintiff responded that his range officer was not on the range. Officer Doe did not answer the medical button again although plaintiff pushed it twenty-five to thirty times.

About two hours later, plaintiff alleges that he gave in to his depression and started to take the pills. Officer Kibbel appeared at plaintiff's door as he was taking the pills. Officer Kibbel called other officers for help. Plaintiff was taken to the "strip cage" and, shortly thereafter, to the hospital.

Plaintiff seeks monetary damages for the violations of his constitutional rights. He also requests immediate transfer to another institution and an order prohibiting contact with the defendants.

The court finds that plaintiff may proceed on an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim based on his allegations against defendants Wolfe and Doe. Plaintiff is advised that he should use discovery to identify the Doe defendant. If unable to identify the Doe defendant on his own, plaintiff may request assistance from the court. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

Lastly, with regard to plaintiff's request for an immediate transfer to another institution, I will construe this request as a motion for preliminary injunction. To obtain preliminary injunctive relief, plaintiff must show that (1) his underlying case has some likelihood of success on the merits, (2) no adequate remedy at law exists, and (3) he will suffer irreparable harm without the injunction. Wood v. Buss, 496 F.3d 620, 622 (7th Cir. 2007). If those three factors are shown, the Court must then balance the harm to each party and to the public interest from granting or denying the injunction. Id .; Korte v. Sebelius, 735 F.3d 654, 665 (7th Cir. 2013); Cooper v. Salazar, 196 F.3d 809, 813 (7th Cir. 1999).

At this early stage, plaintiff has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of his claim. Also, he does not allege that he is currently at risk at his institution. Based on the complaint allegations, it does not appear that any prison staff besides the two defendants failed to respond to his suicidal state. Additionally, plaintiff does not allege that he is currently in ...


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