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Johnson v. Racine County Jail

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

February 5, 2016

MELISSA MARIE JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
RACINE COUNTY JAIL and RACINE COUNTY JAIL STAFF, Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING THE PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS (DKT. NO. 2), DENYING THE PLAINTIFF’S MOTIONS TO AMEND THE COMPLAINT (DKT. NOS. 7, 8), DENYING THE PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO APPOINT COUNSEL (DKT. NO. 9), SCREENING THE PLAINTIFF’S COMPLAINT, AND DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM

HON. PAMELA PEPPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

The plaintiff, a state prisoner representing herself, filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that the defendants violated her civil rights while she was incarcerated at the Racine County Jail. Dkt. No. 1. On November 30, 2015, she filed a motion to amend her complaint to include various John and Jane Does, Dkt. No. 7, and on December 21, 2015, she filed a request to add further defendants, Dkt. No. 8. On February 3, 2016, the plaintiff filed a motion asking the court to appoint counsel to represent her. Dkt. No. 9. The case is before the court on the plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, Dkt. No. 2, on the plaintiff’s motions to amend her complaint (Dkt. Nos. 7, 8), and on her motion for appointment of counsel, Dkt. No. 9, as well as for screening of the plaintiff’s complaint.

I. MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS

The Prison Litigation Reform Act applies to this action because the plaintiff was incarcerated when she filed her complaint. 28 U.S.C. §1915. That law allows a court to give an incarcerated plaintiff the ability to proceed with her lawsuit without pre-paying the civil case-filing fee, as long as she 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 her prisoner account. Id.

On November 5, 2015, the court ordered the plaintiff to pay an initial partial filing fee of $7.01. Dkt. No. 5. The plaintiff paid that fee on November 17, 2015. The court grants the plaintiff’s motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and allows her to pay the balance of the $350.00 filing fee over time from her prisoner account, as described at the end of this order.

II. MOTIONS TO AMEND THE COMPLAINT

On November 30, 2015, the plaintiff filed a motion asking the court to allow her to add as defendants the Racine County Jail, Sheriff John Doe, Lt. John Doe, Jail Staff John and Jane Doe, Sgt. Jane Doe, and Bailiff Does. Dkt. No. 7. On December 21, 2015, the plaintiff filed another request, this time to add as defendants the Racine County Sheriff, jail administration and staff (she does not say which jail), Sheriff Schmaling, Sgt. Schulmen, Sgt. Moran, Lt. Barker, Lt. Wearing, the Racine County Jail, Bailiff John Doe, Jane Doe, and Staff Correctional Officers John Doe and Jane Doe. Dkt. No. 8.

The court first notes that the plaintiff sued the Racine County Jail in her original complaint; her two requests to add that entity as a defendant were unnecessary.

Second, both of the plaintiff’s requests to add defendants are one paragraph long. Neither request explains what the plaintiff alleges that the individuals she wishes to add did to her. As the court discusses below when screening the original complaint, the plaintiff makes general allegations that “the jail” or “they” allowed certain things to occur. But in order to bring a claim against an individual for a violation of civil rights, a plaintiff must make specific allegations explaining what that particular individual did. The plaintiff has not made any such specific allegations against any of the individuals she seeks to add as defendants.

Finally, as the court discusses below, the plaintiff’s complaint-while explaining in detail her feelings and her mental suffering-has not stated a claim upon which the court can grant relief, and the court must dismiss the complaint. Accordingly, the plaintiff’s request to add defendants to that complaint are moot.

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 [she] is entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A plaintiff does not need to plead specific facts, and her statement need only “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. 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 ...


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