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Collins v. Callister

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

September 19, 2016

MAURICE COLLINS, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. CALLISTER, DR. HALPER, AND DR. MANLOVE, Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED WITHOUT PREPAYMENT OF THE FILING FEE (DKT. NO. 2) AND SCREENING THE COMPLAINT

          HON. PAMELA PEPPER United States District Judge.

         The plaintiff, who is representing himself, is a prisoner at Waupun Correctional Institution (WCI). He filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983, Dkt. No. 1, along with a motion for leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee, Dkt. No. 2. This order resolves that request and screens the plaintiff's complaint.

         I. Motion for Leave to Proceed without Prepayment of the Filing Fee

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) applies to this case because the plaintiff was incarcerated when he filed his complaint. 28 U.S.C. §1915. The PLRA allows a court to give an incarcerated plaintiff the ability to proceed with his lawsuit without prepaying the case filing fee, as long as he meets certain conditions. One of those conditions is that the plaintiff pay an initial partial filing fee. 28 U.S.C. §1915(b).

         On August 31, 2016, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin (the assigned judge at that time) ordered the plaintiff to pay an initial partial filing fee of $1.32. Dkt. No. 7. That same day, the plaintiff filed his refusal to consent to jurisdiction by a magistrate judge, so the clerk's office reassigned the case to this court. The plaintiff paid the $1.32 initial partial filing fee on September 12, 2016. Accordingly, the court will grant the plaintiff's motion. He will be required to pay the remainder of the filing fee over time as set forth at the end of this decision.

         II. Screening of the Plaintiff's Complaint

         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 a complaint or portion thereof 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).

         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) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989)). 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) (internal citations omitted).

         To state a cognizable 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 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 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, they 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 him of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and 2) acted under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore v. Cnty. of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Kramer v. Vill. of N. 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. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         A. The Plaintiff's Allegations

         The plaintiff wrote to health services (HSU) and psychological services (PSU) and notified them that he was having suicidal thoughts. As a result, on January 14, 2016, they placed him on “crushed medication (meds) for his health and safety . . . .”[1] Dkt. No. 1 at 2. On January 29, 2016, a nurse (not one of the named defendants) notified the plaintiff that he was being taken off of crushed meds for being inappropriate. Id. Defendant Dr. Halper also notified the plaintiff that he was being taken off of crushed meds for being inappropriate toward HSU staff. Id.

         The plaintiff reminded Halper that Halper knew the plaintiff had a problem with being inappropriate, and questioned why Halper would take him off of crushed meds when the reason Halper had placed him on the crushed meds was to keep him from committing suicide. Id. Halper responded, “Mr. Collins you did it to yourself and I don't care what you do I'm just not ...


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