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Brown v. Garth-Dickens

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

October 11, 2016

ENNIS LEE BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAPTAIN GARTH-DICKENS, et al., Defendants.

         DECISION AND ORDER DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO AMEND/CORRECT NAME OF DEFENDANT (DKT. NO. 15), GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO AMEND/CORRECT AMOUNT OF DAMAGES (DKT. NO. 15), DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION (DKT. NO. 16), DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RECUSAL (DKT NO. 17), AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATIOIN (DKT. NO. 18)

          HON. PAMELA PEPPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The plaintiff alleges that the defendants violated his constitutional rights when he was confined at the Milwaukee County Criminal Justice Facility (MCCJF). Dkt. No. 10. On June 30, 2016, the court screened the amended complaint and identified the claims upon which it would allow the plaintiff to proceed in this case. Dkt. No. 11 at 8. The plaintiff has filed a motion to amend/correct the name of a defendant and amount of damages (Dkt. No. 15), a motion for reconsideration of the court's decision denying his motion to appoint counsel (Dkt. No. 16), a motion for recusal (Dkt. No. 17), and a motion for reconsideration of the court's dismissal of Sheriff of David Clarke (Dkt. No. 18). The court resolves those motions in this order.

         1. Motion for Recusal

         The plaintiff has filed a motion to recuse Judge Pepper for bias, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §455(a). Dkt. No 17. He asserts that the court has “continually neglected her equalitarian duty, when failing to inquire further into Mr. Brown's claims, ” either ignoring them or dismissing them. Id. at 1. The plaintiff states that he has valid claims, and that the court has blatantly passed over the factual issues to erroneously dismiss the claims. He asserts that the court has shown deliberate bias, and he asks that the court recuse itself from this case, as well was from his other two cases (Case No. 15-cv-509-PP, Case No. 16-cv-632-PP).

         Section 455(a) of Title 28 of the United States Code requires a federal judge to “disqualify [her]self in any proceeding in which [her] impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” The plaintiff asks the court to recuse itself because he disagrees with the contents of the court's judicial rulings. “First, judicial rulings alone almost never constitute a valid basis for a bias or partiality motion.” Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 555 (1994). The plaintiff does not suggest that Judge Pepper relied on knowledge acquired outside of the judicial proceedings, or displayed deep-seated and unequivocal antagonism that would render fair judgment impossible. See id. at 556. The court will deny the plaintiff's request for disqualification under §455.

         2. Motion to Amend or Correct Defendant and Amount of Damages

         In this motion, the plaintiff asks to substitute Milwaukee County in place of former defendant Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department. Dkt. No. 15. He also asks to increase his damages request on each claim from $75, 000 to $275, 000, and he seeks $5, 500, 000 punitive damages. Id.

         When it screened the amended complaint, the court dismissed the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department because it is not a legal entity that can be sued. Dkt. No. 11 at 9. The court also stated that even if the plaintiff meant to sue Milwaukee County, he had not stated a claim against the county, because he had not alleged that a county policy, custom, or practice caused the harm he indicates that he suffered. Id. For the same reason, the court will not allow the plaintiff to replace dismissed defendant the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department with Milwaukee County.

         With regard to the plaintiff's motion to increase his request for damages, the court will allow this request. The court advises the plaintiff that if and/or when he files a second amended complaint identifying the Doe defendants, he should include the new damages amounts in that amended complaint.

         3. Motion for Reconsideration to Appoint Counsel

         The plaintiff has asked the court to reconsider its denial of his motion to appoint counsel. Dkt. No. 16. He states that he needs help conducting discovery. Id. at 1. According to the plaintiff, it took him eleven months to obtain a partial copy of the record from the defendants. Id. He also indicates that an attorney would help him to clarify his claims, as well as to bridge the misinterpretation, confusion and communications between him and the court. Id. at 3. By way of example, the plaintiff cites to the court's dismissal of Sheriff Clarke in its screening order. Id. The plaintiff states that the court dismissed Sheriff Clarke despite the fact that Sheriff Clarke's policy-making allowed certain alleged misconduct to take place.[1] Id.

         In the screening order, the court denied without prejudice the plaintiff's second motion to appoint counsel. Dkt. No. 11 at 11. The court explained why:

The court found in its order denying the first motion that the plaintiff had satisfied the initial requirement of trying to find an attorney on his own. Dkt. No. 8. The court agrees with the plaintiff that this case is complex; it involves numerous defendants and several claims, including medical care claims. In addition, the plaintiff is no longer confined in a Milwaukee County facility. Despite these hurdles, however, the court still believes that the plaintiff may proceed on his own at this time. Contrary to the plaintiff's statement in this second motion, the court hasn't seen any evidence that the plaintiff has a hard time understanding the court's rulings. In ...

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