United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
ROBERT W. TESSEN, Plaintiff,
CAPTAIN NELSON, SGT. D. BOETCHER, and OFFICER L.P.L. Defendants.
OPINION & ORDER
D. PETERSON District Judge
Robert W. Tessen, an inmate at the Portage County Jail,
brings this lawsuit alleging that jail officials failed to
provide him with adequate writing materials, which kept him
from filing legal papers. The court has already allowed
Tessen to proceed without prepayment of any portion of the
next step in this case is to screen the complaint. In doing
so, I must dismiss any portion that is legally frivolous,
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by
law cannot be sued for money damages. 28 U.S.C. §§
1915 and 1915A. Because Tessen is a pro se litigant, I must
read his allegations generously. Haines v. Kerner,
404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972) (per curiam).
reviewing the complaint with these principles in mind, I
conclude that Tessen's vague allegations violate Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 8, so I will give him a chance to
file an amended complaint that fixes this problem.
Robert W. Tessen is an inmate at the Portage County Jail. In
late July 2016, Tessen requested “some paper so he
could draft some legal pleadings he wanted to file.”
Dkt. 1, at 2. A defendant officer with the initials L.P.L.
denied Tessen's request, stating that he could
“order an indigent kit when [his] balance is
$0.00.” Id. Tessen filed a grievance about the
denial of paper and mailing materials. Defendant D. Boetcher
denied the grievance but added that he would provide Tessen
with a few sheets of paper. Tessen appealed the denial, but
Boetcher and defendant Captain Nelson denied it, stating in
part that Tessen did not need mailing supplies because jail
staff could walk any court papers over to the court. But
regardless of the issue of mail supplies, the “indigent
kit” discussed by defendants contained only three or
four sheets of paper, not enough for Tessen's needs.
Tessen states that the lack of supplies “caused [him]
to miss his statutory deadlines and Administrative deadlines
to challenge his sanction and hinder or hurt his ability to
file motions or petitions or pleadings with various state
courts.” Id. at 3.
Tessen to be alleging that defendants violated his right to
access the courts. Prisoners have a constitutional right to
“meaningful access to the courts” to pursue
postconviction remedies and to challenge the conditions of
their confinement. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817,
821-22 (1977); Lehn v. Holmes, 364 F.3d 862, 865-66
(7th Cir. 2004). To succeed on such a claim, a plaintiff must
show that the defendants' interference caused an
“actual injury, ” which means that it must have
caused the plaintiff to lose a meritorious claim or the
chance to seek particular relief. Christopher v.
Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 414 (2002); Lewis v.
Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 346-348 (1996).
point, Tessen's allegations are too vague to support an
access to the courts claim. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
8(a)(2) requires a complaint to include “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Under Rule 8(d), “each
allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” The
primary purpose of these rules is fair notice. A complaint
“must be presented with intelligibility sufficient for
a court or opposing party to understand whether a valid claim
is alleged and if so what it is.” Vicom, Inc. v.
Harbridge Merchant Serv's, Inc., 20 F.3d 771, 775
(7th Cir. 1994).
allegations do not comply with Rule 8 in part because he does
not explain what type of case or cases he was
pursuing. “[T]he injury requirement is not
satisfied by just any type of frustrated legal claim.”
Lewis, 518 U.S. at 354; see also Marshall v.
Knight, 445 F.3d 965, 968 (7th Cir. 2006) (construing
Lewis to “limit[ ] right of access to the
courts to prisoners' ability ‘to attack their
sentences, directly or collaterally, and in order to
challenge the conditions of their confinement'”
(quoting Lewis, 518 U.S. at 355)). It is also
unclear how Tessen was harmed. I can infer from Tessen's
allegations that one of the cases affected by his lack of
supplies was a criminal case, but materials attached to the
complaint suggest that Tessen was represented by the state
public defender, Dkt. 1-1, at 1, so it is unclear how the
lack of writing materials affected that case.
dismiss Tessen's complaint and give him a short time to
file an amended complaint that explains his access to the
courts claims. He should draft his amended complaint as if he
were telling a story to people who know nothing about his
situation. In particular, he should explain (1) what case or
cases were harmed by the lack of writing materials; (2) what
filings or communications he was unable to make because of
the limitation; and (3) what happened in his litigation that
he believes would not have happened had he been provided with
adequate supplies. If Tessen does not submit an amended
complaint by the deadline set forth below, I will dismiss
this case for his failure to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted and assess him a strike under 28 U.S.C. §
IT IS ORDERED that:
1. Plaintiff Robert W. Tessen's complaint, Dkt. 1, is
DISMISSED for failure to comply with Federal Rule of Civil
2. Plaintiff may have until December 6, 2016, to submit a
proposed amended complaint more clearly detailing his claims
as discussed above. If plaintiff submits a proposed amended
complaint as required by this order, I will take that
complaint under advisement for screening. If plaintiff fails
to respond to this order by the deadline, I will dismiss this
case for plaintiff's failure to state a ...