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Star v. Duckert

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

December 1, 2016

CHARLES M. STAR, Plaintiff,


          LYNN ADELMAN District Judge

         Plaintiff, Charles M. Star, filed this pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that defendants, officials at the Milwaukee County Jail (MCJ) violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process while he was being held as a pretrial detainee. Defendants now move for summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         I consider the following facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff: Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at MCJ from September 3, 2014 to April 17, 2015. When he arrived, MCJ placed plaintiff on “maximum custody status” on Unit 4D due to the nature of his pending charges, which included battery to a law enforcement officer. MCJ uses maximum custody status to administratively segregate “those inmates who pose a potential risk of harm to themselves or others, especially law enforcement officers, from those inmates who are placed in general population.” Duckert Decl., ECF No. 50, ¶ 15. Unit 4D also houses inmates placed on “disciplinary status” for violating MCJ rules, but inmates on disciplinary status are subject to a host of restrictions (e.g., on phone use, food, mail, visits) that do not apply to those on maximum custody status.

         On November 14, 2014, defendant William Duckert removed plaintiff from maximum custody status and approved his relocation to general population. About six weeks later, plaintiff was involved in a physical altercation with another inmate. Plaintiff was placed back on Unit 4D on “pending discipline status” pending a disciplinary hearing. Defendant Erin Grove made the decision to place plaintiff on pending discipline status based on her review of video of the incident and MCJ's zero-tolerance policy regarding physical altercations. Plaintiff was given Aramark Nutraloaf to eat rather than regular meals and was subject to the numerous other restrictions that apply to those on disciplinary status. Plaintiff spoke with and wrote to defendant Beverly Williams and filed a grievance with defendant Steven Artus about these restrictions and his status, but they did not intervene on his behalf. In response to plaintiff's grievance, Artus wrote, “Your [sic] were involved in a physical altercation with another inmate on 01/07/15 and are currently on pending discipline status while the investigation in [sic] being looked into. While this happenes [sic] you will receive only the items every other discipline inmate gets.” ECF No. 47-2.

         After six days on pending discipline status, defendant Crystalina Montano conducted plaintiff's disciplinary hearing. Prior to the hearing, Montano reviewed video of the altercation and a report by Correctional Officer Michael Bromwell (not a defendant) about the altercation. Plaintiff informed Montano that he had not received advance notice of the hearing or the allegations against him and that he had exculpatory evidence to present-in the form of eyewitnesses, video footage, and documents-and requested assistance of a staff advocate and 24 hours to prepare. Plaintiff states that Montano told him that “she could not reschedule the hearing because Captain Duckert ordered her to conduct the hearing that day, and that [Duckert] told her to give [plaintiff] an automatic 30 days on Disciplinary Confinement followed by placement into Maximum Custody.” Star Decl., ECF No. 75, ¶ 18. Duckert disputes this, saying, “I do not get involved in the disciplinary determinations that are made by the hearing officer, nor do I order a hearing officer to conduct a disciplinary hearing . . . .” Duckert Decl., ECF No. 50, ¶ 50.

         Montano denied plaintiff's requests to delay the hearing, for an opportunity to present evidence, and for assistance of an advocate; informed plaintiff of the allegations against him; gave him an opportunity to speak on his own behalf; sustained the allegations against him; and placed him on disciplinary status for 30 days, minus the 6 days he had already served on pending discipline status.

         Duckert placed plaintiff back on maximum custody status after his time on disciplinary status ended. Plaintiff remained on Unit 4D on maximum custody status until he was released from MCJ.


         A party is entitled to summary judgment if it shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). To survive a motion for summary judgment, a non-moving party must show that sufficient evidence exists to allow a jury to return a verdict in its favor. Brummett v. Sinclair Broad. Grp., Inc., 414 F.3d 686, 692 (7th Cir. 2005). For the purposes of deciding this motion, I resolve all factual disputes and make all reasonable factual inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Springer v. Durflinger, 518 F.3d 479, 483-84 (7th Cir. 2008).

         A. Six Days on Pending Discipline Status

         Plaintiff first claims that Grove, Artus, and Williams punished him in violation of his due process rights when they placed and kept him on pending discipline status for six days before his disciplinary hearing. “A pretrial detainee cannot be . . . punish[ed] for a disciplinary infraction without notice and an opportunity to be heard; due process requires no less.” Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 438 (7th Cir. 2002) (first citing Rapier v. Harris, 172 F.3d 999, 1004-05 (7th Cir. 1999); and then citing Mitchell v. Dupnik, 75 F.3d 517, 524-25 (9th Cir. 1996)). However, a pretrial detainee can be “placed in segregation not as punishment but for managerial reasons” without being entitled to any process. Id. (first citing Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535-41 (1979); then citing Rapier, 172 F.3d at 1002-06; and then citing Fuentes v. Wagner, 206 F.3d 335, 341-42 (3d Cir. 2000)).

         Defendants argue that plaintiff was placed on pending discipline status for managerial reasons and was, therefore, owed no process prior to his disciplinary hearing. Valid managerial reasons for imposing restrictions on a pretrial detainee include protecting him from other prisoners and protecting “jail staff from his violent propensities.” Id. (first citing Bell, 441 U.S. at 547; then citing Anderson v. County of Kern, 45 F.3d 1310, 1314 (9th Cir. 1995); and then citing Olgin v. Darnell, 664 F.2d 107, 109 (5th Cir. 1981)). Grove had probable cause to believe that plaintiff had been in a fight, so I have no trouble finding that she was entitled, in the interest of sound jail management, to segregate him from other detainees and staff. This does not mean, though, that plaintiff was not being punished.

         Segregating plaintiff may have been managerial, but placing him on pending discipline status was clearly punitive. An action is punitive “when the restriction or condition is not rationally related to a legitimate non-punitive government purpose[] or when the restriction is excessive in light of that purpose.” Rapier, 172 F.3d at 1005 (citing Bell, 441 U.S. at 538). If defendants' purpose was simply to segregate plaintiff, placing him on pending discipline status was not rationally related to that purpose and was excessive in light of it. Defendants could have instead placed him on maximum custody status pending his disciplinary hearing. He would have been isolated on the same ...

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