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Carter v. Ziegler

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

December 20, 2016



          WILLIAM M. CONLEY District Judge.

         In this lawsuit, prisoner Jackie Carter was granted leave to proceed on claims for First Amendment retaliation and Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference against defendants, all of whom are (or at least were) employees of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (“DOC”). During all times relevant to his complaint, defendants worked at Columbia Correctional Institution or in DOC's central office in Madison. Before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment on both of plaintiff's claims. (Dkt. #32.)

         In response to defendants' motion for summary judgment, Carter filed a two-page, cursory response, purporting to “give all facts and instructions to facts as brief[ly] as possible.” (Pl.'s Opp'n (dkt. #53).) This approach, however, falls woefully short of the court's guidelines on summary judgment, which require a plaintiff to respond to defendant's proposed findings of fact by numbered paragraph. (Pretrial Conf. Order (dkt. #20) pp.16-24.) Although Carter is an experienced, frequent filer in this court, and surely knew that more was expected, the court is sympathetic to his position as a pro se plaintiff, and will view his submission liberally, including reviewing materials attached to his complaint and filed independent of any motion or response to defendants' motion. Even so, Carter's claims fail as a matter of law.[1] Accordingly, the court will grant summary judgment to defendants.


         A. Summary Judge Record

         Instead of responding to plaintiff's proposed findings of facts as called for by local procedure, Carter asks this court to review the “many affidavits from witnesses that [were] threatened and forced to remove their names from my witness list or be put in solitary confinement, ” which he filed at the same time as his complaint. (Pl.'s Opp'n (dkt. #53) 1.) In October 2015, also before defendants' filed their motion for summary judgment, Carter filed affidavits from four of the inmates who signed an August 2013 letter addressed below. (Dkt. ##23-26.) The court will describe the contents of those affidavits in the facts below.

         Carter also purports to rely on inmate complaints attached to his declaration to show that he was “injured by the defendants.” (Pl.'s Opp'n (dkt. #53) 1.) As well as “how [defendants] worked in concert in subjecting [him] to retaliatory attacks.” and “that each defendant knew what was going [on], participated in and did absolutely nothing to stop [his] pain and suffering.” (Id.)[2] If defendants were denying knowledge of Carter's complaints, these complaints and defendants' responses to the complaints would certainly be sufficient to raise a genuine material issue of fact, but for purposes of their summary judgment motion, defendants concede that Carter complained about the disciplinary action based on the group petition and about his claim of denial of prescribed footwear and medication. These documents do not, however, contradict defendants' evidence that: (1) Carter was disciplined for a legitimate reason; and (2) Carter was not denied footwear or medication. After resolving all material factual disputes and reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor as the non-moving party, the court finds the following facts material and undisputed, unless otherwise noted below.

         B. The Parties

         At all times relevant to this lawsuit, plaintiff Jackie Carter was an inmate housed at Columbia Correctional Institution (“CCI”).[3] Defendant Sandra Hautamaki currently is employed by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (“DOC”) as Deputy Warden at Redgranite Correctional Institution, but was the Deputy Warden at CCI from June 30, 2013, to January 2016. In her capacity as CCI Deputy Warden, Hautamaki had duties and responsibilities to help develop, implement and administer the security, treatment and support services of the institution. She was not, however, qualified to provide medical services. She instead relied on the institution's Health Services Unit (“HSU”) to provide diagnostic and treatment services.

         Defendant Don Morgan is employed by DOC as an Administrative Captain at CCI. He has been employed in that position since October 2010, functioning as the assistant to the Security Director, providing general supervision and direction to all correctional staff and shares in the responsibility for the ongoing safety, supervision and treatment of inmates. Like Hautamaki, Morgan is not qualified to provide medical services, and relies on HSU to provide diagnostic and treatment services.

         Defendant Michael Meisner is currently employed as the Warden at Redgranite, but was the Warden of CCI from April 24, 2011, to March 23, 2014. In the latter capacity, he was responsible for the overall administration and operation at CCI. Meisner, likewise, was not qualified to provide medical services, and he relied on HSU to provide diagnostic and treatment services.

         At all times relevant to this lawsuit, defendant Karen Anderson was employed as the HSU Manager at CCI. In that capacity, Anderson's responsibilities included managing and supervising of health care services, developing procedures, monitoring care plans, preparing required reports, and providing liaison activities to other institution units and community health care providers. Anderson had access to all inmate medical charts and would oversee and respond to health services requests. While Anderson did not provide direct treatment to Carter, she was present in the room occasionally when Carter was seen by HSU staff. Even so, Anderson did not have the authority to override or alter orders issued by credentialed health care professionals, nor did she have the ability to write prescriptions.

         Defendant James Greer is the Director of the Bureau of Health Services within the Division of Adult Institutions for the DOC. Greer has held this role since November 18, 2002. As Director, Greer develops and implements policies for delivery of health services, prepares budgets, directs staff and reviews inmate complaints regarding the provision of health services at the correctional institutions. Greer is not a physician, and he does not provide direct care to inmates at CCI; rather, medical care is provided by physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, registered nurses and licensed practical nurses.

         Defendant Timothy Ziegler has been employed as a Unit Manager at CCI since August 1, 2011. At all times relevant to this lawsuit, Ziegler was the Unit Manager of Unit 2, which housed Carter from January 7, 2012, through August 30, 2013. As Unit Manager, Ziegler supervises correctional officers and correctional sergeants, and provides overall direction and operation of his assigned units. He also has the responsibility for the supervision and general treatment of inmates under his charge.

         C. Law Library Access Complaint

         i. Overview of Library Access

         Inmates on Unit 2 are allowed to sign up for their choice of either recreation or library on Tuesdays from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Thursdays from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. (On Saturdays, however, inmates can attend both recreation and library.) In an attempt to make it fair, the unit switches off which wing is allowed to sign up first. There is a limit of 10 inmates per unit allowed to attend library at one time during the week and a limit of 23 during the weekend. In addition, if an inmate has a pending lawsuit, however, he may write a letter to the librarian requesting extra time.

         ii. August 2013 Letter ]

         On or about August 14, 2013, Ziegler, as the Unit Manager, received a letter written by Carter and signed by 14 other inmates, stating:

We are being denied the opportunity to go to the law library every week to every other week. If we don't run, rush, maneuver and race to sign up for the law library, we won't be put on the list and have to try again next week to win the race. The elder[ly] and partially disabled individuals don't [have] a chance. Madison previously stated in a decision that the utility officers are suppose[d] to escort and accommodate the other/extra prisoners instead of denying those of us that don't win the race to sign up -- But it appears that the new officers are unaware of this. Please help us correct this First Amendment violation.

(Ziegler Aff., Ex. 112 (dkt. #47-1) p.1; see also Ziegler Aff., Ex. 113 (dkt. #47-2) p.10 (original copy without names crossed out).)

         Having never received such a group complaint, Ziegler determined that an investigation was required. Between August 23 and 30, Ziegler interviewed the 14 other inmates. Ziegler represents that the inmates informed him that Carter circulated the document and solicited signatures in the dayroom. Each inmate asked to have their signatures removed from the document, making statements such as, “I want nothing to do with this, ” and “I don't go to the library.” (Ziegler Decl. (dkt. #47) ¶ 10.) As evidenced by the document filed with the court, each of the other fourteen inmates lined out his name, dated and initialed the document. (Ziegler Decl., Ex. 112 (dkt. #47-1) p.1.) Ziegler further represents that the inmates told him that they did not have a problem accessing the law library, and that they signed the document because Carter asked them to do so. (Id.)

         As described above, Carter submitted affidavits from four of the inmates who had signed the August 2013 letter. The first inmate averred that he signed the letter because he never knew when he could make the law library list. (Dkt. #23.) He further states that he told Ziegler and a sergeant that he agreed with the content of what was written, but was told that “there is something wrong with my name on a petition with a group of people, and if I didn't take my name off, I would get a ticket for violating DOC policies and would go to the hole.” (Id.) While, the affiant states that he knew that group complaints were authorized, he took his name off because “I didn't want to take the chance of going to the hole, knowing it would cost me valuable law library time.” (Id.) The second and third affidavits are both dated January 29, 2014, and appear to have been written by Carter, but are each signed by inmates who had Dated:to the August 2013 letter. (Dkt. ##24, 25.) The affiants attest that they each removed their respective names because Ziegler and Sergeant Pischkes threatened to put then in solitary confinement if they did not do so. (Id.) Finally, the fourth affidavit, dated May 4, 2014, was also apparently drafted by Carter, but signed by an inmate who attests that he removed his name because of Ziegler and Pischkes' threat to put him in solitary confinement. (Dkt. #26.)

         On August 30, 2013, Carter was placed in temporary lockup pending completion of the investigation of the group grievance. Ziegler also checked the Unit 2 library and recreation scheduled and found that on August 15, August 20, and August 27, Carter had attended recreation in lieu of law library; on August 22 and 24, Carter attended library; and on August 23, Carter was offered an opportunity to go to special library, but he refused. (Defs.' PFOFs (dkt. #34) ¶ 51 (citing Ziegler Decl., Ex. 112 (dkt. #47-1) 2-39).)

         On September 18, Carter filed an offender complaint, alleging that the inmate complaint examiner (“ICE”) did not send him a return receipt to the group complaint regarding law library obstruction. (Alsum-O'Donovan Decl., Ex. 105 (dkt. #36-1) 1-2.) The examiner responded as follows:

ICE examined the inmate[']s ICRS file and notes Inmate Carter has not provided this office with any group complaint since the first of the year. ICE spoke with the ICE PA and she notes never seeing a group complaint from Inmate Carter.

(Id. at p.2.)

         iii. Group Petition Prohibition

         Under Wis. Admin. Code § DOC 310.10, inmates are allowed to submit a group complaint through the Inmate Complaint Review System (“ICRS”) if they share a concern raised in that complaint. The administrative ...

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