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Collins v. Meisner

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

January 4, 2017

ROY COLLINS, Plaintiff,


          WILLIAM M. CONLEY District Judge

         In this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the claims of plaintiff Roy Collins, an inmate at Columbia Correctional Institution, all center around allegations that two officials of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections violated the First Amendment by refusing to send his outgoing mail. Before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. Because the court finds that Collins has failed to put forth sufficient evidence to support a finding that his First Amendment rights were violated (or that he was retaliated against for exercising his First Amendment rights), the court will grant defendants' motion as to plaintiff's federal constitutional claims. As for his remaining, supplemental state law claims, the court declines to exercise its supplemental jurisdiction and will dismiss those without prejudice.


         A. The Parties

         Plaintiff Roy Collins was confined at all times material to this action at Columbia Correctional Institution (“CCI”), a maximum-security institution located in Portage, Wisconsin. Defendant Michael Meisner is presently employed as Warden of the Redgranite Correctional Institution, but was employed as Warden of CCI for all times relevant to Collins' claims. Defendant Erin Berglund is presently employed at Oregon Correctional Institution, but was employed as a Sergeant at CCI from January 2011 through September 2015. Though not a named defendant, Sandra Hautamaki is currently employed as the Deputy Warden of Redgranite Correctional Institution, but was employed at CCI during times relevant to plaintiff's claims, first as the Corrections Unit Supervisor beginning in June 2011 and then as Deputy Warden in June 2013.

         B. Mail Review

         In 2012, defendant Berglund was assigned to the third shift in CCI's Housing Unit 9. As part of her duties, Berglund would process incoming and outgoing inmate mail. In addition to checking for contraband, this included reviewing mail to make sure it complied with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (“DOC”) administrative code, specifically Wis. Admin. Code § DOC 309.04, and other institution rules. When reviewing mail between inmates, Berglund would refer to a Mail Read Log DOC-240 Form. (Hart Decl., Ex. 1003 (dkt. # 27-4) 2.) That form provides that incoming and outgoing mail between inmates shall not be delivered if it contains various types of content, including obscene materials. The form defines “obscene” as:

if the average person, applying state contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole: a. appeals to the prurient interest; b. depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, acts involving necrophilia, masochism, sadism, bestiality, or an unnatural preoccupation with excrement; and c. lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

(Id.) This definition of obscenity is consistent with that adopted in Wis. Admin. Code § DOC 309.02(16)(c).

         “When incoming or outgoing mail is not delivered, the inmate will be sent a completed DOC-243, a Notice of Non-Delivery of Mail.” Department of Adult Institutions Policy #309.04.01(IV)(G). An inmate may appeal decisions regarding the non-delivery of mail to the warden by filing form DOC-400. Wis. Admin. Code § DOC 309.04(4)(c)(f).

         C. January 30, 2012, Letter

         On January 30, 2012, Collins attempted to send a letter addressed to a female inmate, incarcerated in Louisiana. Based on her recollection, defendant Berglund represents that the letter described “sexual things [Collins] was going to do to the recipient, ” including “sexual violence.” She specifically recalls that he was going to “fuck up her cervix.” (Defs.' PFOFs (dkt. #26) ¶ 10 (citing Berglund Decl. (dkt. #28) ¶ 11).)

         For his part, Collins contends that the tone of the letter was “reflective about what he's learned to make his future Relationships better.” (Pl.'s PFOFs (dkt. #36) ¶ 39 (citing Collins Decl. (dkt. #37) ¶ 12).)[2] Collins further represents that the letter contained a “short fiction love-story/romantic fantasy, ” and that the “sexual descriptions were both blunt and poetic, ” but characterizes the content as “artistic in nature” and specifically represents that the letter “did not include any obscene material.” (Id. at ¶ 40 (citing Collins Decl. (dkt. #37) ¶ 15).) Collins further represents that he “never wrote the phrase ‘fuck up her cervix' in this Jan. 30, 2012 letter, nor did he write anything similar to that phrase.” (Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' PFOFs (dkt. #35) ¶ 10 (citing Collins Decl. (dkt. #37) ¶ 12).)

         Berglund returned the letter to Collins with a post-it note on it, but did not provide a DOC-243 notice. Collins kept that note, which he includes with his summary judgment submission, but he apparently discarded the letter itself. The note cites: “ADMINISTRATIVE CODE 309.02(16) PG 60 SECTION (16)(C). NO WRITTEN MATERIALS MAY BE PORNOGRAPHIC.” (Collins Decl., Ex. 014 (dkt. #37-5).) While Berglund contends that she returned the letter to provide him an opportunity to amend the letter, Collins points out that the post-it note contains no such instruction. Berglund explains this by representing that “[t]o the best of her recollection she instructed Collins to remove the portions of the letter involving descriptions of sexual acts.” (Defs.' PFOFs (dkt. #26) ¶ 11 (citing Berglund Decl. (dkt. #28) ¶ 12).) In response, Collins directly disputes this, representing that Berglund, at no time, instructed him to remove any portions of the letter. (Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' PFOFs (dkt. #35) ¶ 11; see also Pl.'s PFOFs (dkt. #36) ¶¶ 11, 12.) To the contrary, Collins states that Berglund simply left the letter with the attached post-it note in the crack of his cell door. (Id.)

         On February 13, Collins submitted an interview/information request slip about the January 30th letter to his then-Unit Supervisor, Sandra Hautamaki. Hautamaki responded that she would need to see the letter to determine whether it could be mailed out. Hautamaki has no knowledge of what happened to this letter, though she understands that Collins told the Inmate Complaint Examiner that he no longer had the letter. Collins does not dispute this, other than to note that the January 30th letter was never mailed.

         D. February ...

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