United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge.
Crystal Keith (“Keith”), a prisoner, brings this
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants,
prison officials at Taycheedah Correctional Institution
(“TCI”), alleging that they failed to protect her
from assault by a fellow inmate and were deliberately
indifferent to her suicidal tendencies. Keith has filed what
appear to be two separate motions for summary judgment-the
first on September 19, 2016 and the second on September 28,
2016. (Docket #31 and #36). Defendants responded with their
own motion for summary judgment on October 24, 2016, arguing
that Keith's claims must be dismissed for her failure to
exhaust her administrative remedies prior to filing this
lawsuit. (Docket #38). All the pending motions are fully
briefed and, for the reasons stated below, the Court will
grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motion and
deny Keith's motions.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that the court
“shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Boss v. Castro, 816 F.3d
910, 916 (7th Cir. 2016). A fact is “material” if
it “might affect the outcome of the suit” under
the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of fact
is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that
a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Id. The court construes all facts and
reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the
non-movant. Bridge v. New Holland Logansport, Inc.,
815 F.3d 356, 360 (7th Cir. 2016). The court must not weigh
the evidence presented or determine credibility of witnesses;
the Seventh Circuit instructs that “we leave those
tasks to factfinders.” Berry v. Chicago Transit
Auth., 618 F.3d 688, 691 (7th Cir. 2010). The party
opposing summary judgment “need not match the movant
witness for witness, nor persuade the court that [his] case
is convincing, [he] need only come forward with appropriate
evidence demonstrating that there is a pending dispute of
material fact.” Waldridge v. American Hoechst
Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 921 (7th Cir. 1994).
Exhaustion of Prisoner Administrative Remedies
Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) establishes
that, prior to filing a lawsuit complaining about prison
conditions, a prisoner must exhaust “such
administrative remedies as are available[.]” 42 U.S.C.
§ 1997e(a). To do so, the prisoner must “file
complaints and appeals in the place, and at the time, the
prison's administrative rules require, ” and she
must do so precisely in accordance with those rules;
substantial compliance does not satisfy the PLRA. Pozo v.
McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 2002);
Smith v. Zachary, 255 F.3d 446, 452 (7th Cir. 2001);
Burrell v. Powers, 431 F.3d 282, 284-85 (7th Cir.
2005). Failure to exhaust administrative remedies is an
affirmative defense to be proven by Defendants. Westefer
v. Snyder, 422 F.3d 570, 577 (7th Cir. 2005).
Wisconsin Department of Corrections maintains an Inmate
Complaint Review System (“ICRS”) to provide a
forum for administrative complaints. Wis. Admin. Code DOC
§ 310.04. There are two steps an inmate must take to
exhaust their administrative remedies under the ICRS. First,
the inmate must file a complaint with the Institution
Complaint Examiner (“ICE”). Id. at
§§ 310.07(1) and 310.09(6). The ICE then
investigates the complaint and issues a recommendation for
disposing of the complaint, either dismissal or affirmance,
to the reviewing authority. Id. at §§
310.07(2) and 310.11. The reviewing authority may accept or
reject the ICE's recommendation. Id. at §
310.07(3). Second, if the ICE recommends dismissal and the
reviewing authority accepts it, the inmate may appeal the
decision to the Corrections Complaint Examiner
(“CCE”). Id. at §§ 310.07(6)
and 310.13. The CCE issues a recommendation to the Secretary
of the Department of Corrections who may accept or reject it.
Id. at §§ 310.07(7), 310.13, and 310.14.
Upon receiving the Secretary's decision, or after
forty-five days from the date the Secretary received the
recommendation, the inmate's administrative remedies are
exhausted. Id. at §§ 310.07(7) and 310.14.
Keith's Failure to Dispute the Material Facts
the relevant facts are undisputed, largely because Keith
failed to dispute them. To show why, the Court will briefly
recount the procedural history and substantive failings of
Court's scheduling order, entered June 20, 2016, Keith
was warned about the requirements for supporting and opposing
a motion for summary judgment. (Docket #14 at 1-2).
Accompanying that order were copies of Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56 and Civil Local Rule 56, both of which describe
in detail the form and contents of a proper summary judgment
submission. Nevertheless, on September 19, 2016, Keith
submitted a one-page document that purported to be a joint
motion for summary judgment and motion for appointment of
counsel. (Docket #31). The motion was not accompanied by a
statement of material facts as required by the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure and this Court's Local Rules.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Civ. L. R. 56(b)(1). A
few days later, on September 26, 2016, she filed a motion to
“supplement” her summary judgment motion. (Docket
#32). Appended to this “supplement, ” which reads
like a stream-of-consciousness factual summary of Keith's
case, were 115 pages of “exhibits.” (Docket #33).
Keith again failed to file a statement of material facts
which condensed these exhibits and her thoughts into the
format required by the applicable procedural rules.
filed a second motion on September 28, 2016, without
affording Defendants an opportunity to respond to the first
one. (Docket #36). This second motion is two pages in length.
Id. It contains a two-paragraph “statement of
facts, ” but the motion is not accompanied by a
statement of facts that comports with the Federal or Local
Rules, nor was there any evidentiary material appended to the
motion. Instead, Keith refers back to the set of materials
she submitted to the Court on September 26. See Id.
October 24, 2016, Defendants filed their own motion for
summary judgment. (Docket #38). In the motion, Defendants
warned Keith about the requirements for her response as set
forth in Federal and Local Rule 56. Id. at 1-2. She
was provided with copies of those Rules along with
Defendants' motion. See Id. at 3-11. In
connection with their motion, Defendants filed a supporting
statement of material facts that complied with the applicable
procedural rules. (Docket #39). It contained short, numbered
paragraphs concisely stating those facts which Defendants
proposed to be beyond dispute, with supporting citations to
the attached evidentiary materials. See id.
response, Keith submitted a single document with attached
exhibits. (Docket #45). In this document, Keith appears to
discuss each of her attached exhibits in turn and presents
her own thoughts on why Defendants violated her
constitutional rights. See Id. She never filed a
response to Defendants' statement of material facts.
Indeed, she never grapples with Defendants' factual
assertions directly. Instead, she presents her own version of
the facts and, presumably, hopes that the Court takes her
word over Defendants'. She took the same approach to her
reply in support of her second motion for summary judgment (a
brief which was filed two weeks late). (Docket #48).
being twice warned of the strictures of summary judgment
procedure, Keith chose to ignore those rules by filing
motions for summary judgment that do not contain all the
required elements of such a motion, and by failing to
properly dispute Defendants' proffered facts with
citations to relevant, admissible evidence. These infirmities
cannot be overlooked. Though the Court is required to
liberally construe a pro se plaintiff's filings,
it cannot act as her lawyer; the Court cannot and will not
delve through all of Keith's submissions in this case to
find the evidence that might be leveraged to dispute
Defendants' proposed facts. Indeed:
[a] district court is not required to “wade through
improper denials and legal argument in search of a genuinely
disputed fact.” Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd.
of Trustees, 233 F.3d 524, 529 (7th Cir. 2000). And a
mere disagreement with the movant's asserted facts is
inadequate if made without reference to specific supporting
material. Edward E. Gillen Co. v. City of Lake
Forest, 3 F.3d 192, 196 (7th Cir. 1993). In short,
“[j]udges are not like pigs, hunting for truffles
buried in briefs.” United States v. Dunkel,
927 F.2d 955, 956 (7th Cir. 1991). Smith's
summary-judgment materials were woefully deficient in either
responding adequately to the defendants' statement or in
setting forth additional facts with appropriate citations to
the record. As such, Smith's purportedly good intentions
aside, the district court did not abuse its discretion in
deeming admitted and only considering the defendants'
statement of material facts.
Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003).
This Court would offer a similar analogy: it is not an
archaeologist, made to sift through Keith's filings
hoping to piece together clues to the evidence behind her
legal positions. The Court is cognizant of the fact that
Keith lacks legal training, as she complains in her motions
for appointment of counsel. See (Docket #31 and
#47). Yet, under Smith, no matter
Keith's intentions, her utter failure to comply with the
rules of procedure means that the Court has no choice but to
disregard her the bulk of her summary judgment filings.
See Hill v. Thalacker, 210 F.App'x 513, 515 (7th
Cir. 2006). Unless stated otherwise, the Court will deem
Defendants' facts undisputed for purposes of deciding
their motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ.
P. 56(e). However, the Court has generously reviewed all of
Keith's filings and will discuss her notable submissions
as it sets forth the relevant facts below.
Facts Pertinent to the Disposition of Defendants'
facts necessary to the disposition of Defendants' motion
are as follows. Keith is an inmate at TCI. (Docket #39 ¶
1). TCI is the only female facility within the Wisconsin
Women's Correctional System and it houses both medium-
and maximum-security inmates. Id. ¶ 11.
Defendant Deanne Schaub (“Schaub”) is the warden
of TCI. Id. ¶ 2. Schaub is the reviewing
authority for inmate complaints at TCI. Id. ¶
4. Defendant David Ruples (“Ruples”) is a
sergeant at TCI. Id. ¶ 6. Defendants Heather
Justmann (“Justmann”) and Christopher Cooper
(“Cooper”) are captains at the institution.
Id. ¶ 7. At all times relevant to Keith's
complaint, Defendant David Tarr (“Tarr”) was the
Security Director at TCI. Id. ¶ 8.
Keith's Interactions with Castillo
and another inmate, Ashli Castillo (“Castillo”),
were both designated as maximum-security inmates at TCI.
Id. ¶ 21. They were housed in the McCauley
unit, the only general population and maximum-security
housing unit in the prison. Id. ¶¶ 16-21.
On October 29, 2013, they became cellmates. Id.
¶ 22. At that time, neither had a special placement need
(“SPN”) restricting them from being placed in a
general population setting or from being housed near each
other. Id. ¶ 23. SPNs are assigned by prison
officials when there is a need to separate particular inmates
from other inmates or staff. Id. ¶ 14. Schaub
explains that “[a] formal SPN involving inmates
notifies everyone that the inmates named should be kept
separate from ...