United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
VICTOR E. HOLM, Plaintiff,
MICHAEL DITTMAN, MARY LEISER, DONALD MORGAN, LINDSAY WALKER, ISAAC HART, D. HAUTAMAKI, OFFICER BEGLEY, OFFICER PIGEON, and OFFICER FRICK, Defendants.
OPINION & ORDER
D. PETERSON District Judge.
prisoner and plaintiff Victor Holm has filed a complaint
regarding a series of incidents that arose out of a search of
his cell in May 2015 at the Columbia Correctional
Institution. Holm alleges that, during the search, officers
confiscated legal documents on the ground that he was over
the allowed limit of legal property. Holm denied this, but he
ended up with a conduct report. (He does not explain the
basis for the discipline, but he says later in his complaint
that hearing officers found him guilty of “disruptive
conduct” and “disrespect, ” so it may be
that he argued with the officers for taking his legal
documents.) After Holm spent 36 days in segregation, his
conduct report was expunged on the ground that he did not
have the opportunity to request witnesses. Soon after, his
legal documents were returned to him.
does not divide his complaint into separate claims, but I
understand him to be challenging both the taking of his legal
documents and the process he received during the disciplinary
proceedings. I do not understand him to be raising a claim
about the substance of the conduct report that he received.
If he did intend to raise such a claim, I would dismiss it
for failure to provide fair notice under Rule 8 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because he does not provide
enough information to determine whether the disciplined
conduct is protected by the Constitution.
Holm is a prisoner, I am required to screen the complaint in
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A
to determine whether it states a claim upon which relief may
be granted. I conclude that Holm has failed to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted as to any of this claims,
but I will allow him to amend his complaint to replead a
claim that several defendants violated his right of access to
the courts by confiscating his legal documents.
Confiscation of Legal Documents
brings this claim against defendants Hautamaki, Begley,
Pigeon, and Frick, all of whom were officers were involved in
the decision to confiscate Holm's legal documents. Holm
says that the documents were part of an “ongoing,
active” petition for a writ of habeas corpus, Dkt. 1,
at ¶ 90, so I understand to him to be claiming a
violation of his right of access to the courts. This right
applies to nonfrivolous litigation challenging a
prisoner's custody or conditions of confinement.
Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 553 (7th Cir.
2009). To prevail on an access to courts claim, a plaintiff
must show both that “prison officials interfered with
his legal materials” in such a case and that
“the interference actually prejudiced him in his
pending litigation.” Devbrow v. Gallegos, 735
F.3d 584, 587 (7th Cir. 2013).
does not provide any details about the content of the habeas
petition he was trying to litigate, so I cannot determine
whether that petition was frivolous. Even if I assume that it
had merit, this claim has another problem, which is that Holm
does not identify any way that defendants' alleged
conduct prejudiced his petition. â[T]emporary confiscation of
documents does not show, without more, a constitutionally
significant deprivation of meaningful access to the
courts." Id. (internal quotations omitted).
Rather, Holm must show that defendants' alleged conduct
actually harmed his petition in a concrete way, for example,
by leading to its dismissal because he was unable to meet a
deadline or advance a particular argument as a result of the
temporary loss of his legal materials. Without more
information, I cannot allow Holm to proceed on this claim,
but I will give Holm an opportunity to amend his complaint to
include the missing facts.
raises a number of other objections about the confiscation of
his documents, but these objections do not state a claim
under federal law. For example, Holm says that officers
failed to “verify the volume of legal
materials” before taking them and did not give him a
receipt after the documents were confiscated. Dkt. 1, at
¶ 90. Although these matters may have violated prison
policy, I am not aware of constitutional provisions or
federal statutes that would give Holm the right to sue for
that alleged conduct. As for state law, prison rules and
regulations do not provide a right of action unless the
legislature has granted such a right, Vasquez v.
Raemisch, 480 F.Supp.2d 1120, 1129 (W.D. Wis. 2007)
(citing Kranzush v. Badger State Mutual Insurance
Co., 103 Wis.2d 56, 74-79, 307 N.W.2d 256, 266- 68
(1981)), and I am not aware of any statute that grants such a
right in this case.
raises a number of objections to his disciplinary
proceedings: (1) his staff advocate, defendant Mary Leiser,
“refus[ed] to perform her duties, ” id.
at ¶ 86; (2) the hearing officers, defendants Lindsay
Walker and Donald Morgan, held the hearing without Holm's
requested witnesses; (3) defendant Isaac Hart denied
Holm's grievance regarding his procedural objections to
his discipline and refused to conduct an investigation; (4)
defendant Michael Dittman, the warden, upheld the
disciplinary decision. Holms says that all of these actions
violated his right to due process.
claims have multiple problems. As I explained to Holm in
another case that he brought recently, Holm v.
Casiana, No. 16-cv-794-bbc (W.D. Wis.), the due process
clause does not apply to discipline that results in
short-term placement in segregation. Sandin v.
Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 486 (1995). Holm admits in his
complaint that he was disciplined with 60 days of segregation
and served only 36 of those days and he does not allege his
conditions were “unusually harsh, ” Marion v.
Columbia Corr. Inst., 559 F.3d 693, 698 (7th Cir. 2009),
so he cannot state a claim under the due process clause.
Townsend v. Fuchs, 522 F.3d 765, 766 (7th Cir.
2008); Hoskins v. Lenear, 395 F.3d 372, 374 (7th
Cir. 2005); Lekas v. Briley, 405 F.3d 602, 612 (7th
Cir. 2005); Thomas v. Ramos, 130 F.3d 754, 761 (7th
the due process clause applied to such a short-term
placement, Holm's right to process would be limited to
notice of the reasons for the proposed placement and an
adequate opportunity to present his views regarding why he
should not be transferred. Westefer v. Neal, 682
F.3d 679, 683 (7th Cir. 2012). None of Holm's objections
relate to a failure to provide that type of process. Even
under the more demanding requirements that apply when a
prisoner loses good time, Holm would not have been entitled
to an effective staff advocate or an investigation by a
grievance examiner. Kervin v. Barnes, 787 F.3d 833,
835 (7th Cir. 2015); McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d
784, 785-86 (7th Cir. ...