United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
STEPHEN L. CROCKER MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
se plaintiff Dion Mathews claims that employees at the
Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF) violated his
constitutional rights when they punished him for a grievance
he drafted. Following my leave to proceed order granting
Mathews permission to pursue a First Amendment claim but
denying him leave to proceed on a due process claim, Mathews
filed a Motion for Reconsideration Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
59(e). (Dkt. 22.) As he has explained his due process claim
in a different manner than I had originally interpreted it, I
am granting his motion and permitting him to proceed on that
claim as well.
relevant to this motion, Mathews alleged in his complaint
that he sent defendant Warden Gary Boughton a letter with
complaints about the conditions at WSPF, emphasizing problems
with staff treatment and requesting that he create a
“prisoner committee” that would permit prisoners
a chance to voice concerns to the administration. When
Mathews was dissatisfied with Boughton's response, he
drafted a more detailed request and asked a jailhouse lawyer
to review it. While Mathews was in segregation on an
unrelated issue, staff searched his property and found the
draft request. Around that time staff also searched the
jailhouse lawyer's property and found the draft. When
defendant Captain Brown asked Mathews about it, Mathews
explained that he was using the jailhouse lawyer to help him
craft the request in compliance with DOC policy. Afterwards,
Brown issued Mathews a conduct report that accused him of
being a member of the Gangster Disciples and charged him with
group resistance, lying, and possession of contraband. A
hearing was held, Mathews appeared and denied the charges,
and defendant Cichanowicz found Mathews guilty of violating
DOC 303.24, “group resistance and petition, ” and
sentenced him to 120 days of disciplinary segregation.
order denying him leave to proceed on a due process claim, I
began with the standard that a Fourteenth Amendment due
process claim requires allegations that the plaintiff (1) has
a liberty or property interest with which the state
interfered; and (2) the procedures he was afforded upon that
interference were constitutionally deficient. Ky.
Dep't of Corr. v. Thompson, 490 U.S. 454, 460
(1989); Marion v. Columbia Corr. Inst., 559 F.3d
693, 697 (7th Cir. 2009); Scruggs v.
Jordan, 485 F.3d 934, 939 (7th Cir. 2007).
for purposes of screening that Mathews had alleged a liberty
interest, I proceeded to the second step: whether he alleged
sufficient facts to create an inference that he did not
receive proper procedure. I concluded that Mathews had failed
to identify a deficiency in the process he received, and that
because prisoners facing segregation are entitled to only
“informal, nonadversarial due process, ” the
hearing that he received appeared to satisfy the requirements
of due process. See Westefer v. Neal, 682 F.3d 679,
684 (7th Cir. 2012). I reasoned that Mathews was
attacking how DOC regulations were applied to his conduct
because his complaint included multiple allegations that the
defendants lied in the conduct report and at the hearing and
that he did not have time to prepare for the hearing.
(See Am. Compl., dkt., at 10-11.)
fact, as Mathews points out, his due process claim also could
have been characterized as a challenge on vagueness grounds.
In addition to attacking the disciplinary process, he alleged
that “he'd never been given notice, contrary to Due
Process, that he couldn't draft his second request and
ask another prisoner to edit it.” (Am. Compl., dkt. 16,
at 12.) This allegation suggests that prior to his
punishment, Mathews was unaware that his conduct was
prohibited, and he actually believed it was permitted.
that Mathews' true complaint is that the policy was too
vague, the starting point is that in the prison context,
regulations must be sufficiently definite to give prisoners
of ordinary intelligence reasonable notice of what conduct is
prohibited. Rios v. Lane, 812 F.2d 1032, 1038
(7th Cir. 1987 (“a statute which either
forbids or requires the doing of an act in terms so vague
that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its
meaning and differ as to its application, violates the first
essential of due process law”); Toston v.
Thurmer, 689 F.3d 828, 832 (7th Cir. 2012)
(“A deprivation of liberty without fair notice of the
acts that would give rise to such a deprivation violates the
due process clause[.]”); see also Jones v.
Russell, 149 F.Supp.3d 1095, 1105 (W.D. Wis. Dec. 9,
2015) (granting summary judgment in prisoner's favor
after finding that policy prohibiting a similar type of
petition violated due process as applied to that prisoner);
Wesley v. Grams, No. 10-cv-459-slc, dkt. #18 (May
25, 2011) (acknowledging that where a prison policy is too
vague to provide proper notice of prohibited behavior, it
violates due process). Here, Mathews alleged that he was
unaware that preparing his request about prison conditions
could result in the conduct report and punishment, so he has
alleged sufficient facts to state a due process claim.
Accordingly, I will grant him leave to proceed on this claim
against defendants Lebbeus Brown, Michael Hanfeld, Mark
Kartman, Gary Boughton, Joseph Cichanowicz, and Ellen Ray.
ORDERED that Plaintiff Dion Mathews' Motion for
Reconsideration (dkt. 22) is GRANTED. Plaintiff may proceed
on a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against