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Badgett v. Lunenberg

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

February 7, 2017

CHRISTOPHER BADGETT, Plaintiff,
v.
CO LUNENBERG, et al., Defendants.

          SCREENING ORDER

          William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge

         Plaintiff Christopher Badgett, who is incarcerated at the Green Bay Correctional Institution, filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his civil rights were violated. This matter comes before the court for screening Badgett's complaint and on his motions to proceed in forma pauperis and to appoint counsel.

         A. Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         The plaintiff is required to pay the $350.00 statutory filing fee for this action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). If a prisoner does not have the money to pay the filing fee, he can request leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Badgett has filed a certified copy of his prison trust account statement for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of his complaint, as required under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2), and has been assessed and paid an initial partial filing fee of $44.68. Badgett's motion to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.

         B. Screening of the Complaint

         The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally “frivolous or malicious, ” that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Hutchinson ex rel. Baker v. Spink, 126 F.3d 895, 900 (7th Cir. 1997). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. “Malicious, ” although sometimes treated as a synonym for “frivolous, ” “is more usefully construed as intended to harass.” Lindell v. McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107, 1109-10 (7th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted).

         To state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading system, the plaintiff is required to provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). It is not necessary for the plaintiff to plead specific facts and his statement need only “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, a complaint that offers “labels and conclusions” or “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). To state a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, “that is plausible on its face.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint's allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted).

         In considering whether a complaint states a claim, courts should follow the principles set forth in Twombly by first, “identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations. Id. If there are well-pleaded factual allegations, the court must, second, “assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id.

         To state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) he was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and (2) the deprivation was visited upon him by a person or persons acting under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore v. Cnty. of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Kramer v. Vill. of N. Fond du Lac, 384 F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The court is obliged to give the plaintiff's pro se allegations, “however inartfully pleaded, ” a liberal construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         Badgett asserts that the defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights in a number of ways. According to Badgett, his plight began on January 29, 2016 at the Green Bay Correctional Institution. Badgett was placed in observation after notifying officers that he was having suicidal thoughts. Before giving Badgett a smock, Officers Lunenberg and Steel sought to search his cell. Rather than fully restrain Badgett, Officer Lunenberg placed a tether on his right wrist. Once Officer Lunenberg opened Badgett's cell door, he grabbed Badgett's left arm and threw his body against Badgett's, forcing him against the wall. Badgett alleges Officer Lunenberg bent his arm behind his back causing excruciating pain and started banging Badgett's head against the wall. Badgett asserts that Officer Steel grabbed and bent his right wrist. Officer Lunenberg called for Sergeant Bouzek to come to Badgett's cell. Badgett claims Sergeant Bouzek ordered him to stop resisting, even though Badgett claims he was not. Officer Sanchez also responded to the call and grabbed and bent Badgett's right wrist. Once Badgett was placed back in his cell, Captain Sabishm came to check on him. Badgett claims Captain Sabishm indicated he would investigate the incident and sent Badgett to receive medical attention.

         Badgett asserts that the defendants violated his constitutional rights by using excessive force against him. The Supreme Court has held that the core judicial inquiry in an excessive force case is “whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.” See Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6 (1992). Based on these allegations, Badgett has stated a claim for excessive force under the Eighth Amendment against Officers Lunenberg, Steel, and Sanchez as well as Sergeant Bouzek. See Gentry v. Duckworth, 65 F.3d 555, 561 (7th Cir. 1995) (explaining that liability may be imposed under § 1983 where an official facilitates, approves, condones, or turns a blind eye to unconstitutional conduct).

         Badgett also claims that defendants Lunenberg, Steel, and Sanchez subjected him to atypical and significant hardship. The Fourteenth Amendment provides to inmates “a liberty interest in avoiding transfer to more restrictive prison conditions if these conditions result in an ‘atypical and significant hardship' when compared to ‘the ordinary incidents of prison life.'” Townsend v. Fuchs, 522 F.3d 765, 768 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484-86 (1995)). Here, Badgett has alleged no facts that would suggest that his relatively brief time in observation was accompanied by atypical and significant hardship beyond the normal incidents of incarceration. Absent such an allegation, he fails to state a claim.

         Badgett further asserts that the defendants' actions constituted deliberate indifference. To demonstrate deliberate indifference, Badgett must show “actual knowledge by the officials and guards of the existence of the substantial risk and that the officials had considered the possibility that the risk could cause serious harm.” Washington v. LaPorte Cnty. Sheriff's Dept., 306 F.3d 515, 518 (7th Cir. 2002) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994)). Ordinary negligence by prison officials, however, is not enough to demonstrate an Eighth Amendment violation. Washington, 306 F.3d at 518; see also Wilson v. City of Chicago, 6 F.3d 1233, 1241 (7th Cir. 1993) (explaining that neither respondeat superior nor negligent supervision of subordinates is an authorized ground for liability in a suit under ยง 1983). Moreover, it is not enough to show that prison officials ...


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