United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge
plaintiff Gary Lee Bennett (“Bennett”), a
prisoner at Redgranite Correctional Institution
(“Redgranite”), brings this lawsuit for the
defendants' alleged retaliation against him for filing
prison grievances, in violation of the First Amendment.
(Docket #16 and #33). This matter was reassigned to this
branch of the Court on August 2, 2016. On November 4, 2016,
Bennett filed a motion for summary judgment. (Docket #83). On
November 7, 2016, the defendants filed their own motions for
summary judgment. (Docket #74 and #86). Responses were
filed between November 25 and December 5, 2016. (Docket #91,
#94, #99, and #102). Replies were submitted between December
8 and December 16, 2016. (Docket #107, #109, and #110). For
the reasons explained below, the defendants' motions must
be granted and Bennett's motion must be denied.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides the mechanism for seeking
summary judgment. Rule 56 states 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 “genuine” dispute of material fact
is created when “the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). The Court construes all facts and reasonable
inferences in a light most favorable to the non-movant.
Bridge v. New Holland Logansport, Inc., 815 F.3d
356, 360 (7th Cir. 2016). Even under this standard, however,
the Court “will not draw inferences that are
‘supported by only speculation or
conjecture.'” Williams v. Brooks, 809 F.3d
936, 944 (7th Cir. 2016).
the Court will grant the defendants' motions, it presents
the facts in a light most favorable to Bennett. The
dispositive issues are quite limited, so the Court has
constrained its recitation to only the relevant facts where
possible. The Court begins with a discussion of the Wisconsin
Department of Corrections' (“DOC”) prisoner
grievance procedures, and then presents a timeline of
The Inmate Complaint Review System
DOC's Inmate Complaint Review System (“ICRS”)
is an inmate's primary vehicle for submitting grievances
about the conditions of their confinement. Wis. Admin. Code
DOC § 310.04. It requires that inmates submit formal
complaints to the appropriate Inmate Complaint Examiner
(“ICE”), not to other prison personnel.
Id. §§ 310.07(1) and 310.09(6). The ICE
reviews all complaints received for compliance with the
procedural requirements of the ICRS. If the complaint appears
to be non-compliant, it is returned to the inmate. If the
complaint is procedurally valid, the ICE investigates and
recommends rejection, acceptance, or other action to the
reviewing authority at the prison, which at Redgranite is the
warden. Id. §§ 310.07(2) and 310.11. The
warden, the final decisionmaker within Redgranite, may accept
or reject the ICE's recommendation. Id. §
310.07(3). The inmate then has a right of appeal to DOC
authorities outside of Redgranite, up to the Secretary of the
DOC. Id. §§ 310.07(6), 310.13, and 310.14.
and the defendants vigorously dispute one of the procedural
requirements applied to Bennett in this case. The Redgranite
inmate handbook (the “Handbook”) describes a
“chain-of-command” (“COC”) process,
whereby inmates are expected to address complaints with
successive tiers of prison personnel prior to filing a formal
ICRS complaint. Id. If the COC process is not
fruitful, the inmate may proceed with the ICRS process.
Id. Bennett claims that the COC and ICRS processes
are inconsistent and that the retaliation in this case
stemmed from his attempts to comply with both. See,
e.g., (Docket #94 at 3). The defendants maintain that
Bennett failed to submit complaints in accordance with either
procedure and so his repeated grievances were properly
rejected. See, e.g., (Docket #75 at 25-27). The
Court need not resolve this dispute, as Bennett's claims
fail on other grounds.
is an inmate at Redgranite. Daisy Chase (“Chase”)
was a “Unit Manager” at Redgranite during the
relevant time period. The other defendants besides Ed Wall
(“Wall”) and Jon Litscher
(“Litscher”) were security personnel or staff who
facilitated the inmate complaint process at Redgranite.
Litscher is the current Secretary for the DOC, while Wall is
the former secretary.
March 26, 2015, Chase received an Interview/Information
Request from Bennett, also known as a “kite” (and
referred to as such hereinafter), written in part on the
standard form for such requests and in part on looseleaf.
See (Docket #77-1 at 13-17, 19). The form itself
stated that “I figured I'd provide a rough draft of
my ICE to better inform you of where I'm coming from.
I'll wait a couple days to submit.” Id. at
19. The three-and-a-half pages of looseleaf text included
with the form detailed Bennett's problems with a Sergeant
Murphy, Unit Manager Mueske (“Mueske”), Chase
herself, and Bennett's difficulties in utilizing the ICRS
and COC systems.
parties dispute much about the kite. They disagree as to
whether the kite contained a threat to file a formal ICRS
complaint or an informal COC complaint, or whether the kite
was itself a COC complaint. They further dispute the merits
of Bennett's complaints mentioned therein. The Court
mentions these disputes only to note that in the end, none of
them are material.
receiving the kite, Chase began investigating the claims made
therein. She spoke with Mueske and found no evidence to
support Bennett's allegations against her. Chase further
determined that Bennett had not presented evidence of her own
misconduct. Chase thus concluded that Bennett's kite
contained false statements about staff.
Chase's investigation was ongoing, Bennett was placed in
“temporary lockup” (“TLU”), which is
a housing area separate from the general population. Bennett
does not dispute the reasons for this. Inmate lies about
staff can damage staff credibility, thereby threatening their
ability to enforce rules and maintain security, as well as
subjecting that staff member to unwarranted discipline.
Complaints based on false statements distract attention from
legitimate issues and waste prison resources. Thus, lying
about staff is considered a major offense. Inmates suspected
of major offenses, like Bennett, are routinely placed in TLU
so that prison officials may investigate the issue free from
that inmate's attempts to disrupt them, sway witness
recollections, destroy evidence, or retaliate against the
subject(s) of their offense.
placement form states that the placement order was issued by
a Lieutenant Eichstedt at 12:45 p.m on March 26. (Docket
#78-1). This was done, in accordance with the above policies,
to ensure that Chase could conduct her investigation without
interference from Bennett. Reigh approved Bennett's TLU
placement sometime later that day on the ground that he had
been accused of a major offense. See (Docket #78 at
2-3). Bennett contends that Chase did not read the kite or
begin her investigation prior to his TLU placement. Because
these issues form the chief basis for his opposition to
summary judgment with respect to Chase, the Court addresses
them more fully below.
investigation ended the next day, March 27. At that time, she
issued Bennett a conduct report (the “Conduct
Report”) for lying about prison employees, which is
specifically prohibited by the DOC administrative code. Wis.
Adm. Code DOC § 303.32. After issuing the Conduct
Report, Chase recommended that Bennett be placed in a
different housing unit upon release from TL U.She did so to
avoid the appearance of retaliation and to “give
[Bennett] a fresh start with staff with whom he had not had
prior negative interactions.” (Docket #111 at ¶
remainder of the parties' proffered facts are voluminous
but largely irrelevant. The Court nevertheless addresses them
briefly to lay a foundation for its analysis. On April 6,
2015, a hearing was held on the Conduct Report. Terry Sawall
(“Sawall”), a captain at Redgranite, was the
hearing officer. Based on the evidence presented, Sawall
determined that Bennett was guilty of lying about an employee
as alleged in the Conduct Report. He sentenced Bennett to
ninety days of disciplinary ...