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Jackson v. Slome

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

February 28, 2017



          HON. PAMELA PEPPER United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff DeBradre Jackson, a Wisconsin state prisoner who is representing himself, filed a case under 42 U.S.C §1983, alleging that the defendants violated his civil rights at the Racine Correctional Institution. Dkt. No. 1. The court screened the complaint under 28 U.S.C. §1915A, and allowed the plaintiff to proceed with three claims: (1) a First Amendment retaliation claim against Scott Slome and Kimberly Graba; (2) a failure-to-intervene claim against Jeremiah Curtis and Thomas Wiegand; and (3) a state-law defamation claim against Scott Slome. Dkt. No. 10. The court did not allow the plaintiff to proceed against Graba for failure to make copies for him or for defamation, did not allow him to proceed against various defendants on theories of supervisory liability or due process, did not allow him to proceed on a class of one equal protection claim, and did not allow him to proceed on his denial-of-access-to-courts claim.

         On March 14, 2016, the court issued a scheduling order. Dkt. No. 16. Less than a week later, on March 18, 2016, the plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment, which the court denied without prejudice. Dkt. Nos. 19, 25. The defendants timely filed their motion for summary judgment on July 15, 2016, dkt. no. 28; the plaintiff filed his second motion for summary judgment on July 18, 2016, dkt. no. 39; and the plaintiff filed a motion to exclude the declaration of Jackie K. Righter on August 15, 2016, dkt. no. 42. Two months later, the plaintiff filed a motion for sanctions, dkt. no. 51, and he voluntarily dismissed his failure-to-intervene claim against Thomas Wiegand two months after that, dkt. no. 52. This decision and order resolves the pending motions, and dismisses the case.

         I. FACTS

         The court takes facts from the “Defendants Proposed Findings of Fact, ” Dkt. No. 33, and the “Defendants' Reply to Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Proposed Findings of Facts, ” Dkt. No. 50. Where the plaintiff objected to the defendants' proposed findings of fact without citing evidentiary material, the court deems those facts admitted for the purpose of deciding summary judgment. Civ. L. R. 56(b)(4). The court takes additional facts from the plaintiff's “Statement of Undisputed Facts, ” Dkt. No. 41, the plaintiff's sworn declaration, Dkt. No. 45, and his sworn complaint, Dkt. No. 1, which, at the summary judgment stage, the court construes as an affidavit. Ford v. Wilson, 90 F.3d 245, 246-47 (7th Cir. 1996).

         A. Parties

         At the time of the events in the complaint, the plaintiff was an inmate at Racine Correctional Institution (“RCI”). Dkt. No. 33, ¶ 1. The defendants were employees at RCI: Kimberly Graba was a librarian (id., ¶ 2); Jeremiah Curtis was a Lieutenant (id., ¶ 3); Thomas Wiegand was a Captain (id., ¶ 4); and Scott Slome was a Correctional Sergeant (id., ¶ 5).

         B. The Plaintiff's Allegations

         On March 4, 2015, the plaintiff went to the prison library and asked Graba to notarize a document entitled “Affidavit of Sovereign Status.” Id., ¶ 12. After looking at the document, Graba (who was the librarian) called the security office, because she suspected that the “sovereign citizenship movement”[1] was a “security threat group” whose documents were “contraband” at the prison. Id., ¶¶ 13-14. Graba spoke with Lieutenant Ziem (not a defendant in the case), and Ziem told her to confiscate the document, submit it to the security department as contraband, and file an incident report stating what happened. Id., ¶ 14.

         Graba went back to the library and told the plaintiff that she was taking the document from him. Id., ¶15. She then asked the plaintiff to show her the other two documents that he had brought with him for notarization. Id., ¶16. The two other documents were identical to the first document, and were entitled “Affidavit of Sovereign Status.” Id., ¶17. Graba took all three documents from the plaintiff and completed an incident report. Id., ¶¶18-20, 24. She gave the documents to the security staff, and had no further involvement with the plaintiff's claims. Id., ¶26.

         On March 6, 2015, prison staff forwarded all three documents to Slome for review. Id., ¶ 27-29. Slome reviewed the documents and concluded that the layouts (allegedly in affidavit form), along with the plaintiff's name on the documents, were consistent with the how individuals usually declare their status as “sovereign citizens.” Id., ¶ 30. As a result, Slome issued Conduct Report #2641802 for “group resistance and petitions, ” “enterprise and fraud, ” and “possession of contraband, ” stating that he believed that the plaintiff was beginning the process of renouncing his United States citizenship. Id., ¶¶ 36, 52. Wiegand (who no longer is a defendant in the case) delivered a copy of the conduct report, along with other documents, to the plaintiff on March 11, 2015. Id., ¶38.

         On an unknown date after March 11, 2015, a hearing officer dismissed Conduct Report #2641802 based on “charges not supported.” Dkt. No. 41 at 2, ¶8. On March 23, 2015, Wiegand returned the confiscated documents to the plaintiff. Id.; Dkt. No 43 at 3.

         On another unknown date before March 26, 2015, the plaintiff moved to Walworth Unit. Dkt. No. 33, ¶ 55. On March 26, 2015, Slome conducted a search of the plaintiff's cell. Id., ¶¶ 54-55. According to Slome, whenever an inmate moves to Walworth Unit, he conducts a “random” cell search within the first couple days to prevent introduction of contraband into the unit. Dkt. No. 38, ¶ 42. According to the plaintiff, Slome conducted the cell search in “retaliation” for Conduct Report #2641802, which the hearing officer had dismissed. Dkt. No. 45, ¶ 15.

         During the cell search, Slome found various papers associated with the sovereign citizen movement. Dkt. No. 50, ¶ 58. Slome found one document that appeared to be a contract in which the state was “principal, ” the plaintiff was “executor, ” and the contract “insure[d] the Executor as surety binding together jointly on BID BOND in sum of $500, 000 a year.” Id., ¶ 59. Slome found a letter from the Office of Corporation Counsel of Milwaukee County sent to the plaintiff in response to the “UCC Financing Statement and UCC Financing Statement and Amendment Addendum” that the plaintiff had filed with Register of Deeds. Id., ¶ 60. The letter stated that the plaintiff may be subject to civil and felony “slander of title” charges if he continued to make frivolous filings with the Register of Deeds. Id., ¶ 101. Slome found a form labeled IRS W-6BEN that typically is used by non-U.S. citizens to claim a reduced tax rate/exemption. Id., ¶ 64. Finally, Slome also found other documents used by sovereign citizens, such as financial chargeback paper work, court bonds, security bonds, etc. Id., ¶ 65. In total, Slome confiscated 111 pages of documents from the plaintiff's cell. Dkt. No. 46 at 4.

         Slome completed a “confiscation report” and gave it to the plaintiff. Dkt. No. 33, ¶ 69. The plaintiff then stated, “You don't know anything about sovereigns if that's all you took.” Id. Slome then issued Conduct Report #2647851 for “group resistance and petitions” and “unauthorized use of mail.” Id., ¶ 70. After he issued the conduct report, Slome had no further involvement with the plaintiff's claims. Id., ¶ 78.

         Curtis conducted a review of the conduct report, and concluded that the allegations created “a risk of serious disruption at the institution or in the community.” Id., ¶ 81. The next day, Curtis placed the plaintiff in Temporary Lock-Up (“TLU”) pending investigation into Conduct Report #2647851. Id., ¶ 79.

         The plaintiff stated to Curtis at that time that he felt that he was being harassed by staff about his “legal work, ” and that the cell search and conduct report were issued in retaliation for the first conduct report that the hearing officer had dismissed. Id., ¶ 85. Curtis told the plaintiff that he was not aware of any previous conduct report and explained that the plaintiff was currently in TLU because of the material Slome found in his cell. Id., ¶ 86. Curtis also informed the plaintiff that he could explain his side of the story at the conduct report hearing. Id., ¶87. Wiegand delivered a copy of the conduct report, along with other documents, to the plaintiff on March 31, 2015. Id., ¶ 90. Curtis and Wiegand had no further involvement regarding the plaintiff's claims. Id., ¶¶ 89, 97.

         On April 1, 2015, a hearing officer held a disciplinary hearing for Conduct Report #2647851 and concluded that the plaintiff was “guilty of violating § 303.24, ” and that he had possessed documents and papers “consistent with the Sovereign Citizen Movement.” Id., ¶ 91. As a result, the hearing officer found the plaintiff guilty of “group resistance and petitions” and sentenced the plaintiff to 30 days in disciplinary segregation. Dkt. No. 1 at 6.


         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is proper “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Ames v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 629 F.3d 665, 668 (7th Cir. 2011). The movant bears the burden of establishing that there are no genuine issues of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant meets this burden, the non-movant must designate specific facts that establish that there is a genuine triable fact. ...

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