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Williams v. Kotkosky

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

March 7, 2017

CORWIN K. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
C.O. KOTKOSKY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          J.P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge

         1. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff proceeds on a single claim of excessive force. (Docket #11). On January 25, 2017, Defendant Matthew Kotkosky filed a motion for summary judgment. (Docket #28). Plaintiff Corwin K. Williams' response was due on or before February 24, 2017. Civil L. R. 56(b)(2). As of today's date, Plaintiff has submitted no response; in fact, since he filed his January 23, 2017 motion for reconsideration of a previous order, Plaintiff has filed nothing at all in this case. See (Docket #26). The lack of response alone would warrant granting Defendant's motion. Civil L. R. 7(d). Even assuming this were not true, Plaintiff's failure to respond to Defendant's statement of facts renders each fact admitted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2).

         Plaintiff was made well aware of the need to respond to Defendant's motion in accordance with the applicable procedural rules. In the Court's scheduling order issued on August 26, 2016, Plaintiff was warned about the requirements for opposing a motion for summary judgment. (Docket #15 at 2-3). Accompanying that order were copies of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and Civil Local Rule 56, both of which describe in detail the form and contents of a proper summary judgment submission. (Docket #15-4 and #15- 6). As required by the Local Rules, Defendant's summary judgment motion included further notifications about need for a response and the rules governing that response. (Docket #28).

         Despite being twice warned of the strictures of summary judgment procedure, Plaintiff ignored those rules by failing to submit any responsive documents, much less those which would comply with the applicable rules. Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003). Though the Court is required to liberally construe a pro se party's filings, it cannot act as his lawyer, and it cannot delve through the record to find favorable evidence and argument for him. Further, while the Court is cognizant that Plaintiff lacks legal training, his utter failure to comply with the rules of procedure is not excusable on that ground alone. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Civil L. R. 56(b)(4); Hill v. Thalacker, 210 F. App'x 513, 515 (7th Cir. 2006) (noting that district courts have discretion to enforce procedural rules against pro se litigants).

         In sum, the Court will grant Defendant's motion on two grounds. First is Plaintiff's failure to oppose the motion. Second is that, based on the facts Defendant presented in conjunction with his motion, which the Court deems undisputed, judgment is appropriate in Defendant's favor.

         2. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal 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).

         3. FACTS

         The relevant facts are brief and drawn entirely from Defendant's statement of facts. (Docket #30). Plaintiff was incarcerated at Oshkosh Correctional Institution (“Oshkosh”) during the relevant time period. Defendant was a correctional officer employed at Oshkosh at the same time. Plaintiff, while receiving his medication from Defendant, stuck his arm through the trap door of his cell. This was an attempt to hold the trap door “hostage” because Plaintiff had other concerns, namely the temperature of his cell, that he wanted addressed. “Holding a trap hostage” violates prison rules and presents a safety and security risk to the prison. The dangers can include assaulting an officer, grabbing items from an officer's utility belt, trading items with other inmates, and potentially finding a way to escape the cell.[1]

         Plaintiff refused Defendant's repeated requests to put his arm back in his cell. Instead, Plaintiff began yelling for other inmates to do as he had done. Because of the danger Plaintiff's actions presented, Defendant used his foot to nudge the trap door against Plaintiff's arm, in an attempt to encourage him to remove his arm.

         This was ineffective at obtaining compliance, so Defendant found a supervisory officer to assist him. The officer eventually convinced Plaintiff to remove his arm from the trap door. Plaintiff had not cried out in pain when Defendant nudged the door with his foot, nor did he have any bruising, swelling, or cuts on his arm. A nurse checked Plaintiff for injuries and found none, though he complained of discomfort. She gave him ice and Tylenol. Plaintiff made no other requests for treatment.

         4. ANALYSIS

         The Eighth Amendment prohibits the “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain” on prisoners. Outlaw v. Newkirk, 259 F.3d 833, 837 (7th Cir. 2001). When an official is accused of using excessive force, the core inquiry is “whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.” Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992); Santiago v. Walls, 599 F.3d 749, 757 (7th Cir. 2010). Several factors are relevant to this determination, including the need for force, the amount applied, the threat an officer reasonably perceived, the effort made ...


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