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Patterson v. Hepp

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

April 5, 2017



          J.P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff, who is incarcerated at Fox Lake Correctional Institution, filed a pro se complaint alleging that his civil rights were violated while he was incarcerated. (Docket #1). Before the Court are several of Plaintiff's motions: (1) a motion requesting preliminary injunctive relief (Docket #24); (2) a motion for appointment of counsel (Docket #28); and (3) a motion extension of time (Docket #36). All three motions will be denied, for the reasons stated below.

         1. Motion for Preliminary Injunctive Relief

         In Plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunctive relief, he asks the Court to enjoin Defendants, their "agents, " and those acting in concert with them from harassing him or denying him medical care. (Docket #24 at 1). In his brief, Plaintiff rehashes the allegations of his complaint regarding alleged inadequate medical care he received after a fall in January 2015. (Docket #25 at 1-2). He further claims that Defendants continue to refuse to provide proper medical treatment for his neck and back pain allegedly resulting from the accident. Id. at 2. For instance, Plaintiff believes he should be seen by a specialist and that Defendants continuously deny him access to one. Id. at 2-3. As in his complaint, he also accuses Defendants of covering up his complaints and fabricating documents to avoid the appearance that they are denying him care. Id. Additionally, Plaintiff asserts that he is being harassed by correctional officers for using a wheelchair. Id. at 3-4. In connection with his motion, he provides his own affidavit regarding the relevant facts, as well as an affidavit from his mother, who has apparently made many phone calls to the institution in an effort to ensure her son receives medical care. (Docket #26 and #27).

         Plaintiff's request must be denied. To obtain a preliminary injunction, Plaintiff must show that: (1) he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; (3) the balance of equities tips in his favor; and (4) an injunction is in the public interest. D.U. v. Rhoades, 825 F.3d 331, 335 (7th Cir. 2016). A preliminary injunction is "an extraordinary remedy and is never awarded as of right." Knox v. Shearing, 637 F.App'x 226, 228 (7th Cir. 2016). To meet this burden, Plaintiff must make a "clear showing that [he] is entitled to such relief." Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 22 (2008).

         Plaintiff's request falls short of making the substantial showing necessary to obtain preliminary injunctive relief. First, it seeks relief against many unidentified individuals, and many of those who are identified are not defendants in this case. The Prison Litigation Reform Act instructs that "[preliminary injunctive relief must be narrowly drawn, extend no further than necessary to correct the harm the court finds requires preliminary relief, and be the least intrusive means necessary to correct that harm." 18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(2). An injunction against the entirety of the Foxlake Correctional Institution staff does not meet this standard.

         Second, the motion appears to be an attempt to wedge allegations of current wrongdoing into an ongoing case. In his complaint, Plaintiff raises concerns regarding allegedly inadequate medical care he received after he fell on a loose floor tile. The medical care (or lack thereof) at issue occurred prior to the filing of the complaint in July 2016. The instant motion, however, focuses on conduct occurring long after the filing of the complaint. See (Docket #25 at 2-3). Indeed, some of the alleged misconduct at issue in this motion occurred in late January 2017. Id. at 4. A motion for preliminary injunctive relief is not a proper method to litigate new allegations in an ongoing lawsuit, even if they are related to the current allegations.

         Finally, although Plaintiff and his mother attest that he needs additional treatments for his alleged medical conditions, these affidavits are not based on any medical knowledge or evidence. They do not substantiate Plaintiff's as-yet unproven claims that he has received inadequate medical care. To the contrary, Defendants' submission shows that Plaintiff is receiving at least some care at this time. (Docket #30 at 5). Whether this care is so deficient as to support Plaintiff's claim remains to be seen. The Court therefore has no indication before it that Plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits.

         Nor is Plaintiff's story about being retaliated against for using a wheelchair enough to warrant entry of the broad injunction Plaintiff seeks, particularly since the allegations here relate entirely to non-defendants. Id. at 3-4. On this scant evidentiary basis, the Court is not inclined to insert itself into matters of prison administration, to which it normally accords substantial deference. See 18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(2); see also Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 467 (1983) ("[P]rison officials have broad administrative and discretionary authority over the institutions they manage."). As a result, the Court must deny Plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunctive relief.

         2. Motion for Appointment of Counsel

         In his second motion, Plaintiff asks that the Court appoint him counsel. (Docket #28). As a civil litigant, Plaintiff has no automatic right to court-appointed counsel. Luttrell v. Nickel, 129 F.3d 933, 936 (7th Cir. 1997). However, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1), the "court may request an attorney to represent any person unable to afford counsel." The court should seek counsel to represent the plaintiff if: (1) he has made reasonable attempts to secure counsel; and (2) "'the difficulty of the case-factually and legally-exceeds the particular plaintiff's capacity as a layperson to coherently present it.'" Navejar v. Iyiola, 718 F.3d 692, 696 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 655 (7th Cir. banc 2007)).

         Here, Plaintiff proffers no reason that he is not capable of litigating this case on his own at present. Indeed, his primary argument in favor of his request is that he believes counsel's aid would increase his chance of success by helping him conduct discovery and locate witnesses. (Docket #28 at 1-2). This is plainly insufficient to meet the Seventh Circuit's standards.

         Plaintiff also argues that he is illiterate, has concentration problems resulting from an old head injury, and is inexperienced in legal matters. Id. Yet Plaintiff provides no evidence whatsoever, other than his own lay opinion, that he suffers from cognitive, behavorial, or other limitations affecting his ability to present his arguments in a cogent fashion. (Docket #29 at 1-2). His personal opinion on such matters does not carry his burden to show a need for counsel. See Henderson v. Ghosh, 755 F.3d 559, 565 (7th Cir. 2014).

         Plaintiff further states that he is currently using the services of a jailhouse lawyer but that this individual will soon be moved to another facility or is currently in segregation. (Docket #28 at 2-3). But whether Plaintiff fared better with a jailhouse lawyer's help, or whether an actual lawyer could take up that mantle, is not the operative inquiry; the question is instead ...

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