United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge
March 14, 2017, the Court screened Plaintiff's original
complaint. (Docket #9). The Court found that Plaintiff's
complaint joined many unrelated claims against unrelated
defendants, in violation of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
18 and 20, as well as George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605,
607 (7th Cir. 2007). Id. The Court struck the
original complaint but permitted Plaintiff to file an amended
complaint. Id. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint
on March 22, 2017. (Docket #10).
noted in the first screening order, the Court is required to
screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against
a governmental entity or an 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 “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. Id. § 1915A(b). All of
the standards cited in the first screening order remain
applicable here. (Docket #9 at 1-3).
Plaintiff's original complaint, he described a series of
unrelated episodes that occurred during his incarceration at
Foxlake Correctional Institution (“FCI”), where
he was housed from March 11, 2014 until January 24, 2017.
(Docket #9 at 4). The Court found it to be a complaint of the
“kitchen-sink variety” and directed Plaintiff to
narrow his allegations to related claims and defendants.
Id. at 9-10. In the amended complaint, Plaintiff
largely accomplishes that goal by focusing his attention on
one of the episodes described in his original complaint: the
contaminated water in the restrictive housing unit
(“RHU”) at FCI. (Docket #10). Plaintiff names as
defendants FCI's warden, Randall Hepp
(“Hepp”), the deputy warden, Chris Krueger
(“Krueger”), the security director, Mark
Schomisch (“Schomisch”), the security supervisor,
Captain Congdon (“Congdon”), and the building and
grounds supervisor, Mr. Maggioncalda (whose first name is not
provided). Id. at 2.
predicate for Plaintiff's complaint is that he has
chronic ulcerative colitis as a complication of Crohn's
disease. Id. at 3. According to Plaintiff, this
condition means that he has to use the restroom often and
that the need to do so arises urgently and without warning.
Id. at 4. Plaintiff contends that he needs constant
access to toilet facilities on demand to avoid the
possibility of incontinence. Id. He also has to take
medications daily to treat the condition, though these do not
solve the problem of his urgent need to use the restroom.
condition caused Plaintiff special problems when dealing with
the allegedly unsafe water supply at FCI. Plaintiff asserts
that the water was often brown, with a “putrid sulfuric
odor to it.” Id. at 5. He further claims that
Hepp, Schomisch, and Maggioncalda posted warnings in the
prison indicating that inmates with auto-immune diseases like
Plaintiff were at a higher risk of harm from the contaminated
water than other inmates. Id. Plaintiff says that
the warnings were not followed by corrective action as to the
water contamination. See Id. at 5-6.
Court explained in the prior screening order, prison
officials would allow inmates to run faucets indefinitely to
clear out the contamination. Id. But this was not
possible in the RHU, where a newly installed plumbing system
limited the flow of water to short bursts. Id. at 6.
Plaintiff accuses each Defendant of playing a part in
requesting that the RHU's new plumbing system be
installed, though he does not explain what each
Defendant's authority and involvement was in that
decision. See Id. He does allege, however, that each
Defendant knew that this new system would prevent inmates in
the RHU from flushing out water contamination. Id.
alleges that when he was housed in the RHU between December
12, 2016 and January 24, 2017, he lacked safe drinking water.
Id. at 7-8. As noted above, Plaintiff needs to take
medications daily for his bowel condition, as well as a
“Gatorade drink mix” created with water provided
in the cells, and he claims he was forced to take both using
contaminated, unsafe water when housed in the RHU.
Id. Further, Plaintiff states that he needed
constant access to clean drinking water to combat dehydration
caused by his condition, something that was denied to him in
the RHU. Id.
claims that none of the Defendants took corrective action
after Plaintiff alerted them to the unsafe water condition
and his particular need for a safe water supply in inmate
grievances submitted between December 2016 and February 2017.
Id. at 7. In one instance, Plaintiff submitted a
complaint to Congdon about the water conditions and with a
request that he be single-celled, apparently on the notion
that having two inmates in one cell would strain the already
meager water resources available. Id. at 7-9.
Congdon never responded in writing. Id. at 8.
Instead, when Plaintiff asked him about the complaint,
Congdon claimed never to have received it and refused to
acknowledge the existence of a problem with the water.
Id. Plaintiff later received a conduct report for
refusing to be double-celled with another inmate in the RHU.
Id. at 9. As for Krueger, Plaintiff claims that he
affirmed the dismissal of all of Plaintiff's inmate
grievances in an attempt to actively hinder Plaintiff's
ability to seek relief from the water problem. Id.
Plaintiff contends that any of the Defendants could have
assigned him to a single cell in the RHU or transferred him
to another institution where his needs could have been better
accommodated, but they all balked at these requests.
alleges that Defendants' conduct displayed deliberate
indifference to his serious medical needs, in violation of
the Eighth Amendment, and constituted denial of reasonable
accommodations for his bowel conditions, in violation of the
Americans with Disabilities Act and/or the Rehabilitation
Act. He also asserts that the denial of safe drinking water
constituted cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the
Eighth Amendment, and was a denial of equal protection of the
law, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
claims related to the deprivation of clean water and
deliberate indifference to his medical needs may proceed, but
the other claims may not. First, Defendants, all individual
employees of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, are not
amenable to suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act or
the Rehabilitation Act. Jaros v. Ill. Dep't of
Corr., 684 F.3d 667, 670 (7th Cir. 2012); Garcia v.
S.U.N.Y. Health Sci. Ctr. of Brooklyn, 280 F.3d 98, 107
(2d Cir. 2001). Thus, these claims must be dismissed.
Plaintiff's equal protection claim cannot proceed because
the Supreme Court has not recognized individuals with bowel
diseases, like Plaintiff, as constituting a suspect class
under the Fourteenth Amendment. See Mlaska v.
Schicker, Case No. 15-cv-00918-MJR, 2015 WL 6098733, at
*11 (S.D. Ill. Oct. 16, 2015) (finding that group of inmates
with a certain type of medical condition did not constitute a
suspect class). Where a non-suspect class is implicated in
such a claim, prison administrators are constitutionally
entitled to treat prisoners differently “as long as the
unequal treatment is rationally related to a legitimate
penological interest.” Flynn v. Thatcher, 819
F.3d 990, 991 (7th Cir. 2016). As Plaintiff concedes in his
complaint, the low-flow water provision in the RHU is
rationally related to the prison's interest in imposing
discipline on those prisoners who engage in misconduct and
are moved into restricted housing. (Docket #10 at 6). This is
reason enough for the prison's decision to install this
particular plumbing system, at least insofar as the Equal
Protection Clause is concerned. See Al-Alamin v.
Gramley, 926 F.3d 680, 686 (7th Cir. 1991) (noting that
prisons have legitimate interests in security, crime
deterrence, and prisoner rehabilitation).
result is the same even when Plaintiff's allegations are
construed as a “class of one” equal protection
claim. A “class of one” claim arises when a
plaintiff alleges that he has been “intentionally
treated differently from others similarly situated and that
there is no rational basis for the difference in
treatment.” Village of Willowbrook v. Olech,
528 U.S. 562, 564 (2000). Plaintiff's allegations make
clear that he was treated just like every other prisoner
assigned to the RHU; indeed, the thrust of his complaint is
that he should have received different treatment because of
his medical needs. See (Docket #10 at 12). Thus, he
was not intentionally treated differently from anyone else,
and his equal protection claim must be dismissed.
has, however, stated a claim based upon inadequate conditions
of confinement. Such a claim has two parts. Townsend v.
Fuchs, 522 F.3d 765, 773 (7th Cir. 2008). First, the
conditions must be “sufficiently serious” so that
“‘a prison official's act or omission results
in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities.'” Id. (quoting Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (internal quotations
omitted)). If the prisoner passes that threshold, the court
next examines whether prison officials acted with
“deliberate indifference” to the alleged
conditions. Id. “Deliberate
indifference” means that the official knew that the
inmate faced a substantial risk of serious harm in the
alleged conditions and yet disregarded that risk by failing
to take reasonable measures to address it. Id. Here,
Plaintiff's claim meets the low bar required at the
screening stage to show that he suffered sufficiently serious
conditions while confined in the RHU-that is, deprivation of
clean drinking water, which affected his ability to treat his
bowel conditions and stay hydrated-and that Defendants knew
of the deprivation and ignored it. Of ...