United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA B. CRABB DISTRICT JUDGE.
and prisoner Laderian McGhee is proceeding on a claim that
healthcare staff at the Columbia Correctional Institution
failed to provide him adequate medical treatment for his
seizures, in violation of the Eighth Amendment and state
negligence law. Defendants Dalia Suliene and Karen Anderson
have not sought summary judgment on the merits, but they ask
the court to dismiss the case on two procedural grounds. Dkt.
they say that, when plaintiff submitted his request to
proceed in forma pauperis nearly two years ago, he
lied about his financial status. Second, they say that
plaintiff's claim in this case is barred by the
settlement agreement in McGhee v. Suliene, No.
13-cv-67-bbc (W.D. Wis.).
defendants missed the deadline for filing dispositive motions
and they did not explain why they waited so long to file a
motion that they could have filed as early as August 2015,
Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker allowed briefing on the
motion and plaintiff did not object to the timeliness of the
motion in his opposition brief. Dkt. #63. Accordingly, I do
not consider whether defendants' motion is untimely.
order dated March 22, 2017, dkt. #72, I rejected
defendants' second argument because the settlement
agreement in case no. 13-cv-67-bbc was limited to issues
related to plaintiff's shoulder. However, I deferred a
decision regarding plaintiff's alleged misrepresentation
because defendants had cited new evidence in their reply
brief and I gave plaintiff an opportunity to respond.
that I have reviewed all of the parties' submissions, I
conclude that defendants have failed to show that plaintiff
engaged in sanctionable conduct. Accordingly, I am denying
the motion to dismiss.
request for sanctions has two prongs. First, defendants say
that dismissal of the case is required because
plaintiff made a false claim of poverty in his request to
proceed in forma pauperis. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(A) (“[T]he court shall dismiss the case at
any time if the court determines that . . . the allegation of
poverty is untrue.”). Second, defendants say, even if
plaintiff qualifies for pauper status under § 1915, the
court should exercise its discretion to dismiss this case as
a sanction because plaintiff's affidavit of indigency
contains a false statement.
their opening brief, defendants alleged that plaintiff
under-reported his assets by $5000, which was the amount of
the settlement he received in case no. 13-cv-67-bbc.Although
they acknowledged that $5000 generally is not enough to lift
someone out of pauper status, they argued that prisoners are
different from most litigants because the state pays for most
of their living expenses. Alternatively, defendants argued
that a false statement in an affidavit of indigency is still
an appropriate ground for dismissal under the court's
inherent authority, even if dismissal is not required by
opposition brief and supporting declarations, plaintiff
denied that he had made false statements in his affidavit of
indigency. First, he acknowledged that he settled case no.
13-cv-67-bbc for $5000 and that he did so so before he
submitted his financial information for this case to the
court. However, he said he was not supposed to receive that
settlement. Rather, as shown by a letter submitted from
defense counsel in the earlier case, dkt. #65-1, the
settlement check was written sent to his mother. Both
plaintiff and his mother averred that their intent was for
the money to be used for a debt his mother owed and expenses
for plaintiff's daughter. Dkt. #65, ¶ 7; dkt. #66,
potential problem with plaintiff's story is that he
received two electronic transfers from his mother-one for
$300 and one for $400-around the same time that he sent his
financial information to the court, but he included neither
of those deposits in his affidavit of indigency.
Plaintiff's explanation for that is that, at the time he
sent his financial information to the court, he was not aware
that he would be receiving those deposits.
is key. Plaintiff says he mailed his financial information to
the court on April 28, 2015, dkt. #65, ¶ 14, but he did
not know about the deposits to his account until he received
receipts from prison staff, which occurred on April 29, 2015,
and May 3, 2015. (Neither plaintiff nor defendants provided
copies of those receipts to the court.) Both plaintiff and
his mother aver that she did not tell plaintiff in advance
that she would be sending him that money. Dkt. #65, ¶
11; dkt. #66, ¶ 6.
account is true, plaintiff did not engage in any sanctionable
conduct. Although defendants suggest that plaintiff gave
money to his mother to avoid paying his filing fee, they cite
no evidence for that view. They also cite no authority for
the view that plaintiff should have reported a settlement he
did not believe he was going to receive.
do not argue that plaintiff was required to amend his
financial disclosures if he did not learn about the deposits
until after he sent his information to the court. I see no
reason why he would have been required to do so. The
court's financial form that plaintiff completed does not
instruct the prisoner to amend his financial information if
his circumstances change after he mails the form to the
court. Further, if plaintiff had informed the court about the
deposits, that information would not have changed anything. A
deposit of several hundred dollars would not be enough to
disqualify a prisoner from proceeding in forma
pauperis. Although that amount of money could make a
difference in calculating a prisoner's initial partial
payment of the filing fee, the court does not rely on a
prisoner's self-reporting when making that calculation.
Rather, the court relies on the prisoner's trust fund