United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION & ORDER
D. PETERSON District Judge.
Justin W.VanDera, a state of Wisconsin inmate confined at the
Waupun Correctional Institution, brings two separate lawsuits
about prison officials' handling of his thoughts of
self-harm and his placement in observation cells in December
2015 and January 2016. The court has already concluded that
VanDera qualifies for in forma pauperis status and
has collected an initial partial payment of the filing fee
for both of these cases.
VanDera's allegations in his two complaints are so
related, he could have brought all of these allegations in
the same lawsuit. It makes little sense to force
VanDera to pay two separate filing fees for these cases, so I
will sua sponte combine his two complaints into case
no. 17-cv-15 and dismiss case no. 17-cv-40. I will direct the
clerk of court to apply his payments in case no. 17-cv-40 to
case no. 17-cv-15, and inform the DOC that VanDera no longer
owes the filing fee for case no. 17-cv-40.
next step in this case is to screen both of VanDera's
complaints. In doing so, I must dismiss any portion that is
legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a
defendant who by law cannot be sued for money damages. 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A. Because VanDera is a pro
se litigant, I must read his allegations generously.
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972) (per
reviewing the complaints with these principles in mind, I
conclude that VanDera may proceed on Eighth Amendment
deliberate indifference claims against several defendants who
were involved in placing him in an unsanitary cell and later
allowing him to harm himself. I will dismiss other defendants
because VanDera fails to adequately explain how they violated
Justin W.VanDera is an inmate at the Waupun Correctional
Institution. VanDera suffers from mental illness. On December
30, 2015, VanDera had thoughts of self-harm. He was escorted
to a holding cell, where he refused to be interviewed by
security staff. He was then taken to an observation cell.
Several other inmates in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU)
had to be placed in observation cells that day, and “it
was beginning to irritate” staff.
Bullzack decided to place VanDera in cell A-103, which he and
other officers referred to as the “poop cell, ”
because there was feces on the window, door, walls, and floor
and in the food trap. There was also blood and dirt
“infesting” the cell. For the next six days,
defendants Pawlyk, Beahm, Brockman (all correctional
officers), Lt. Tritt, Sgt. Bullzack, Sgt. Kootz, and John and
Jane Doe checked on VanDera. VanDera would show them the
feces, blood, and dirt in the cell, but despite them saying
that they would talk to a supervisor, he was not moved out of
his cell for six days. He also says that defendant Bukowski,
“RHU Supervisor” and “RHU Programs
Supervisor, ” along with some of the defendants listed
above, intentionally “placed” him in those
conditions. VanDera says he was unable to “maintain
a[n] adequate and nutritional diet” over this time,
causing him pain, dizziness, and lack of sleep. Eventually he
was moved out of the cell.
January 31, 2016, VanDera had thoughts of self-harm, so he
told defendant Sgt. Tritt about his thoughts. VanDera was
taken to a strip cell to talk to a supervisor, and eventually
he was taken back to cell A-103. VanDera told defendant
Pawlyk that he would not agree to be housed there unless it
was cleaned. The cell was cleaned before he was placed back
asked defendant Sgt. Tritt to be placed in full security
restraints because he felt like slamming his head against the
door, walls, and window. Sgt. Tritt relayed that request to
defendant Lt. Larson, who passed it on to defendant Cpt.
Haynes, who in turn passed it on to defendant Miss Halper,
the on-call psychologist. Halper denied the request for
restraints. All of these defendants knew that VanDera had a
history of harming himself by slamming his head against the
wall, and that restraints had been used in the past to
was in observation, VanDera started slamming his head against
the door, wall, and window, splitting his head open and
causing him to bleed. Sgt. Tritt noticed this but walked
away. VanDera continued to slam his head against his cell
over the next three hours. Defendants Jonathan Pawlyk,
Bikowski,  Sgt. Kootz, John Doe, and Jane Doe
all saw VanDera harm himself over the three-hour period yet
did nothing to help him.
pushed his emergency call button, which went to defendant
Kootz, and Kootz said that he would let his supervisor know
about the request. But VanDera did not receive any medical
attention until days later.
point, VanDera talked to defendant Dr. Van Buren about
inmates harming themselves while in observation. Van Buren
told VanDera, “Inmates are allowed to harm themselves,
because that is what ...