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Keith v. Ruples

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

April 27, 2017



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

         1. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Crystal Keith (“Keith”), a prisoner, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants, prison officials at Taycheedah Correctional Institution (“TCI”), alleging that they were deliberately indifferent to her risk of suicide.[1] Both parties have filed motions for summary judgment on Keith's claims. (Docket #57 and #59). The motions are fully briefed and, for the reasons stated below, the Court will grant summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismiss this action.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides 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); Boss v. Castro, 816 F.3d 910, 916 (7th Cir. 2016). A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit” under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of fact is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. The court construes all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Bridge v. New Holland Logansport, Inc., 815 F.3d 356, 360 (7th Cir. 2016). The court must not weigh the evidence presented or determine credibility of witnesses; the Seventh Circuit instructs that “we leave those tasks to factfinders.” Berry v. Chicago Transit Auth., 618 F.3d 688, 691 (7th Cir. 2010). The party opposing summary judgment “need not match the movant witness for witness, nor persuade the court that her case is convincing, she need only come forward with appropriate evidence demonstrating that there is a pending dispute of material fact.” Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 921 (7th Cir. 1994).

         3. RELEVANT FACTS

         The relevant undisputed facts, viewed in the light most favorable to Keith, are fairly brief.[2] Keith is an inmate at TCI. TCI is the only female facility within the Wisconsin Women's Correctional System and it houses both medium- and maximum-security inmates. Defendant Deanne Schaub (“Schaub”) is the warden. Defendant David Ruples (“Ruples”) is a sergeant at TCI. Defendants Heather Justmann (“Justmann”) and Christopher Cooper (“Cooper”) are captains at the institution. At all times relevant to Keith's complaint, Defendant David Tarr (“Tarr”) was the Security Director at TCI.

         This case focuses on the events of April 27, 2015, but it originated much earlier. Keith and another inmate, Ashli Castillo (“Castillo”), were both designated as maximum-security inmates at TCI. They were housed in the McCauley unit, the only general population and maximum-security housing unit in the prison. They were cellmates from October 2013 until January 2014. At that time, correctional officers learned that Castillo was physically abusing Keith. Castillo was disciplined with segregation but then returned to the McCauley unit. In light of their history, prison officials tried to keep Keith and Castillo separated as much as possible.

         Yet on January 21, 2015, Keith submitted an inmate complaint requesting a separation order from Castillo, alleging that Castillo continued to verbally harass her when they crossed paths and that Keith felt threatened. During this period, Keith received mental health treatment for the emotional trauma she suffered as a result of Castillo's abuse. On April 23, 2015, Keith attempted suicide by overdosing on medication. After treatment at a hospital, it appears she was placed in the restrictive housing unit (“RHU”) on observation status-a protective form of confinement for inmates at risk of harming themselves or others.

         The instant claims arise from a single incident on April 27, 2015. That day, Keith was being released from observation in the RH U.Sergeant Ruples was working his post in the McCauley unit. At approximately 11:15 a.m., Keith arrived at the unit and Ruples directed Keith to go into cell 204-2, which was her new, general population cell assignment. Keith refused, telling Ruples that she had a separation order preventing her from being placed in the McCauley unit with Castillo.

         In response to Keith's concerns, Ruples called Correctional Program Supervisor Gierach. Gierach told Ruples that the separation order was no longer in effect, which he in turn had learned from Tarr. Ruples informed Gierach that he would try to separate Keith from Castillo within the unit by keeping them in different areas of the unit.

         After this call, Ruples again directed Keith to go into cell 204-2. Keith continued to refuse, stating she would not go into “that room or that side.” Keith also told Ruples that she would kill herself by cutting if he persisted in making her enter cell 204-2. Ruples next called the security supervisor on duty, Justmann. Nothing in the record indicates whether Ruples mentioned Keith's suicide threat at this time. When she arrived at the scene, Keith informed Justmann that she had told Ruples that she would kill herself if forced to go into cell 204-2.[3] Due to Keith's continued refusals to enter her assigned cell, Justmann placed Keith on temporary lock-up (“TLU”) status in the RHU pending issuance of a conduct report by Ruples for disobeying orders.[4] Ruples proceeded to issue a conduct report to Keith for her refusal to obey orders.[5]

         Justmann took over custody of Keith from Ruples and escorted her to the RHU. During intake at the RHU, Keith stated she would try to kill herself and then began to bang her head against nearby cell bars. Justmann and security staff members consulted with psychological services staff, and Keith was then placed back in observation status by prison psychologist Dr. Ferguson.

         The entire incident on April 27, 2015 took approximately forty-five minutes. The time between when Justmann reported to the McCauley unit and when Keith was moved into observation ...

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