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Williams v. Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

May 5, 2017

PATRICIA WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
WISCONSIN DEPARTMENT OF WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT, DIVISION OF VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION, NICHOLAS LAMPONE, DELORI NEWTON and ENID GLENN, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          BARBARA B. CRABB District Judge.

         Pro se plaintiff Patricia Williams receives services from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to help her find employment. One of the services she receives is the development of an “individualized plan for employment, ” which outlines the duties and responsibilities of both plaintiff and the division in plaintiff's employment search. In this case, plaintiff is proceeding on claims that defendant Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and several of its employees violated the Rehabilitation Act by eliminating payments for car repairs and work clothes from the list of vocational services that the state would provide as part of plaintiff's individualized plan for employment; and (2) failing to consult plaintiff before removing those services from the plan.

         Several motions are before the court: (1) defendants' motion for summary judgment, dkt. #24; (2) plaintiff's “motion to dismiss defendants summary judgment, ” dkt. #37; (3) plaintiff's “motion to reply, ” dkt. #41; (4) plaintiff's “motion for leave to file sur-reply memorandum, ” dkt. #45; and (5) plaintiff's “memorandum and motion for consolidation of both cases & add other defendants, ” dkt. #46. For the reasons explained below, I am granting plaintiff's “motion to reply, ” denying plaintiff's remaining motions and granting defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         OPINION

         I. PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS

         Plaintiff's motions can be resolved without extended discussion. First, plaintiff's “motion to dismiss defendants' summary judgment” is not easy to follow, but I understand plaintiff to be asking the court to strike defendants' summary judgment motion on the ground that defendants included with the materials they served on her documents for a case filed by a different plaintiff in a different judicial district. That is not a ground for striking or denying a summary judgment motion. Plaintiff does not allege that defendants failed to serve her with all the summary judgment materials related to this case, so plaintiff suffered no prejudice from this mistake. She was free to disregard any documents that did not relate to her case.

         Second, in plaintiff's one-paragraph “motion to reply, ” which she filed approximately one week after defendants filed their summary judgment reply brief, plaintiff does not specify what she is requesting. However, the following day, plaintiff filed belated responses to defendants' proposed findings of fact, dkt. #42, so I assume she was asking for permission to file those. Defendants later submitted a reply to those responses, dkt. #44, so I see no harm to defendants in considering plaintiff's responses. Accordingly, I will construe plaintiff's “motion to reply” as a motion to file untimely responses to defendants' proposed findings of fact and I will grant the motion.

         Third, plaintiff does not explain in her “motion for leave to file sur-reply memorandum” why she wants to file a sur-reply brief. She says generally that she wants to “address[] several arguments made by Defendants in their reply memorandum, ” but she does identify what those arguments are and she did not attach a proposed sur-reply to her motion. In any event, I did not need to consider any arguments that defendants raised in their reply brief, so I will deny this motion as unnecessary.

         Fourth, plaintiff seeks to consolidate this case with another case she filed in this court, Williams v. Department of Workforce Development, No. 16-cv-830-bbc (W.D. Wis.). Because this case is ripe for a decision on summary judgment and case no. 16-cv-830-bbc is just getting started, it makes little sense to combine the two cases. Accordingly, I will deny plaintiff's request for consolidation.

         II. DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         A. Background

         Plaintiff is proceeding on two claims, both of which arise under the Rehabilitation Act and relate to her “individualized plan for employment.” First, she says that defendants violated the Act by removing "car repairs" and "work clothes" from the list of items that the state would pay for. Second, she says that defendants violated the Act by failing to consult her before removing those items.

         Plaintiff devotes much of her 53-page summary judgment brief to a number of other issues that are outside the scope of her complaint and the court's screening order, such as allegations of discrimination and retaliation. Because a plaintiff cannot amend her complaint in a summary judgment brief, Anderson v. Donahoe, 699 F.3d 989, 997 (7th Cir. 2012), I decline to consider these other issues.

         Defendants ask the court to grant them summary judgment as to both of the claims on which plaintiff is proceeding, raising multiple procedural and substantive arguments: (1) the individual defendants cannot be sued under the Rehabilitation Act; (2) plaintiff did not exhaust her administrative remedies as to her claim that defendants improperly removed car repairs from her individualized plan for employment; (3) defendant Department of Workforce Development did not violate the Rehabilitation Act by eliminating car repairs and work clothes from her individual plan for employment because those services were not necessary to achieve plaintiff's employment goals; (4) plaintiff agreed to the changes in her individualized plan for employment, so she was not denied “informed choice”; and (5) the individual defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. In addition, defendants argue that the court is required to give “substantial deference” to the ...


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