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Carthage v. Radtke

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

June 14, 2017

CHARLES E. CARTHAGE, JR. Plaintiff,
v.
DYLAN RADTKE, MARC CLEMENTS, WILLIAM POLLARD, JIM SCHWOCHERT, and JOHN and JANE DOES, Defendants.

          ORDER

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

         Plaintiff, who is incarcerated at Dodge Correctional Institution (“Dodge”), filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his civil rights were violated. (Docket #1). This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (Docket #4). Plaintiff has been assessed and paid an initial partial filing fee of $43.43. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4).

         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. Id. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally “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). A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Gladney v. Pendelton Corr. Facility, 302 F.3d 773, 774 (7th Cir. 2002). The Court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327; Gladney, 302 F.3d at 774. “Malicious, ” although sometimes treated as a synonym for “frivolous, ” “is more usefully construed as intended to harass.” Lindell v. McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107, 1109 (7th Cir. 2003); Paul v. Marberry, 658 F.3d 702, 705 (7th Cir. 2011).

         To state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading system, the plaintiff is required to provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). It is not necessary for the plaintiff to plead specific facts; his statement need only “‘give the defendant fair notice of what the. . .claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)); Christopher v. Buss, 384 F.3d 879, 881 (7th Cir. 2004). However, a complaint that offers “‘labels and conclusions'” or “‘formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). To state a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, “‘that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. The complaint allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Christopher, 384 F.3d at 881.

         In considering whether a complaint states a claim, courts should first “identif[y] pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations. Id. If there are well- pleaded factual allegations, the Court must “assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id.

         To state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) he was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) the deprivation was visited upon him by a person or persons acting under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore v. County of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009); Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The Court is obliged to give Plaintiff's pro se allegations, “‘however inartfully pleaded, '” a liberal construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         Plaintiff alleges that he was arrested and jailed at the Brown County Jail (the “Jail”) in February 2013. (Docket #1 at 2). In or around March 2013, Jail guards allegedly provided inadequate treatment for his medical needs, including complaining about the time and expense required to transport Plaintiff to dialysis treatment and ultimately causing Plaintiff to be taken off of a kidney transplant waiting list. Id. at 2-3. Their complaints about Plaintiff led to a petition in Brown County Circuit Court to transfer Plaintiff to a state prison, where his care might be more easily provided. See Id. The officers also made allegedly false accusations that Plaintiff represented an escape risk, which made it difficult for Jail officials to transport him to medical appointments. Id.

         The court petition was granted and Plaintiff was transferred to Dodge. Id. at 3. Plaintiff believes that this was unlawful because he was a pretrial detainee, not a convicted prisoner. Id. He says was held at Dodge until April 22, 2014. Id.[1]

         Plaintiff alleges that he received further mistreatment while housed at Dodge. Id. For instance, he claims he was wrongfully treated as a high security or escape risk, which entailed Plaintiff being excessively shackled and restrained with electrical shock monitors while being transported to medical appointments. Id. at 3-5. He also asserts that several guards, named here as John and Jane Does, harassed and ridiculed him. Id. Further, Plaintiff alleges that he was subjected to baseless lockdowns and denied access to the law library. Id. Additionally, he says that being designated a security risk interfered with his healthcare, since providers were hesitant to come near him, and he was even denied a kidney transplant evaluation appointment. Id. at 4. Finally, he suggests in passing that prison guards “gave [him] medication improperly, ” though he does not say what medication it was, or what was improper about their administration of the medicine. See Id. at 5.

         As for Defendants Dylan Radtke (“Radtke”), Jim Schwochert (“Schwochert”), William Pollard (“Pollard”), and Marc Clements (“Clements”), all identified as current or former wardens or security directors at Dodge, Plaintiff does not allege that any of them engaged in any specific conduct alleged in the complaint. See Id. at 3. Instead, Plaintiff claims that each had personal knowledge of Plaintiff's ongoing maltreatment and, ostensibly, did not act to correct it. See Id. at 3, 5.

         Plaintiff's allegations are closely related to those he has raised in another action, Case No. 16-CV-326-JPS, also pending before this branch of the Court. In that case, the Court has allowed him to proceed on a claim against the Brown County Jail guards. The Court rejected Plaintiff's attempt to proceed simultaneously on claims arising at Dodge, as they are not sufficiently related to what occurred at the Jail to be heard in the same action. See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). This case represents Plaintiff's effort to raise Dodge-related claims in a separate action.

         Plaintiff's allegations largely suffice to cross the low threshold set by screening. His claims all grow from his allegation that he was wrongfully designated as an escape/security risk. First, according to him, this designation was wrongfully and unjustifiably imposed, in violation of his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Only transgressions upon protected liberty interests can give rise to due process claims. Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 221 (2005). A liberty interest may arise from the Constitution itself, or it may arise from an interest created by state laws or policies. Id.

         Normally, inmates have no protectable liberty interest in a particular security classification under the Due Process Clause, and Plaintiff points to no Wisconsin state policy or regulation giving rise to such an interest. See Kincaid v. Duckworth, 689 F.2d 702, 704 (7th Cir. 1982); Miller v. Henman, 804 F.2d 421, 423 (7th Cir. 1986). Yet Plaintiff's claim may still proceed if the restrictions placed on him imposed an atypical and significant hardship as compared to the ordinary incidents of prison life. Wilkinson, 545 U.S. at 223; Sandin v. Conner, 525 U.S. 472, 484 (1995); Earl v. Racine County Jail, 718 F.3d 689, 691 (7th Cir. 2013) (an inmate's liberty interest “is affected only if the more restrictive conditions are particularly harsh compared to ordinary prison life or if he remains subject to those conditions for a significantly long time”). Moreover, as a pretrial detainee, Plaintiff may not be subjected to punishment, although he would have no claim if his security classification was “reasonably related to a legitimate penological objective.” Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979); Holly v. Wollfolk, 415 F.3d 678, 679- 80 (7th Cir. 2005).

         Plaintiff's allegations suggest that his escape-risk classification subjected him to years of unnecessary shackling, restraints, and restrictions. In light of the generous standard of review applied at screening, the Court finds that his factual assertions reflect atypical and significant hardships in relation to ordinary prison life. Moreover, Plaintiff alleges that his designation was issued and maintained on the basis of lies by Brown County Jail officials, and it does not appear that Plaintiff was afforded any procedural ...


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