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Murphy v. Kamphuis

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

June 20, 2017

SHAWN MURPHY, Plaintiff,


          HON. PAMELA PEPPER United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Shawn Murphy is representing himself, and is a prisoner at Waupun Correctional Institution. He filed this lawsuit alleging that the defendants violated his rights under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §12132. The case is before the court for a decision on the plaintiff's request to proceed without prepaying the full filing fee (Dkt. No. 2), for screening of his complaint (Dkt. No. 1), and a decision on the plaintiff's motion to appoint counsel (Dkt. No. 12) and motion for relief of communication barriers (Dkt. No. 13).

         I. Request to Proceed without Prepaying the Full Filing Fee (Dkt. No. 2)

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) applies to this case because the plaintiff was incarcerated when he filed his complaint. 28 U.S.C. §1915. The PLRA allows a court to give an incarcerated plaintiff the ability to proceed with his lawsuit without prepaying the case filing fee, as long as he meets certain conditions. One of those conditions is a requirement that the plaintiff pay an initial partial filing fee. 28 U.S.C. §1915(b). Once the plaintiff pays the initial partial filing fee, the court may allow the plaintiff to pay the balance of the $350 filing fee over time through deductions from his prisoner account. Id.

         On November 7, 2016, the court entered an order requiring the plaintiff to pay an initial partial filing fee of $1.83. Dkt. No. 6. The plaintiff paid that fee on January 13, 2017. Accordingly, the court grants his request to proceed without prepaying the full filing fee and allows him to pay the balance of the $350.00 filing fee over time from his prisoner account, as described at the end of this order.

         II. Screening of the Plaintiff's Complaint

         A. Applicable Law

         The law requires the court to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity, or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. §1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the plaintiff raises 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. 28 U.S.C. §1915A(b).

         To state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading system, the plaintiff must provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A plaintiff does not need to plead specific facts, and 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)). A complaint that offers “labels and conclusions, ” however, 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. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).

         In considering whether a complaint states a claim, courts follow the principles set forth in Twombly. First, they must “identify[] pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. A plaintiff must support legal conclusions with factual allegations. Id. Second, if there are well-pleaded factual allegations, courts 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 the defendants: 1) deprived him of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and 2) acted under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore v. Cnty. of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Kramer v. Vill. of N. Fond du Lac, 384 F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The court is obligated to give the plaintiff's pro se allegations, “however inartfully pleaded, ” a liberal construction. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         B. The Plaintiff's Allegations

         The plaintiff is incarcerated at Waupun Correctional Institution (Waupun). Dkt. No. 1 at 1. Defendant Nikki Kamphuis is the business office manager and ADA coordinator at Waupun. Id. at 2. Defendant James Muenchow is the institution complaint examiner there. Id. at 5.

         The plaintiff has “serious mental health problems, ” and he allegedly needs “accommodations for equal access to the court.” Id. at 2. He arrived at Waupun on March 25, 2014. Id. On May 2, 2014, the plaintiff asked ADA Coordinator Kamphuis for help to try to fix “the court mess I found myself in.” Id. The plaintiff asked for “an accommodation for some kind of legal aid” because he couldn't help himself due to his “mental health and documented limitations.” Id. at 3. Kamphuis denied the plaintiff's requests, stating that Waupun doesn't provide help “doing lawsuits.” Id.

         On May 28, 2014, the plaintiff asked for more time in the law library due to problems using the computer (he states that he could copy only two or three letters at a time). Id. Kamphuis denied the request. Id. She said she contacted Waupun's education director to research the plaintiff's claim that he had learning problems, but she denied the plaintiff's request for more library time without documentation. Id. The plaintiff sent a request slip to Kamphuis, telling her that there were records at Waupun documenting his learning disorder and mental health issues. Id. Kamphuis told the plaintiff to provide her the records, but he couldn't get copies of the records because he had no income. Id. Kamphuis would not give the plaintiff a legal loan to get the records. Id.

         Kamphuis denied the plaintiff's requests for accommodations on April 7, 2015; July 2, 2015; September 21, 2015; and November 7, 2015. Id. at 4. At that point, she wouldn't give him any “DOC-2530 accommodation forms, nor would she reply to any information request.” Id.

         The plaintiff asserts that since May 30, 2014, Kamphuis repeatedly has told the plaintiff that he needed to give her documentation of his disabilities, and he has responded that the documentation is in the records at Waupun. Id. The plaintiff says that he can't get the copies on his own. Id. He states that he discovered that Kamphuis was lying to him, because one day he went to library to look at institution policy on the ADA, and he discovered that under policy #300.00.35 the ADA coordinator should ...

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