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Long v. Hammer

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

August 8, 2017

PETER J. LONG, Plaintiff,
MICHAEL L. HAMMER, et al., Defendants.


          STEPHEN L. CROCKER Magistrate Judge.

         In this civil lawsuit, pro se plaintiff Peter J. Long claims that defendant Michael Hammer, the librarian at Prairie Du Chien Correctional Institution, retaliated against him in violation of his First Amendment rights, and that defendants Ronald Brewer, Chad Cline, Lisa Pettera, Mandy Mathson and Tim Haines failed to intervene to prevent or stop the retaliation from occurring. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment (dkt. 25) that is ripe for decision. I am granting defendants' motion for the reasons stated below.


         A. The Parties

         At all times relevant to this case, Peter Long was incarcerated at Prairie Du Chien Correctional Institution (“PDCI”), where all defendants are employed. Defendant Michael Hammer is the staff librarian; Ronald Brewer is the former education director; Chad Cline is the current education director; Lisa Pettera is the program supervisor; Mandy Mathson is an inmate complaint examiner; and Tim Haines is the warden.

         B. Long Asks Hammer to Print Letters to Newspapers

         In April 2014, Long was defending a civil foreclosure action in state court concerning an apartment building he owned. In that case, Long filed counterclaims against Acquired Capital II, L.P. for breach of good faith and fair dealing, consumer protection laws, federal banking laws and other state laws. Long wished to send press releases to several newspapers regarding the lawsuit because he believed that his claims exposed unlawful actions of U.S. Bank National Association that would be of public interest. Long also believed that the negative publicity generated by his press release would pressure Acquired Capital to settle with him.

         Long composed a letter regarding his counterclaims that he intended to send to the legal news departments of The Wall Street Journal, Milwaukee Sentinel Inc., The Post-Crescent, Capitol Newspapers, USA Today and Gannet Co. Inc. In his letter, Long described his background, education and history of arrests, as well as the foreclosure action and his counterclaims. In his letters Long asked the editors to publish articles regarding U.S. Bank National Association's treatment of its customers.

         On May 2, 2014, Long asked defendant Hammer to use the library printer to print six copies of Long's letter for Long to mail to the six news organizations. Hammer refused on the basis that PDCI policies limited use of the prison computers to create and print “legal” documents. Hammer's view was that even though Long's letter was related to his state court lawsuit, letters to news organizations were not “legal” in nature, they were “personal.” Long responded by telling Hammer that if he refused to print copies of the letters, then Long would file an inmate complaint against him.

         That same day (May 2, 2014), Long wrote to Education Director Brewer regarding Hammer's refusal to print Long's letters to the newspapers. Brewer responded to Long that PDCI's definition of legal correspondence includes letters to judges, courts and attorneys, but not to other non-legal sources, such as news organizations. Thus, Long was free to contact such organizations via handwritten letters, but not by using the institution's computer system. Brewer told Long that PDCI's policy was consistent with the policies of other correctional institutions, in that institution computers were not to be used for personal issues. Finally, Brewer told Long that if he disagreed with these policies, then he could file an inmate complaint.

         On May 9, 2014, Long submitted an inmate complaint challenging Hammer's refusal to print the letters. After Institution Complaint Examiner Mathson discussed Long's complaint with both Brewer and Long, Mathson dismissed the complaint, agreeing with Hammer and Brewer that the letters were not “legal” documents that could be printed from state computers. Warden Haines affirmed dismissal of Long's complaint.

         Long also sent two letters to Warden Haines' office complaining about Hammer's refusal to print the letters. Haines forwarded the letters to Program Supervisor Pettera for response. Pettera responded to Long's letters on May 19, 2014, agreeing with Brewer that Long's letters did not qualify as legal documents.

         C. May 27, 2014 Yelling Incident

         On May 27, 2014, Long was in the library during Period 9. At the end of the period, Hammer yelled at Long in a “very disrespectful and unprofessional manner.” (Long does not report specifically what Hammer yelled, but apparently it had something to do with inmates not being prepared to exit the library at the end of the period.)

         That same day, Long sent Brewer an interview/information request stating, “I must talk to you asap. Mr. Hammer lost control and began yelling at me today (5-27-14) at the end of Period 9 very disrespectfully. I have many witnesses, check the cameras.” Brewer contacted Hammer regarding Long's letter and directed Hammer to be sure that he used an appropriate tone and volume when talking to inmates. Brewer then wrote to Long to report that Brewer had “met with Mr. Hammer and discussed his voice tone and loudness when working with all inmates. The situation should improve.”

         Long also submitted an interview/information request to Warden Haines regarding Hammer's yelling, stating that Hammer had “lost control and became irate” and that he believed this was in retaliation for the offender complaint that Long had filed against Hammer the week before. On May 29, Haines responded, stating that Brewer had been contacted about the matter and had spoken with Hammer about it. Warden Haines advised Long that if he should have the same experience again, to contact Brewer so he would be able to deal with the situation in a timely and appropriate manner.

         Unmollified, Long submitted an offender complaint about the incident. Mathson investigated Long's complaint and contacted Brewer. Because Long already had contacted Brewer and Haines regarding the incident, Mathson found there was no need to conduct a parallel investigation in the ICRS. On June 3, 2014, Mathson recommended that the complaint be dismissed, with an informational copy sent to Brewer. Haines agreed with Mathson's recommendation and dismissed the complaint on June 13, 2014. Long appealed, but the correctional complaint examiner and the Secretary's designee affirmed dismissal.

         D. Denial of Law Library Use ...

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