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Winston v. Clark

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

September 25, 2017



         1. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Michael Winston (“Winston”), an inmate at Columbia Correctional Institution who was formerly incarcerated at the Milwaukee County Jail (the “Jail”), brought this action against former Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke (“Clarke”) and several officers and medical personnel employed by Milwaukee County-Keona Garth-Dickens, Joshua Mikulecky, D. Adams, D. Blue, Officer Brooks, Officer Copeland, D. Brodsky, Christine Becker, Dorothy Greer, and Frederick Porlucos (collectively, the “Jail Staff”)-for alleged violations of his civil rights.[1] Specifically, Winston alleges that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs for failing to properly treat MRSA infections he contracted while incarcerated at the Jail and for keeping him in an unsanitary cell where he contracted those infections. (Docket #54-1 and #57 at 2-3). Winston also alleges that the Jail's clothing and shoe policy deprives inmates of the basic necessities of civilized life. Id.

         Winston filed a motion for summary judgment, as did all of the defendants, and those motions are fully briefed. For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant the defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismiss this case without prejudice.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides the mechanism for seeking summary judgment. Rule 56 states 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); see Boss v. Castro, 816 F.3d 910, 916 (7th Cir. 2016). A “genuine” dispute of material fact is created when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court construes all facts and reasonable inferences in a light most favorable to the non-movant. Bridge v. New Holland Logansport, Inc., 815 F.3d 356, 360 (7th Cir. 2016). In assessing the parties' proposed facts, the Court must not weigh the evidence or determine witness credibility; the Seventh Circuit instructs that “we leave those tasks to factfinders.” Berry v. Chicago Transit Auth., 618 F.3d 688, 691 (7th Cir. 2010).

         3. RELEVANT FACTS

         The following facts are taken from the parties' proposed findings of fact, the responses thereto, the declarations in support of the proposed facts, and related exhibits. (Docket #71, #72, #83, #84, #85, #92, #95, #97, #104). At all times relevant to this case, Clarke was the Sheriff of Milwaukee County and the Jail Staff defendants were employed by Milwaukee County and worked at or for the Jail. Winston was incarcerated at the Jail from June 6, 2012 to March 26, 2014.

         3.1 Winston's Confinement in the Jail

         When Winston was detained at the Jail on June 6, 2012, he received one set of clean clothing and flip flops per Jail policy, but no tennis shoes. Jail policy allows for the provision of tennis shoes to inmates who require them for medical purposes, but that was not the case for Winston. He was given a change of clothes six days after being admitted to the Jail. Winston says his attire was inadequate because, as a result of having only one set of clothes, he was forced to remain in sweaty clothing after playing basketball and, without tennis shoes, he was forced to run around the court in bare feet, causing injury. Inmates are not required to play basketball at the Jail.

         In October 2012, on one occasion when Winston was playing basketball, he fell and injured his hand, and he claims to have been in severe pain while waiting for treatment. He ultimately received treatment for his hand, but he believes his hand healed improperly.

         In July 2013, Winston was moved to a “special needs” cell at the Jail. He claims to have verbally complained to Jail staff about the unsanitary conditions of his cell, including smeared feces on the walls. He was moved to a different cell within the special needs unit, but Winston says he confronted the same unsanitary conditions in that cell. In August 2013, Winston began complaining of irritation to his left eye, for which he was treated by medical staff at the Jail. Soon afterward, Winston was transferred to Mendota Mental Health Institute (“Mendota”) for unrelated reasons, and was treated for the infection in his eye, which staff at Mendota determined was MRSA.[2] Winston was transferred back to the Jail on September 13, 2013 with a clean bill of health. Winston was put back into a cell about which he previously complained and voiced his unhappiness to Jail staff about its uncleanliness. He switched cells in late September.

         In November 2013, Winston began complaining of a boil on his leg. A culture taken from his thigh showed that it contained MRSA. Throughout the month of November, Winston received treatment at the Jail, including a nurse performing an incision and draining the boil and regular dressing changes. The treatment was resolved in early December 2013 when the wound was reported to have closed.

         3.2 The Jail's Grievance Policy

         The Jail maintains a grievance policy that prescribes the steps inmates must take to submit their complaints about non-emergency issues related to their health and welfare or the services they are provided. (Docket #83-3 Ex. C). An inmate with a non-emergency complaint must fill out a grievance form and present it to an officer, who attempts to resolve the grievance himself and records, on the back of the grievance form, the steps taken toward that end. Id. A lieutenant reviews the officer's work and responds to the grievance in writing. Id. The grievance and response are logged in a grievance database. Id. The inmate, if he is unsatisfied with the resolution of his grievance, can appeal to the captain and then to the jail commander for a final decision. Id.

         The parties dispute whether Winston filed grievances with the Jail about his medical issues and the Jail's clothing and shoe policy before instituting this lawsuit. Additional facts regarding Winston's participation in the grievance process are provided below where relevant to the Court's analysis.

         4. ANALYSIS

         The defendants move for summary judgment on two grounds. First, the defendants argue that Winston failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to his claims against them, which he is required to do by law prior to filing suit. (Docket #94 at 6-7). Second, as to the Jail Staff, the defendants argue that Winston is not entitled to relief on his deliberate indifference claims because the defendants were not deliberately indifferent to Winston's medical needs or, if they were, they are entitled to qualified immunity. Id. at 7-15. Finally, the defendants argue that Winston is not entitled to relief on his claim regarding the Jail's clothing and shoe policy because it is not an unconstitutional condition of confinement. Id. at 15-20. The Court will address the question of exhaustion first, because “[a] suit filed by a prisoner before administrative remedies have been exhausted must be dismissed; the district court lacks discretion to resolve the claim on the merits[.]” Perez v. Wis. Dep't of Corr., 182 F.3d 532, 535 (7th Cir. 1999).

         4.1 Exhaustion of ...

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