United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
LAMONT E. WALLACE, Plaintiff,
LINDA A. ROESLER, Defendant.
STADTMUELLER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Lamont E. Wallace, who is incarcerated at Green Bay
Correctional Institution, proceeds in this matter pro
se. He filed a complaint alleging that Defendant
violated his constitutional rights. (Docket #1). Plaintiff
subsequently filed an amended complaint, modifying slightly
his allegations against Defendant. (Docket #7). The amended
complaint supersedes the first complaint and is the governing
pleading in this case. See Massey v. Helman, 196
F.3d 727, 735 (7th Cir. 1999). This matter comes before the
court on Plaintiff's petition to proceed without
prepayment of the filing fee (in forma pauperis).
(Docket #2). Plaintiff has been assessed and paid an initial
partial filing fee of $1.38. See 28 U.S.C. §
Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners
seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or
employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 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. §
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) (citations omitted);
accord Paul v. Marberry, 658 F.3d 702, 705 (7th Cir.
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 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)); see 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. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint's
allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 555 (citation omitted); Christopher, 384 F.3d at
considering whether a complaint states a claim, courts should
follow the principles set forth in Twombly by first,
"identifying 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, second, "assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement
to relief." Id.
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) (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 obliged
to give the 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,
alleges that on August 9, 2015, he was taken into custody at
the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility, presumably by
request of Defendant, a "probation and parole
supervisor." (Docket #7 at 2). Plaintiff complained that
his detention was illegal because Defendant had failed to
sign the written order directing that he be taken into
custody. Id. Three days later, Defendant signed the
order. Id. at 2-3. However, in retaliation for
Plaintiff having complained about the unsigned order,
Defendant altered her order to include new, more severe,
reasons for detaining him, including that he was dangerous.
Id. at 3. Plaintiff states that these changes led
"to him receiving the maximum time available for
reconfinement[, ]" on parole revocation. Id.
Plaintiff brings three claims based on these facts: false
imprisonment for the time he spent in custody without an
authenticated custody order; retaliation for exercising his
First Amendment right to lodge a complaint about Defendant;
and violation of his Fourteenth Amendment Due Process rights
based on Defendant's "arbitrary" modification
to her custody order. Id. Plaintiff seeks
compensatory and punitive damages totaling $50, 000.00.
Id. at 4.
cannot proceed on his claims against Defendant because she is
protected by absolute quasi-judicial immunity. Absolute
immunity for judicial acts was recognized at common law
"as a device for discouraging collateral attacks and
thereby helping to establish appellate procedures as the
standard system for correcting judicial error and to protect
judicial independence by insulating judges from vexatious
actions prosecuted by disgruntled litigants."
Richman v. Sheahan, 270 F.3d 430, 434-35 (7th Cir.
2001) (quotation and internal punctuation omitted).
Importantly for this case, the absolute immunity afforded to
judges also applies to the "quasi-judicial conduct"
of non-judicial officials "whose official duties have an
integral relationship with the judicial process."
Id. at 435.
Seventh Circuit applies a "functional approach" to
determine whether a government official is entitled to
absolute immunity. Wilson v. Kelkhoff, 86 F.3d 1438,
1443 (7th Cir. 1996). That is, courts look to the
"nature of the function performed, not the identity of
the actor who performed it" when deciding whether
absolute immunity is appropriate. Id. Under the
functional approach, both a judge performing "truly
judicial acts" as well as officials performing
"functionally comparable" acts in other contexts
are accorded absolute immunity. Id. (citing
Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 229 (1988);
Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 512 (1978)).
decisions of parole board members to grant, deny, or revoke
parole are absolutely immune from damages liability.
Walrath v. United States, 35 F.3d 277, 281 (1994).
In addition, activities that are "inexorably connected
with the execution of parole revocation procedures and are
analogous to judicial action" are also entitled to
absolute immunity. Id. at 282 (citation omitted).
For example, the Seventh Circuit affirmed application of
absolute immunity for a senior case analyst employed by the
United State Parole Commission who was accused of issuing an
arrest warrant for a parole revocation without probable
cause. Walrath, 35 F.3d at 282. In finding that the
analyst was entitled to absolute immunity, the court noted
that the issuing of an arrest warrant for a parole violation
has many judicial characteristics: "it involves the
exercise of discretion in applying the law to the facts of a
particular case, poses a heightened risk of vexatious
litigation, and is open to correction through ordinary
mechanisms of review." Id.; see also Smith v.
Gomez, 550 F.3d 613, 619 (7th Cir. 2008) (affirming
application of immunity for a parole agent who placed a
"parole hold" on the plaintiff and recommended
revocation for violating a condition of his parole).
alleged actions in this case fall squarely within the class
of conduct for which absolute immunity is provided.
Defendant's actions are nearly identical to those of the
senior case analyst in Walrath who, upon learning
from a probation officer that the plaintiff had violated a
condition of his probation, caused a warrant to issue for the
plaintiff's arrest. Walrath, 35 F.3d at 279.
Similarly here, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant, a parole
supervisor, issued an order that caused him to be taken into
custody and then revised that order to include additional
bases for the revocation of his parole. As the Seventh
Circuit noted in Walrath, the "discretionary
decision" of a supervisory parole officer "that
there [is] probable cause to believe that [the plaintiff] had
violated his parole" is quasi-judicial, and therefore
immune from suit. Id. at 282. Plaintiff cannot
recover damages from Defendant for her decision to have him
taken into custody for parole violations, regardless of
whether Plaintiff believes her reasons were unfounded or
exaggerated. Any error in Defendant's order was
correctable by the state's appellate procedures. See
Richman, 270 F.3d at 434-35.
has failed to state a claim on which relief can be granted,
and therefore his action must be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(b)(1). Generally, courts should grant litigants,
especially pro se litigants, leave to amend after
dismissal of the first complaint "unless it is
certain from the face of the complaint that any
amendment would be futile or otherwise unwarranted."
Tate v. SCR Med. Transp., 809 F.3d 343, 346 (7th
Cir. 2015) (emphasis in original). In this case, the Court
finds that allowing Plaintiff to amend his complaint would be
futile, because the factual underpinnings of Plaintiff's
alleged injuries stemming from Defendant's conduct cannot
form the basis of a claim for damages; Defendant is entitled
to immunity for the function she performed in the course of
Plaintiff's parole revocation. The Court's dismissal
will therefore be with prejudice.
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion for leave to
proceed without prepayment of the filing fee (in forma