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Castellano v. Spotts

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

November 3, 2017



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

         1. INTRODUCTION

         On December 27, 2016, the Court screened Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (his operative pleading) and allowed him to proceed on a claim of First Amendment retaliation. (Docket #16 at 5). On October 2, 2017, Defendant moved for summary judgment. (Docket #49). Plaintiff responded to the motion on October 16, 2017, and Defendant replied on October 30, 2017. (Response, Docket #55; Reply, Docket #56). For the reasons explained below, Defendant's motion must be granted.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides 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 fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit” under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of fact is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. The court construes all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Bridge v. New Holland Logansport, Inc., 815 F.3d 356, 360 (7th Cir. 2016).

         3. BACKGROUND

         3.1 Plaintiff's Failure to Dispute the Material Facts

         The relevant facts are undisputed because Plaintiff failed to dispute them. In the Court's scheduling order, entered January 24, 2017, Plaintiff was warned about the requirements for opposing a motion for summary judgment. (Docket #20 at 2-3). Accompanying that order were copies of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and Civil Local Rule 56, both of which describe in detail the form and contents of a proper summary judgment submission. In Defendant's motion for summary judgment, she too warned Plaintiff about the requirements for his response as set forth in Federal and Local Rules 56. (Docket #49). He was provided with additional copies of those Rules along with Defendant's motion. Id. at 3-9. In connection with her motion, Defendant filed a supporting statement of material facts that complied with the applicable procedural rules. (Docket #53). It contained short, numbered paragraphs concisely stating those facts which Defendant proposed to be beyond dispute, with supporting citations to the attached evidentiary materials. See id.

         As provided in Civil Local Rule 56, Plaintiff's responsive materials needed to contain “a concise response to the moving party's statement of facts, ” including “a reproduction of each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement of facts followed by a response to each paragraph, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, declarations, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon[.]” See Civil L. R. 56(b)(2). Plaintiff's October 16 response falls far short of compliance with these requirements. The majority of the document is a disorderly series of numbered paragraphs which offer legal argument. See generally (Docket #55).[1] In the few of those paragraphs which even mention a “statement of facts, ” Plaintiff's attention appears to be directed to that section of Defendant's legal brief, not her separate statement of facts. See, e.g., Id. at 1 (discussing material found on “page 5, ¶2” of Defendant's “statement of facts, ” which correlates with that portion of Defendant's legal brief, not her actual statement of facts). None of those paragraphs cite any evidence at all, even though Plaintiff does attach some exhibits to his response. Id. at 1-3; (Docket #55-1).

         Despite being twice warned of the strictures of summary judgment procedure, Plaintiff ignored those rules by failing to properly dispute Defendant's proffered facts in the correct form, and with citations to relevant, admissible evidence. Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003) (“A district court is not required to wade through improper denials and legal argument in search of a genuinely disputed fact. And a mere disagreement with the movant's asserted facts is inadequate if made without reference to specific supporting material. In short, judges are not like pigs, hunting for truffles buried in briefs.”) (citations and quotations omitted). Though the Court is required to liberally construe a pro se plaintiff's filings, it cannot act as his lawyer, and it cannot delve through the record to find favorable evidence for him. Thus, the Court will, unless otherwise stated, deem Defendant's facts undisputed for purposes of deciding her motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Civ. L. R. 56(b)(4); Hill v. Thalacker, 210 F. App'x 513, 515 (7th Cir. 2006) (noting that district courts have discretion to enforce procedural rules against pro se litigants).[2]

         3.2 Relevant Facts

         The following facts are material to the Court's disposition.[3] In 1993, Plaintiff sexually assaulted his fourteen-year-old sister-in-law. In 2000, Plaintiff pled guilty to a number of sexual assault and exploitation offenses, resulting in a substantial prison term. Plaintiff was housed in Racine Correctional Institution (“RCI”) to serve his sentence. Plaintiff had a parole hearing in January 2009 wherein he received an endorsement for placement in the SO-2 sex offender treatment program. Plaintiff mentioned the endorsement to Defendant, who at the time was a psychological associate who facilitated sex offender treatment at RCI. Defendant informed Plaintiff that many inmates had such endorsements, but that there was a long waiting list for entry into the SO-2 program.

         Later in 2009, prior to another parole hearing, Plaintiff submitted a form to the parole commission complaining about the SO-2 wait list, as well as disputing his need for sex offender treatment at all. On January 5, 2010, Plaintiff was placed in an SO-2 treatment group with Defendant. Two days later, he had the anticipated parole hearing. There, apparently unaware of his placement, the parole commission gave Plaintiff another SO-2 endorsement. During that hearing, Plaintiff had a discussion about his SO- 2 placement with parole commissioner Steven Landreman (“Landreman”). As the Court described in its screening order:

The plaintiff had previously complained to Landreman that “his SOT/SO-2 recommendation(s) [had fallen] on deaf ears.” (Docket #15 at 2). Landreman told the plaintiff “that he had just talked with [Spotts] about the . . . allegation that [the plaintiff's] SO-2 endorsements fell on deaf ears.” Id. at 4. Landreman ...

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