United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
KURTIS D. JONES, Plaintiff,
WARDEN SCOTT ECKSTEIN, SGT. MENNING, C.O. HEFFERNAN, C.O. DETERING, C.O. SPENCER, DR. HARRIS-FORBES, DR. SCHWARTZ-OSCAR, JOHN KIND, LT. ANDREW WICKMAN, LT. REBECCA LENZ, LT. DANIEL CUSHING, SGT. BONNIN, and SGT. LENNOYE, Defendants.
Stadtmueller, U.S. District Judge
Kurtis D. Jones, who is incarcerated at Green Bay
Correctional Institution (“GBCI”), proceeds in
this matter pro se. He filed a complaint alleging
that Defendants violated his constitutional rights. (Docket
#1). This matter comes before the court on Plaintiff's
petition to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee
(in forma pauperis). (Docket #2). In light of
Plaintiff's extreme indigence, the Court has waived
payment of an initial partial filing fee. See
(Docket #7); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4).
court shall 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); Hutchinson ex rel. Baker v. Spink, 126 F.3d
895, 900 (7th Cir. 1997). 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.
“Malicious, ” although sometimes treated as a
synonym for “frivolous, ” “is more usefully
construed as intended to harass.” Lindell v.
McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107, 1109-10 (7th Cir. 2003)
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)). However, a complaint that offers mere
“labels and conclusions” or a “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).
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. Section 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 Defendants, all of whom work at GBCI, failed to
respond appropriately to his various acts of self-harm from
May 9 to May 14, 2017. (Docket #1 at 4-8). Plaintiff's
allegations suffice at the screening stage to state a claim
for deliberate indifference to his serious medical need-here,
his risk of suicide-in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 733 (7th Cir.
2001). To state a claim of deliberate indifference to a
serious medical need, the plaintiff must show: (1) an
objectively serious medical condition; (2) that the
defendants knew of the condition and were deliberately
indifferent in treating it; and (3) this indifference caused
the plaintiff some injury. Gayton v. McCoy, 593 F.3d
610, 620 (7th Cir. 2010). The deliberate indifference inquiry
here, like that applicable to conditions of confinement, has
two components. “The official must have subjective
knowledge of the risk to the inmate's health, and the
official also must disregard that risk.” Id.
Even if an official is aware of the risk to the inmate's
health, “he is free from liability if he
‘responded reasonably to the risk, even if the harm
ultimately was not averted.'” Id. (quoting
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 843 (1994)).
Negligence cannot support a claim of deliberate indifference,
nor is medical malpractice a constitutional violation.
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105-06 (1976);
Roe v. Elyea, 631 F.3d 843, 857 (7th Cir. 2011).
construing Plaintiff's allegations, Defendants knew of
his self-harming activities and took little or no action to
abate them. Further factual development may undermine the
knowledge component of Plaintiff's claim. Additional
facts may also reveal the reasonableness of Defendants'
responses to Plaintiff's self-harming behavior.
Nevertheless, these and other issues must be left for a later
stage of these proceedings.
allegations confirm, however, that two of the named
defendants were not involved in the events of the Complaint.
Plaintiff does not allege that John Kind
(“Kind”), GBCI's security director, had any
direct role in addressing Plaintiff's self-harming issues
in May 2017. Rather, Plaintiff merely alleges that
“[h]e is legally responsible for the overall security
of staffs and inmates[.]” (Docket #1 at 3)
(capitalization altered). As the above-cited precedent shows,
even if this fact is taken as true, it is insufficient to
impose Eighth Amendment liability on Kind. Similarly,
Plaintiff makes no mention of Warden Scott Eckstein's
(“Eckstein”) knowledge of or responses to
Plaintiff's May 2017 activities. Both of these defendants
lacked subjective knowledge of Plaintiff's risk of
self-harm, and so Plaintiff cannot proceed on a deliberate
indifference claim against them. See Estate of Novack ex
rel. Turbin v. County of Wood, 226 F.3d 525, 529 (7th
Cir. 2000) (“In order to be liable under the Eighth
Amendment, a prison official must be cognizant of the
significant likelihood that an inmate may imminently seek to
take his own life and must fail to take reasonable steps to
prevent the inmate from performing this act.”).
also desires to challenge GBCI's policies with regard to
suicidal inmates. (Docket #1 at 9). Such a claim would be
leveled against Eckstein, GBCI's warden, in his official
capacity. A suit against Eckstein in his official capacity is
akin to a suit against the Department of Corrections
(“DOC”). Grieveson v. Anderson, 538 F.3d
763, 771 (7th Cir. 2008). The DOC is a state agency, which
means it is considered an “arm[ ] of the state.”
Kroll v. Board of Trustees of Univ. of Ill., 934
F.2d 904, 907 (7th Cir. 1991). It, like the state of
Wisconsin, enjoys immunity under the Eleventh Amendment from
civil rights lawsuits filed by citizens. Will v. Mich.
Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66-67 (1989).
Wisconsin's immunity extends to claims for damages in
Section 1983 lawsuits. Brown v. Budz, 398 F.3d 904,
917-18 (7th Cir. 2005). Here, money damages are all that
Plaintiff seeks. (Docket #1 at 10). Therefore, Plaintiff may
not proceed on his policy claim on the basis of sovereign
immunity under the Eleventh Amendment.
the Court finds that Plaintiff may proceed on the following
claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b): Deliberate
indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs, namely
his risk of suicide in May 2017, in violation of the Eighth
Amendment, against all Defendants except for Kind and
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion
for leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee
(in forma pauperis) (Docket #2) be and the same is
IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendants John Kind and
Scott Eckstein be and the ...