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Goodvine v. Vandewalle

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

January 17, 2018

BRETT VANDEWALLE, et al., Defendants.


          William C. Griesbach, United States District Court Chief Judge

         Plaintiff Christopher Goodvine, an inmate serving a state sentence at Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI), brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the warden, the security director, and various correctional officers and staff, alleging that they had violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment by their deliberate indifference to his stated intent to harm himself. Goodvine alleges in his complaint that he is seriously mentally ill and has been diagnosed with uncontrollable urges to engage in cutting. ECF No. 1 at 2. He further alleges that after he was placed on “observation status” or “suicide watch” on May 24, 2016, because of his “suicidal gestures/ideations, ” staff failed to monitor him and he attempted suicide and seriously injured himself. The defendants are alleged to have then “acted to conceal their deliberate indifference by destroying official documents.” The complaint alleges that the defendants compounded their violation of Goodvine's constitutional rights by denying him medical attention for his injuries and placing him in painful eight-point restraints. Id.

         Goodvine filed his action on July 8, 2016, and paid the full filing fee on August 8, 2016. On September 20, 2016, Judge Clevert, to whom the case was originally assigned, entered a screening order pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), which dismissed the warden and supervisory personnel with no direct involvement but allowed the case to proceed against the psychologist, correctional officers and health services staff that Goodvine alleged were directly involved. ECF No. 12. On March 27, 2017, the case was reassigned to Judge Pepper, and then reassigned to me on October 2, 2017. On January 3, 2018, I held an evidentiary hearing on the defendants' motion for sanctions against Goodvine for filing a false and fraudulent declaration in an attempt to defraud the defendants and the court. ECF No. 71. As explained more fully below, based on the evidence presented, I find by clear and convincing evidence that Goodvine filed a false and fraudulent declaration and then lied about it under oath, and will grant the defendants' motion. But before discussing the evidence presented at the hearing, it will be helpful to set forth the background and procedural history of the case to provide the context in which the specific issue before the court arose.


         The sworn declaration that is the subject of the defendants' motion was purportedly signed by GBCI Correctional Officer Davee McClinton on July 4, 2016. The declaration begins: “Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1746, I, Officer McClinton, swear the following is true and correct, as dictated by myself and written by Christopher Goodvine, on 6/6/16 and again on 7/4/16.” ECF No. 3. It then states that McClinton was assigned to monitor Goodvine after he was placed on observation status at GBCI on May 24, 2016. ECF No. 3. It states that even though Dr. Forbes, the psychologist who ordered Goodvine's placement in observation, and Captain Brett VandeWalle, the supervisor of the observation unit, told McClinton that Goodvine was on “‘DIRECT' / ‘ONE-ON-ONE' OBS, ” meaning McClinton was to remain directly outside Goodvine's cell and watch him constantly, McClinton was given other assignments which made constant supervision of Goodvine impossible. Id. The declaration further states McClinton told VandeWalle that Goodvine asked to be placed in a restraint chair because he was feeling suicidal and even showed McClinton a small cut on his finger. Later that morning, Goodvine seriously injured himself by cutting his arm. According to the declaration, when McClinton then told VandWalle he had been unable to monitor Goodvine “100%” of the time, VandeWalle and Dr. Forbes told McClinton to “‘redo the paperwork' and this time log only ‘15-minute checks.'” Id. When McClinton saw the new “‘Obs Log, ' it said nothing about ‘DIRECT OBS' and instead mentioned only Goodvine's placement in OBS.” Id. The declaration states that McClinton first brought this to Goodvine's attention on June 6, 2016, and signed a statement then, which Goodvine stated he sent home. At the bottom of the declaration is the notation “dictated and witnessed/signed by, ” beneath which appears McClinton's signature followed by a slash and further writing that is scratched out. Id.

         The defendants contend that Goodvine tricked Officer McClinton into signing a blank piece of paper on which he later wrote the entire contents of the July 4, 2016 declaration, which he then filed along with his complaint on July 8, 2016. The declaration was accompanied by a motion to seal it and for a protective order to prevent the defendants from searching Goodvine or his possessions for copies and directing them to preserve all evidence related to the May 24, 2016 incident. ECF No. 2. Filings accompanied by a motion to seal automatically remain under seal until the court rules on the motion. Judge Clevert denied the motion to seal in his order screening the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, but because of a clerical error, the declaration was not unsealed until an attorney recruited by Judge Clevert to assist Goodvine in mediating the claim referred to it in a conversation with the attorneys for the defendants. As a result, the defendants did not receive a copy of the declaration until almost a year after the case was filed. In any event, shortly after receiving the alleged declaration purportedly signed by McClinton, the defendants cancelled the mediation and on July 24, 2017, filed their motion requesting the court to exercise its inherent power to dismiss the action with prejudice and assess a strike against Goodvine pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g) as a sanction for filing a false and fraudulent declaration with the court. ECF Nos. 70, 71, 73.

         Goodvine raised a series of procedural objections to the defendants' motion and persisted in claiming that McClinton had told him what he wrote in the declaration and signed it thereafter. In the meantime, Goodvine had also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on June 2, 2017, asking the court to order the defendants to transfer him to another facility on the grounds that the defendants and other GBCI personnel had been retaliating against him by, among other things, encouraging him to attempt suicide and injure himself, intercepting and destroying his mail, and denying him treatment for his mental condition. ECF No. 67. The June 2, 2017 motion was similar to a previous motion Goodvine had filed in the case back on September 15, 2016, in which he claimed that the warden and/or administrative staff had interfered with his attempts to file motions in the case; lobbied his psychiatrist to deny him his anti-psychotic medication Seroquel, after which he had a “suicidal episode;” placed him in segregation; and instituted a policy of prohibiting correctional officers from speaking to him or having any contact with him. As a result of the “no officer contact” policy, Goodvine claimed that on August 13 and again on August 16, 2016, he was unable to flag down an officer and let them know he was feeling suicidal, and on both occasions, he seriously cut himself and had to be transported to the local hospital for medical attention. At that time, he requested an order enjoining the defendants from interfering with his mail, restoring his medication and removing the no officer contact policy. ECF No. 11.

         In an order entered on October 24, 2016, Judge Clevert denied most of the relief requested but did order an evidentiary hearing on why Goodvine's medication had been stopped. ECF No. 31. Before the hearing was held, however, the court was informed that Dr. Maier, who had treated Goodvine in the past, took over Goodvine's psychiatric care and had reinstated the medication. Dr. Maier told the court that since Goodvine had been diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder, “he has been determined to engage in self-harm events to manipulate the system.” ECF No. 40 at 2. Although Dr. Maier noted that in the past he had not observed that Seroquel had any positive or negative effect, he issued a new prescription for the medication because “there is no benefit to engaging in a power struggle with the plaintiff and the plaintiff reports the medication is helpful.” Id.

         Notwithstanding his efforts to obtain relief from the alleged retaliatory violations of his constitutional rights at GBCI in this case, Goodvine filed a separate lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin on October 24, 2016, challenging the “no officer contact” restriction and the lack of effective policies and practices for treatment of inmates with serious mental illnesses. Goodvine v. Litscher, et al, W.D. Case No. 16-703, ECF No. 1. Goodvine alleged in that case that he had seriously injured himself on several occasions by cutting himself, including on one occasion at St. Vincent Hospital where he was taken after overdosing on medication he had been surreptitiously storing. On June 27, 2017, Goodvine filed a motion for immediate screening and for an expedited hearing on a motion for preliminary injunction in his Western District action. In a July 5, 2017 order screening the complaint in that case, Judge Conley noted that Goodvine had filed a substantially similar case in June 2016, which the court had ordered transferred to this district where GBCI is located. That case was dismissed before the transfer occurred, however, after Goodvine failed to pay the filing fee. Judge Conley also noted that Goodvine had commenced the instant action on July 8, 2016, which was still pending. (Goodvine also has a third case pending in this district, Goodvine v. Fond du Lac County, et al., Case No. 17-C-0390-NJ, in which he has asserted a similar deliberate indifference claim against the officers and staff of the Fond du Lac County Jail for failing to prevent him from injuring himself.) Although Judge Conley recognized the substantial overlap between this case and the new case Goodvine filed in the Western District both factually and legally, and the fact that both GBCI and St. Vincent Hospital were located in the Eastern District, he declined to change venue sua sponte since Goodvine had also sued the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections and his deputy, both of whom resided and worked in the Western District. ECF No. 10. Judge Conley concluded Goodvine had stated claims against at least some of the defendants, ordered those defendants to respond to the complaint, and also ordered the defendants to file an expedited response to Goodvine's motion for a preliminary injunction by July 17, 2017. Id.

         Back in the Eastern District, Judge Pepper, to whom the instant case had been reassigned, ordered the defendants to respond to Goodvine's June 2, 2017 motion for a preliminary injunction by July 28, 2017. ECF No. 69. On July 25, 2017, the day after they filed their motion to dismiss as a sanction, the defendants filed a motion to stay all discovery and deadlines in this case pending Judge Conley's decision on Goodvine's motion for a preliminary injunction in the Western District case and Judge Pepper's own decision on their motion to dismiss this case as a sanction. ECF No. 74. The defendants advised the court that Goodvine's motion for a preliminary injunction in the case before Judge Conley sought essentially the same relief as the motion he filed in this case. They noted that it was was fully briefed and that Judge Conley had held a hearing on Goodvine's motion on July 21, 2017, and scheduled a follow-up hearing on July 26, 2017. Id. To avoid duplicate hearings and potentially inconsistent injunctions, the defendants asked the court to stay any further proceedings on Goodvine's motion for preliminary relief in this case, and stay all other proceedings in the case pending a decision on their motion to dismiss as a sanction. Judge Pepper granted the defendants' motion on July 27, 2017.

         After a third hearing on Goodvine's motion for a preliminary injunction on August 8, 2017, Judge Conley ordered a stay and directed the parties to mediation. That mediation failed, and on September 8, 2017, Judge Conley transferred the case to this court for direct assignment to the judge sitting in Green Bay as Case No. 17-C-1223. On September 25, 2017, I conducted a telephone conference and advised the parties that I would review the record, including transcripts of the hearings before Judge Conley, with a view to either deciding Goodvine's motion for a preliminary injunction on the record as it stood or ordering an evidentiary hearing if it appeared necessary. I also directed the defendants to answer the complaint by October 6, 2017. On October 18, 2017, I entered an order denying Goodvine's motion for preliminary relief on the ground that he had failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits. In so ruling, I noted:

[I]t appears from Goodvine's mental health records that threats of self-harm are not so much a product of a severe mental illness as a means he uses to get his way. For example, according to a psychological services unit (PSU) report dated September 2, 2014, Goodvine went on a hunger strike at that time because he was unhappy with his treatment. Id. at 188. A later report indicates he had gone on hunger strikes 12 times in 2014. Id. at 186. In any event, when seen on September 2, 2014, he was fully oriented, calm and cooperative, with no gross cognitive or functional impairments, and no perceptual disturbances reported or observed. In short, there was no evidence of severe mental illness, but Goodvine reported that he would continue his hunger strike until he died unless all of his concerns were addressed and he received the treatment he perceived to be adequate. Id. at 188. The psychologist who interviewed him noted that Goodvine “appears to have the capacity to make a rational choice based on his clear and coherent mental status, reported motivation for the hunger strike, and history of similar behaviors.” Id. More recent reports note that “his self-harm behavior, gestures, and threats do not appear to be generated from instability of identity or interpersonal relationships and rather are attempts to influence others for secondary gain such as personal profit/benefit. His personality dynamics appear to be accounted for by Antisocial Personality Disorder.” Id. at 271.

No. 17-C-1223, ECF No. 6. In light of the history recounted in his medical file, I observed that “one can reasonably wonder if Goodvine would continue to persist in such behavior if it did not garner him the kind of attention he has received and fuel his multiple federal cases against correctional staff and administration.” Id. In any event, I concluded that the record clearly demonstrated that the defendants were not deliberately indifferent to Goodvine's serious medical needs. Id. at 7. That decision is currently on appeal.

         As noted above, Judge Pepper transferred this case to me as well, and on October 4, 2017, I scheduled an evidentiary hearing on the defendants' motion for sanctions for January 3, 2018. I now turn to the findings of fact I have arrived at based on the evidence presented at that hearing and my conclusions of law.

         FINDINGS ...

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