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Rowe v. Derosa

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

January 22, 2018

JOSHUA W. ROWE, Plaintiff,
JODY DEROSA, et al., Defendants.


          William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff Joshua Rowe, proceeding pro se, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his civil rights were violated. He claims that the defendants violated his constitutional rights through deliberate indifference to his medical and mental health needs. Originally assigned to Judge Clevert, the case was reassigned to me on March 15, 2017. Currently before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. The motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition. For the following reasons, the defendants' motion will be granted and the case will be dismissed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Rowe's claims arise out of the relatively brief period of time during which he was housed at Dodge Correctional Institution between July 25, 2014, when he arrived, and October 4, 2014, when he was transferred to Waupun Correctional Institution. DCI is the central reception center for all adult male inmates sentenced to prison in Wisconsin. Dodge Correctional Institution, Wisconsin Department of Corrections, Institutions/ DodgeCorrectionalInstitution.aspx (last visited Jan. 19, 2018). Upon arrival at DCI, inmates undergo a comprehensive assessment and evaluation with the goal of determining program needs, custody level and institution placement. Id. It was during this evaluaton and assessment process that Rowe claims his constitutional rights were violated.

         In essence, Rowe claims that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious mental health needs. He claims that the prescriptions for the medications he was taking for his post traumatic stress disorder, Trazadone and Prazosin, were allowed to run out, and on August 28, 2014, he did not receive his medication. The failure to provide him his medication, he contends, led to his being involved in an altercation with another inmate on August 30, 2014. He was then placed in segregation without a proper investigation of the psychological causes of the incident, and while in segregation, denied proper mental health treatment. Lastly, he alleged that he received a maximum security placement because of this fight, which also violated his constitutional rights. Id. The facts established by the undisputed evidence relating to each allegation and each of the defendants will be set forth in detail.

         A. The Events of August 28, 2014 and the Subsequent Days

         On Thursday, August 28, 2014, Defendant Carolyn Lewis, a DCI correctional officer, was handing out medication during the evening medication pass in Rowe's unit. Defendants' Proposed Findings of Fact (“DPFOF”), ECF No. 65 at ¶¶ 2, 20. The evening medication pass usually occurs between 8 and 9 pm. Id. at ¶ 20. While Lewis was handing out medication, Rowe approached and asked for his evening dose of Trazadone and Prazosin. Id. at ¶¶ 21-22. He was taking these pills for post-traumatic stress disorder. Plaintiff's Proposed Findings of Fact (“PPFOF”), ECF No. 75 at ¶ 10. Lewis informed Rowe that his medication was out. DPFOF ¶ at 25. It was Rowe's responsibility, as described in the inmate handbook, to fill out a medication request for a prescription refill when he was low.[1] Id. at ¶ 23; ECF No. 56-1 at 8.

         Rowe became upset, so Lewis contacted Sergeant Krueger, who was working on another unit at the time, and he came to Rowe's cell to speak with him. Id. at ¶¶ 26-27. Sergeant Krueger then spoke with the Health Services Unit (“HSU”) to see if they could get Rowe's medication that night.[2] Id. at ¶ 28. HSU told Sergeant Krueger that the medication would be delivered the next day, Friday, August 29, 2014. Id. at ¶ 29. Sergeant Krueger also attempted to contact the Psychological Services Unit (“PSU”), in order to make sure they were aware that Rowe was out of his medication. Id. at ¶ 30. Sergeant Krueger was told that there was no one from PSU at the institution because it was after hours. Id. Sergeant Krueger told Rowe to fill out a psychological services request form to cover all available options to him that evening. Id. at ¶ 35. Rowe received his Trazadone and Prazosin the next day, August 29, 2014.[3] Id. at ¶ 40; see also ECF No. 67-1 at 76.

         On August 30, 2014, at 3:30 pm, Defendant Gunderson, a correctional officer, heard a scuffle by the stairwell as inmates returned to their cells. Id. at ¶¶ 2, 42. There, Gunderson observed Rowe and another inmate wrestling on the floor with blood on their hands and on the floor. Id. at ¶ 42. Gunderson issued both Rowe and the other inmate a conduct report for fighting. Id. at ¶ 43. Rowe never told Gunderson a reason why he was fighting. Id. at ¶¶ 44-45. Rowe did not tell Gunderson that he had missed his medication two days prior nor did he allege that he had been denied or was being denied mental health treatment. Id. at ¶ 45. Nor was there anything about the incident that concerned Gunderson or caused him to conclude that Rowe had missed his medication or mental health treatment. Id. at ¶ 46. After writing the conduct report, Gunderson did not have any involvement in the decision to place Rowe in disciplinary separation or temporary administrative segregation. Id. at ¶ 47.

         Lieutenant Davis Arndt placed Rowe in temporary administrative segregation after the fight pending the outcome of Rowe's conduct report. Id. at ¶¶ 4, 48. Rowe was placed in temporary administrative segregation because inmates who engage in physical altercations present a threat to the safety and security of the institution, other inmates, and staff members. Id. at ¶ 48. Rowe was placed there pending the outcome of his conduct report for fighting. Id. at ¶ 52. Rowe made no comments to Lieutenant Arndt regarding his placement in temporary administrative segregation or running out of his medications. Id. at ¶¶ 53-54. Arndt did not have any involvement in placing Rowe in disciplinary segregation, which happened after he was found guilty of his conduct report. Id. at ¶ 49.

         On September 2, 2014, Captain Janel Nickel reviewed the conduct report and determined that it should proceed to a disciplinary hearing as a major offense. Id. at ¶¶ 5, 55. Nickel's job was not to determine guilt or innocence, but to review the appropriateness of the charge. Id. at ¶ 56. The conduct report did not mention anything about Rowe missing his medications or mental health treatment. Id. at ¶ 57. Nickel did not discuss the conduct report with Rowe. Id.

         On September 4, 2014, Lieutenant Thomas Mariani presided over Rowe's disciplinary hearing. Id. at ¶¶ 4, 59-60. At the disciplinary hearing, Rowe admitted that he was guilty of fighting. Id. at ¶ 61. Rowe stated that the other inmate had been giving him a hard time and calling him a child molester, so Rowe swung at him several times. Id. at ¶ 62. Rowe stated that he was having “issues” with his medication at the time, but he did not attribute his conduct to any problems with medication. Id. at ¶ 63. Based on the conduct report, photos of the incident, and Rowe's admission of guilt, Lieutenant Mariani determined that it was more likely than not that Rowe had violated prison rules and sentenced him to thirty days of disciplinary segregation. Id. at ¶¶ 65, 66. Rowe was moved from temporary administrative segregation to disciplinary segregation on September 4, 2014. Id. at ¶ 67.

         On September 10, 2014, Dr. Dawn Landers, a licensed psychologist at DCI, performed a psychology staff evaluation on Rowe. Id. at ¶¶ 7, 68. Dr. Landers noted that based on her meetings with Rowe on September 3rd and 10th, he demonstrated an adequate psychological adjustment to disciplinary segregation. Id. at ¶¶ 69-70. Dr. Landers recommended that Rowe be released from disciplinary segregation on September 19, 2014, after having served half of his thirty day sentence. Id. at ¶ 71. Captain Scot Galligan, program captain of the restrictive housing unit, and Captain Nickel also recommended that Rowe be released on September 19, 2014. Id. at ¶¶ 6, 72. Deputy Warden Schneiter ultimately ordered that Rowe be released on September 17, 2014 because he had conducted himself in an appropriate manner while housed in disciplinary segregation and had served adequate time. Id. at ¶¶ 8, 73-74. Galligan, Nickel, and Schneiter all reviewed Dr. Landers' note that Rowe demonstrated adequate psychological adjustment to his disciplinary segregation before making their recommendations. Id. at ¶ 75. Galligan's and Schneiter's recommendations for release were the only interactions they had with Rowe. Id. at ¶ 72. Rowe spent a total of thirteen days in disciplinary segregation after his four days in temporary administrative segregation. Id. at ¶ 77.

         B. Rowe's Mental Health Services at DCI

         On July 28, 2014, Dr. Landers had her first appointment with Rowe after he was transferred to DCI. Id. at ¶ 78. She conducted a mental health screening interview, which inquired about Rowe's mental health history and current mental health status. Id. at ¶ 79. At the time, Rowe denied any psychological distress but said that he had a prescription for psychotropic medications to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, which included nightmares. Id. at ¶ 80. After conducting her assessment, Dr. Landers classified Rowe as an MH-1, which indicates that he had a mental health need but was not experiencing clinically significant symptoms. Id. at ¶ 81. When Rowe was taking his medication, he was reasonably emotionally stable. Id. at ¶ 83. Dr. Landers recommended that Rowe be seen every six months for follow up and evaluation. Id. At that time, Dr. Landers had no special placement concerns about Rowe because he presented as psychologically stable overall with minimal active mental health symptoms. Id. at ¶ 84. Additionally, Rowe did not present with any serious mental illness concerns that would be considered to be a risk to himself or to other inmates. Id. at ¶ 85.

         On August 30, 2014, two days after the missed medication, Defendant Kathy Hielsberg, a licensed nurse at DCI, was forwarded a psychological service request from HSU. Id. at ¶ 86. This request from Rowe was dated August 28, 2014. Id. at ¶ 87. The request indicated that Rowe wanted to be seen by the psychology staff and that he was not given his medication on August 28, 2014. Id. at ¶ 88. The request was forwarded to HSU because PSU does not refill prescriptions. Id. at ¶ 89. Hielsberg's supervisor, a registered nurse, forwarded the psychological service request to Hielsberg and instructed her to call the unit to see if they got the Trazodone on August 29th. Id. at ¶ 90. Hielsberg called the unit and was told that the Trazadone had been sent to Rowe's unit on August 29, 2014. Id. at ¶ 92. Hielsberg then returned Rowe's psychological services request to him with the response that “Trazadone was sent to your unit 8/29/2014. The officer gives you these meds.” Id. at ¶ 93. Hielsberg's only responsibility was to confirm whether Rowe had received his Trazadone on August 29, 2014. Id. at ¶ 91. Hielsberg had no authority to schedule an appointment for Rowe with Psychological Services, which must be made either by PSU or by her supervisor. Id. at ¶¶ 94-95. Hielsberg had no other contact with Rowe during his incarceration. Id. at ¶ 96.

         Dr. Landers had her second interaction with Rowe on Wednesday, September 3, 2014, while conducting routine PSU rounds in the restrictive housing unit, where Rowe was being kept during his temporary administrative segregation. Id. at ¶¶ 97-98. Rowe did not request a follow up psychological request or any other psychological service between his initial meeting with Dr. Landers and her second visit. Id. at ¶ 99. During her visit with him, Rowe informed Dr. Landers that he was there because of a physical altercation with another inmate. Id. at ¶ 101. Dr. Landers was unaware of the altercation when she met with Rowe but confirmed the physical altercation with a security staff member after her appointment with him. Id. at ¶ 100.

         At the September 3rd meeting, Dr. Landers and Rowe discussed Rowe's history of anger and aggression. Id. at ¶ 102. Rowe blamed his fight and administrative segregation on having missed his sleep medication a few days prior. Id. Dr. Landers reviewed Rowe's medical logs, which indicated his receipt of his medication on August 29th, and determined that Rowe was attempting to avoid acceptance of responsibility for his maladaptive actions by blaming it on the missed medication. Id. at ¶¶ 103-05. Dr. Landers stated that it was inappropriate for him to blame his behaviors on poor sleep and irritability caused by missing one dose of medication. Id. at ¶ 106. Dr. Landers believed in her professional opinion that Rowe's excuse was unreasonable and baseless because there was no evidence of serious mental health concerns that would result in an impairment of judgment, decision making, general cognition, or understanding of adaptive and expected appropriate behaviors. Id. at ¶ 109. For this reason, Dr. Landers determined that Rowe's placement in segregation was a reasonable and appropriate consequence for his behaviors and that it was not damaging to his present or ongoing functioning or well being. Id. at ¶ 110.

         On September 10, 2014, Dr. Landers had her next and final appointment with Rowe. Id. at ¶ 112. Rowe presented as alert and oriented; did not relay any complaints; did not present as delusional or experiencing serious mental illness; did not report any ongoing psychotropic medication concerns; and did not report any adverse behavioral or cognitive impacts because of his placement in disciplinary segregation. Id. at ¶ 116. Dr. Landers noted that Rowe's reports and presentation of psychological functioning were indicative of generally adequate psychological adjustment to disciplinary separation. Id. at ¶ 117. Therefore, Dr. Landers determined there was no psychological contraindication to Rowe's continued placement in disciplinary segregation. Id. at ¶ 118. In total, Rowe spent seventeen days in segregation (combined administrative and disciplinary) and Landers had two appointments with Rowe during those days. Id. at ¶ 119. After September 10, 2014, Landers did not have any additional interactions with Rowe nor did she receive any requests from Rowe for an appointment. Id. at ¶ 121.

         On September 12, 2014, Dr. John Wean, a psychiatrist at DCI, had his only appointment with Rowe. Id. at ¶¶ 123, 125. The purpose of Dr. Wean's visit was to conduct a full psychiatric assessment, including the history of Rowe's present illness, psychiatric history, medical history, substance abuse history, family history, and social history. Id. at ¶¶ 126-27. Dr. Wean noted the medication that Rowe was currently on. Id. at ¶ 128. Dr. Wean also noted that during the examination Rowe was alert, oriented, and reasonably well groomed and cooperative, but somewhat rambling and circumstantial in his presentation. Id. at ¶ 129. Dr. Wean noted the Rowe exhibited no abnormal psychomotor movements and did not witness any psychotic process. Id. at ¶ 130. Dr. Wean noted that Rowe's voice was of normal tone, rate, and volume and that his speech was relevant and coherent. Id. Dr. Wean also noted that Rowe did not have any thoughts of hurting himself or others and that Rowe's affect was minimally dysphoric but appropriate. Id. at ¶ 131.

         Overall, Dr. Wean noted that Rowe's mental status examination was unremarkable and in Dr. Wean's professional opinion, Rowe showed an absence of distress at being in disciplinary segregation and showed no pressing need to be moved out of disciplinary segregation. Id. at ¶¶ 133-34. Dr. Wean diagnosed Rowe with unspecific depressive disorder with PTSD-like symptomology, anti-social personality traits, a history of marijuana and alcohol abuse, and uncreative colitis. Id. at ¶ 136. Dr. Wean adjusted Rowe's medication slightly and recommended a follow up appointment in three weeks or sooner if necessary. Id. at ¶¶ 137-38. During the time between Dr. Wean's appointment and Rowe's transfer out of DCI, Rowe did not contact Dr. Wean about a follow up appointment. Id. at ¶ 139.

         Additionally, outside of Rowe's interactions with Landers and Dr. Wean, he did not request an appointment or help from the Psychological Services Unit after being placed in ...

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