United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
RONALD E. RICHARDS, Plaintiff,
SGT. MICHAEL GUTHO, Defendant.
DECISION AND GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR
JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS (DKT. NO. 21) AND DISMISSING THE
PAMELA PEPPER United States District Judge
plaintiff, a Wisconsin state prisoner who is representing
himself, filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C.
§1983, alleging that his constitutional rights were
violated at the Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution. Dkt.
No. 1. On December 19, 2016, the court screened the complaint
and allowed the plaintiff to proceed on a claim that the
defendant violated his First Amendment rights when he
interfered with the plaintiff's personal, non-legal,
non-privileged mail. Dkt. No. 8 at 5. The court explained
that prison staff may read non-privileged mail on a
“spot check” basis to screen for contraband or
escape plans, but that any other conduct involving the mail
must be reasonably related to a legitimate prison interest.
Id. at 4-5. The court concluded that the plaintiff
stated a claim when he alleged that the defendant opened a
letter addressed to the defendant and told other inmates
about its content, despite the fact that someone in the
prison mailroom already had inspected the letter and placed a
seal on it; the court concluded that the plaintiff had raised
a question as to whether the defendant had a legitimate
penological reason to open, read or share the contents of the
letter. Id. at 5.
Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
defendant answered the complaint on February 17, 2017. Dkt.
No.12. As of that date, the pleadings in the case were
April 7, 2017, the court issued a scheduling order. Dkt. No.
16. That order required the parties to complete all discovery
by July 7, 2017, and to file dispositive motions by August 7,
2017. Id. The court did not set dates for a final
pretrial conference or a trial.
August 7, 2017-the date dispositive motions were due-the
defendant filed this motion for judgment on the pleadings.
Dkt. No. 21. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), the rule
that allows a party to file a motion for judgment on the
pleadings, says that the moving party may file the motion
“[a]fter the pleadings are close-but early enough not
to delay trial.”
defendant filed his motion for judgment on the pleadings
after the pleadings closed (on February 17, 2017), but early
enough not to delay trial, because there is no trial date.
The motion was timely filed.
plaintiff argues, however, that the court should treat the
defendant's motion as a motion for summary judgment. He
cites Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d), which states that if a party who
files a Rule 12(c) motion presents to the court
“matters outside the pleadings” that are
“not excluded by the court, ” the court must
treat the motion as a motion for summary judgment under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, and must give all parties “a
reasonable opportunity to present all material that is
pertinent to the motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). Because
the plaintiff believes the court should treat the
defendant's motion as a motion for summary judgment, he
argues that the defendant has not complied with this
court's local rules governing summary judgment.
plaintiff is right about the law, but he is incorrect that
the court should apply that law to convert the motion for
judgment on the pleadings into a motion for summary judgment.
The defendant did not attach any extrinsic documents to the
motion for judgment on the pleadings, nor did he ask the
court to consider any. The plaintiff filed a number
of attachments to his response, but those attachments are not
appropriate for a motion for judgment on the pleadings, and
the court has not reviewed them and does not consider them in
its decision. In his reply, the defendant asks that if the
court is going to consider extrinsic evidence, the court
allow him to file a motion for summary judgment, so that he
can comply with all of the rules and submit evidence. There
is no need for the court to do that.
court explains below, it has concluded, based solely on the
facts he alleges within the four corners of his complaint,
that the plaintiff cannot prevail as a matter of law. This is
true even if the court accepts every one of the
plaintiff's factual allegations as true. Given that,
there is no basis for the court to accept factual evidence
through the summary judgment process. The defendant's
motion for judgment on the pleadings was timely filed, and
was appropriately filed as a Rule 12(c) motion.
Rule 12(c) Standard
Rule 12(c), a motion for judgment on the pleadings is
governed by the same standards as a motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). Adams v.
City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 728-29 (7th Cir.
2014). “To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6), a complaint must ‘state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.' . . . Factual allegations
are accepted as true at the pleading stage, but