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Williams v. Ortiz

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

February 6, 2018

SIMEON ORTIZ, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Travis Delaney Williams, proceeding pro se, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that his civil rights were violated while he was a pretrial detainee at the Racine County Jail (the Jail). Currently before the court is plaintiff's motions for summary judgment and defendants Bradley Friend, Austin Isferding, and Robert Hernandez's (the Jail Defendants) motion for summary judgment. Defendants Simeon Ortiz, William Coe, and James Olstinske (the Medical Defendants) also filed a motion for summary judgment. The court will address plaintiff's motion for summary judgment against the Medical Defendants and the Medical Defendants' motion for summary judgment in a separate order. For the following reasons, the court will deny plaintiff's motions for summary judgment against the Jail Defendants and grant the Jail Defendants' motion for summary judgment.


         Plaintiff was booked into the Racine County Jail on May 8, 2013. ECF No. 186 at ¶ 1. On June 3, 2014, Hernandez wrote plaintiff a minor disciplinary ticket for disregarding a jail rule and recommended that plaintiff receive a twenty-four hour lockdown. Id. at ¶¶ 7-8; ECF No. 163 at ¶ 16. Plaintiff asserts that other inmates were also breaking the same rule, but Hernandez singled him out for punishment because he had filed a complaint against Hernandez. Id. at ¶¶ 7-8; ECF No. 163 at ¶¶ 15, 18.

         Plaintiff appealed the disciplinary ticket to Captain Wearing, the Jail Administrator; however, Captain Wearing did not address the merits of plaintiff's appeal because plaintiff had not followed the appeal procedure set forth in the Jail Rule Book (also referred to as the Inmate Handbook or the Racine County Jail Handbook). ECF No. 170-1 at 2. The appeal procedure required an inmate to first submit an appeal to the Assistant Jail Administrator or the Lieutenant in charge of Jail operations. ECF No. 147-11 at 15. Only after the Assistant Jail Administrator or the Lieutenant in charge of Jail operations returns a decision to the inmate, may the inmate submit a written appeal to the Jail Administrator. Id. Plaintiff asserts that there is no Jail Rule Book. ECF No. 163 at ¶¶ 30, 33, 79; but see id. at ¶ 34.

         Also on June 3, 2014, shortly after plaintiff was locked down, defendants assert that plaintiff made an obscene gesture and cursed at Hernandez, who wrote plaintiff another disciplinary ticket. ECF No. 186 at ¶ 10. After trying to convene a disciplinary hearing, Todd Lauer (not a defendant) imposed a sanction of nine days in segregation. Id. at ¶ 11. According to defendants, plaintiff refused to cooperate in the disciplinary hearing process. Id. at ¶ 12. Plaintiff denies that he made an obscene gesture and cursed at Hernandez; he also denies that he was provided an opportunity to participate in a disciplinary hearing. Id. at ¶¶ 10-12; ECF No. 163 at ¶¶ 21, 24. Plaintiff explains that, because there was no hearing, he could not appeal the hearing; however, once he learned that he had been given an additional nine days in segregation, he wrote to Captain Wearing. ECF No. 186 at ¶ 13; ECF No. 147-2 at 35. Captain Wearing did not address the merits of plaintiff's appeal because plaintiff failed to follow the appeal procedure in the Jail Rule Book. ECF No. 147-2 at 35; ECF No. 147-11 at 15.

         On June 15, 2014, plaintiff found a piece of hair and some other unidentified substance in his food, specifically, his stuffing. Id. at ¶ 15. He ate all of the food except for the contaminated stuffing and then asked for a new tray of food. Id. According to plaintiff, Isferding, at Hernandez's direction, put new stuffing on top of the old stuffing and refused to provide a new tray. Id. Plaintiff became upset and went into his cell. Id. Isferding tried to close plaintiff's cell gate, but plaintiff had placed toilet paper rolls between the bars, so Isferding could not close the gate. Id. Isferding removed the toilet paper rolls, but then plaintiff tied a sheet around the bars to prevent the gate from closing. Id. Isferding finished inspecting other cells on the unit and then ordered plaintiff to lockdown, to which plaintiff responded, “Fuck you!” Id. Eventually, other correctional officers approached plaintiff's cell and told him to turn around with his hands behind his back. Id. Plaintiff complied and was double-cuffed behind his back. Id.

         Plaintiff does not dispute that he placed toilet paper rolls in his cell bars, tied a sheet around his cell bars, or cursed at the officers when told to lock down. Id.; see ECF No. 163 at ¶¶ 43, 46. Instead, he explains that he did those things because Isferding provoked him and having a conduct report issued was the only way to get his food contamination problems documented. ECF No. 186 at ¶¶ 15-16.

         Patrick Noonan (not a defendant) came to plaintiff's cell to hold a due process hearing, but plaintiff states that he was so sick from consuming the contaminated food and so affected by medications provided to him by a nurse that he was unable to participate in the hearing. ECF No. 163 at ¶ 55. Plaintiff filed several grievances and appeals with respect to his food contamination and the discipline he received. ECF No. 186 at ¶ 16. Friendly responded to plaintiff's complaints and Wearing denied his appeals. Id. at ¶ 17; ECF No. 163 at ¶ 57.

         While in disciplinary segregation, plaintiff demanded that he be provided with a mattress accommodation because of his chronic pain and osteoarthritis. ECF No. 163 at ¶ 10. Typically, when inmates are in disciplinary segregation, their mattresses are removed from their cells during the day. See Id. at ¶ 63. In December 2013, medical staff had ordered that plaintiff be allowed to keep one mattress during the day and two mattresses at night while in disciplinary segregation. ECF No. 186 at ¶ 19; ECF No. 163 at ¶ 61. However, defendants assert that, when plaintiff was placed in segregation in 2014, medical staff decided a mattress accommodation was unnecessary. ECF No. 186 at ¶¶ 18-21. Defendants assert that Friendly relied on the orders of medical staff when determining to deny plaintiff's request for a mattress accommodation while he was in disciplinary segregation. Id. at ¶ 21.

         Plaintiff states that three times in June 2014 Dr. Simeon Ortiz, the doctor at the Jail, reaffirmed to him that he was to be allowed two mattresses at night and one mattress during the day while in segregation; however, other medical staff and defendants would interfere with those orders. ECF No. 163 at ¶¶ 67-74. According to Dr. Ortiz, at no time during June or July 2014, did he believe plaintiff needed two mattresses to accommodate his medical condition. ECF No. 152 at ¶¶ 20, 28.

         Finally, from June to August 2014, defendants assert that they fulfilled all of plaintiff's orders for hygiene kits for indigent inmates. ECF No. 186 at ¶ 22. In response, plaintiff argues, “During my 18 month stay at Racine County Jail there's numerous and many times & instances where I would order a hygiene kit and it would not come or it was missing items . . . .” Id. In support, plaintiff cites to Racine County Jail commissary receipts, which indicate that plaintiff was sent an indigent kit each week during the relevant time. Id.; ECF No. 147-10.


         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) applies to this case because plaintiff was incarcerated when he filed his complaint. According to the PLRA, “No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. §1997e(a). Various important policy goals give rise to the rule requiring administrative exhaustion, including restricting frivolous claims, giving prison officials the opportunity to address situations internally, giving the parties the opportunity to develop the factual record, and reducing the scope of litigation. Smith v. Zachary, 255 F.3d 446, 450-51 (7th Cir. 2001). If a court determines that an inmate failed to complete any step in the exhaustion process prior to filing a lawsuit, the court must dismiss the plaintiff's claim. ...

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