United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION & ORDER
D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff and prisoner Matthew LaBrec is proceeding on claims
that several correctional officers failed to protect him from
an assault by another prisoner, in violation of the Eighth
Amendment and state law. Defendants Jason Chatman, Joshua
Craft, Dustin Meeker, Lindsay Walker, and Debra Wilson have
filed a motion for summary judgment, Dkt. 73, which is ready
for review. Also before the court are three procedural
motions filed by LaBrec, one for assistance in recruiting
counsel and two related to substituting one of the
defendants. Dkt. 54; Dkt. 77; Dkt. 83.
case arises out of an altercation between LaBrec and his
cellmate. According to LaBrec, he complained over the course
of several days to each of the defendants that he felt unsafe
with his cellmate and wanted to be moved. He also alleges
that his cellmate later attacked him without provocation,
stabbing him multiple times with a pen.
tell a somewhat different story. Although they acknowledge
that LaBrec asked repeatedly for a different cell assignment,
they say it was because he didn't like his cellmate; they
deny that he ever expressed concerns for his safety. They
also say that LaBrec started the fight and left his
cellmate “unresponsive” when it was over.
grant defendants' motion for summary judgment on
LaBrec's Eighth Amendment claim because the differences
between LaBrec's version of events and defendants'
version are not material. In other words, even if I accept
all of LaBrec's allegations as true, those allegations
would not permit a reasonable jury to find that any of the
defendants violated the Eighth Amendment. Jenkins v.
Bartlett, 487 F.3d 482, 492 (7th Cir. 2007) (“Only
disputes as to facts which are material, i.e., facts that
might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law,
and genuine, i.e., disputes for which the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party, will preclude summary judgment.”)
(internal quotations omitted). Under current law, a vague
statement that a prisoner feels unsafe does not trigger a
constitutional duty to move a prisoner to a different cell;
the prisoner must explain why he feels unsafe. In accordance
with 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3), the court will dismiss
LaBrec's negligence claims without prejudice so that he
can pursue them in state court, if he wishes to do so.
deny LaBrec's motions. As explained below, his request to
substitute is moot and his request for counsel is not
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Supreme Court recognized in Farmer v. Brennan, 511
U.S. 825 (1994), that “prison officials have a duty
[under the Eighth Amendment] to protect prisoners from
violence at the hands of other prisoners.” See also
Borello v. Allison, 446 F.3d 742, 747 (7th Cir. 2006).
In determining whether officials violated the Eighth
Amendment, the question is whether they were
“deliberately indifferent” to a
“substantial risk of serious harm” to the
prisoner's safety. In practical terms, a claim under
Farmer has two elements:
(1) Were the defendants aware of a substantial risk that the
plaintiff would be seriously harmed?
(2) If so, did the defendants consciously refuse to take
reasonable measures to prevent the plaintiff from being
Fisher v. Lovejoy, 414 F.3d 659, 662 (7th Cir.
2005); Lewis v. Richards, 107 F.3d 549, 553 (7th
Cir. 1997); Langston v. Peters, 100 F.3d 1235, 1238
(7th Cir 1996).
case, the focus of the parties' debate is on the first
question-whether each defendant knew of a substantial risk
that LaBrec's cellmate would assault him. Although it is
undisputed that none of the defendants were responsible for
the initial decision of placing LaBrec and his cellmate
together, Dkt. 87, ¶ 26, LaBrec says that each defendant
may be held liable for failing to transfer him when he
complained to each of them about the assignment. The parties
also debate whether each defendant had the authority to move
discusses three types of evidence that could have given
defendants notice that he needed to be separated from his
cellmate: (1) characteristics about LaBrec and his cellmate;
(2) information that defendants received from LaBrec; and (3)
a note written by the cellmate. But even considering all of
this evidence and drawing all reasonable inferences in
LaBrec's favor, no reasonable jury could find that any of
the defendants knew of a substantial risk of serious harm to
LaBrec's safety. This makes it unnecessary to consider
defendants' alternative argument that some of the
defendants did not have authority to move LaBrec to a
Characteristics of LaBrec and his cellmate
undisputed that LaBrec and his cellmate did not have special
housing restrictions that would have prevented them from
being celled together. Dkt. 87, ¶ 46. But in his
complaint, LaBrec alleged that his cellmate had a history of
assaulting other prisoners and prison staff knew that. As it
turns out, LaBrec's cellmate had received a conduct
report for assaulting one other prisoner before
being celled ...