Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Nigl v. Litscher

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

March 6, 2018

PAUL M. NIGL and SANDRA JOHNSTON, Plaintiffs,
v.
JON LITSCHER, MICHAEL MEISNER, SARA HUNGERFORD, and ZACHARY SCHROEDER, Defendants.

          ORDER

          J.P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge

         Plaintiffs Paul M. Nigl (“Nigl”), a prisoner, and Sandra Johnston (“Johnston”), his fiancée, filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging their civil rights were violated. (Docket #1). Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that the defendants violated their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments by not allowing them to marry and by denying them visitation privileges. Nigl paid the filing fee on July 31, 2017.

         The plaintiffs consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction and, on August 7, 2017, the magistrate judge originally assigned to this case screened the plaintiffs' complaint. (Docket #16). The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) requires the court to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity and dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally “frivolous or malicious, ” that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) and (b).

         Upon screening, the magistrate judge allowed the plaintiffs to proceed with their claim that the defendants unconstitutionally burdened their right to marry. (Docket #16 at 4). However, the magistrate judge dismissed the plaintiffs' claim that the defendants acted unconstitutionally by denying visitation. Id. at 4-5. Finally, the magistrate judge denied the motion for a preliminary injunction that the plaintiffs had filed along with their complaint. Id.

         The plaintiffs then filed an objection to the magistrate judge's screening order. (Docket #17). In it, they contend that the magistrate judge erred both in dismissing their First Amendment claim based on denial of visitation rights and in failing to screen their Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim based on denial of visitation rights. Id.

         After the plaintiffs' objection was filed, the defendants entered the case and refused to consent to magistrate judge jurisdiction. (Docket #18-20). At that point, the case was reassigned to this branch of the Court. The plaintiffs have since filed several motions now pending before this Court, including another motion for a preliminary injunction, (Docket #23), a motion to appoint counsel and to be transferred to another institution, (Docket #27), a motion for a hearing, (Docket #28), and a motion to vacate the magistrate judge's screening order, (Docket #30). The Court addresses each motion below.

         1. SCREENING OF THE COMPLAINT

         Until all parties have an opportunity to consent to magistrate judge jurisdiction, a magistrate judge presiding over a case may not enter an order that disposes of an entire case. See Coleman v. Labor & Indus. Review Comm'n, 860 F.3d 461, 475 (7th Cir. 2017). “Rather than entering final judgments, they must issue proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to be reviewed de novo by the district court.” Id. (quotation omitted). District courts in this circuit have interpreted Coleman to apply not only to a magistrate's proposed dismissal of an entire case, but to dismissal of a single claim as well. See, e.g., Jones v. Marcus, No. 17-C-1265, 2017 WL 5032719, at *1 (E.D. Wis. Oct. 31, 2017) (considering magistrate judge's recommendation that one of the three claims in the plaintiff's complaint be dismissed).

         As explained above, before this case was reassigned to this branch of the Court, the magistrate judge entered a screening order dismissing one of plaintiffs' claims. (Docket #16). This Court will treat the magistrate's screening order as a recommendation and review its factual findings and legal conclusions de novo. The Court will consider, as part of its review, the plaintiffs' objection to the screening order. (Docket #17). The Court will deny as moot plaintiffs' motion to vacate the magistrate judge's screening order. (Docket #30).

         The Court concurs with the magistrate's recital of the relevant factual allegations, repeated here for the sake of completeness. Nigl has been a prisoner since 2001. From 2013 to 2015, Johnston worked as a psychologist at Waupun Correctional Institution, where she met Nigl. On January 10, 2015, Johnston left her job at Waupun and began to work at the Wisconsin Resource Center, which is not a Department of Corrections' (“DOC”) facility and is therefore not governed by DOC policies. A couple of days after Johnston left her job at Waupun, Nigl asked his brother to find her contact information on the internet. Nigl then wrote and called Johnston on a regular basis. In April 2015, Nigl asked Johnston to marry him, and she said yes.

         On July 13, 2015, the DOC rehired Johnston for a job at its central office in Madison, Wisconsin. That day, she tried to submit a fraternization policy exemption request form so that she could have contact with Nigl. Johnston's supervisor, Gary Ankarlo (“Ankarlo”) refused to accept the form and admonished her. According to plaintiffs, Ankarlo was later demoted and reassigned, in part, for refusing to accept the form. Despite Ankarlo refusing to accept the form, plaintiffs continued to have contact with one another.

         On October 31, 2015, Johnston's position at the central office was administratively eliminated because of her contact with Nigl. In November 2015, Johnston requested to be added to Nigl's visitor list. The request was denied based on DOC policy because Johnston had been an employee of the DOC within the last twelve months.

         In November 2016, Johnston again requested to be added to Nigl's visitor list. On November 30, 2016, defendant Sara Hungerford (“Hungerford”) recommended denial of the request because: 1) the warden had reasonable grounds to believe that Johnston had attempted to bring contraband into the institution or that she posed a threat to the safety and security of visitors, staff, offenders, or the facility; 2) the warden had reasonable grounds to believe that Nigl's reintegration into the community or rehabilitation would be hindered; and 3) the warden had reasonable grounds to believe that Nigl's offense history indicated there could be a problem with the visitation. Defendant Zachary Schroeder, Hungerford's supervisor, adopted Hungerford's recommendation.

         On December 8, 2016, plaintiffs submitted a request to be married, which included written confirmation from an officiant willing to perform the ceremony. On January 25, 2017, Hungerford recommended denial of the request. She stated that “there are reasonable grounds to believe the marriage poses a threat to the security of the facility or a threat to the safety of the public, or threatens other legitimate penological interests” and “[t]he proposed spouse has not been on the visiting list for at least one year and is not able to demonstrate a longstanding relationship.” (Docket #1 at 5). Nigl submitted numerous inmate ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.