United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION & ORDER
D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff Edward Burgess is a prisoner in the custody of the
Wisconsin Department of Corrections currently housed at the
Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF). He is proceeding on
Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claims, claims under
the Rehabilitation Act, and state-law medical malpractice
claims concerning defendant prison officials' alleged
failure to provide adequate treatment for his plantar
fasciitis and bone spurs.
January 3, the court received a letter from Burgess alleging,
among other things, that WSPF officials refused to respond to
his requests for medical treatment and threats to commit
suicide and are blocking his outgoing mail to lawyers. Dkt.
106. I construed these allegations as a motion for a
preliminary injunction and ordered defendants to respond.
Dkt. 107. Defendants have now done so, and Burgess has
replied. Dkt. 122 and Dkt. 136. He has also moved for
sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. Dkt. 143.
After considering the parties' submissions, I will deny
recent filings, Burgess complains of the same events he
discussed in his January 3 letter. As I explained in the
January 16 order, if Burgess wishes to bring new claims, he
may file a separate lawsuit-I will not address those
potential claims here. Nor will I award sanctions for acts
unrelated to Burgess's prosecution of the claims in this
lawsuit. Rule 11 allows the court to sanction a party for
filing something for an improper purpose, presenting
frivolous arguments, or asserting claims that lack
evidentiary support. There is no indication that defendants
have violated Rule 11, so I will deny Burgess's motion
to the pending motion for preliminary injunctive relief and
begin with the allegation that WSPF officials failed to
respond to Burgess's requests for medical treatment and
threats of self-harm. In my January 16 order, I explained
that even though Burgess's allegations were “not
connected to Burgess's claims in this suit, I have an
obligation to ensure that Burgess is safe, regardless of
whether he has fulfilled the procedural requirements for
seeking injunctive relief.” Dkt. 107, at 2-3. My sole
concern is whether Burgess will suffer irreparable harm
without a preliminary injunction. See BBL, Inc. v. City
of Angola, 809 F.3d 317, 323-24 (7th Cir. 2015).
responses indicate that he does not seek injunctive relief on
this front; rather, he appears to want to bring new claims
against new defendants. He explains, “[T]he only reason
that I am addressing this situation is to show the courts
that the plaintiff and his wife Amber Burgess are being
retaliated against and falsely accused and harassed.”
Dkt. 128, at 4. As I explained in my January 16 order, any
substantive retaliation claims belong in a new lawsuit. Also,
Burgess may not assert claims on his wife's behalf; she
must file her own lawsuit. The only injunctive relief he
requests is to be transferred to a different facility. And he
has not shown that he is at risk of suffering irreparable
harm in the future. Defendants have submitted evidence
showing that they are offering Burgess medical and mental
health treatment and attempting to prevent him from
self-harm. Burgess complains that WSPF does not have the
resources to properly treat his medical and mental health
conditions, but the records he has submitted show that WSPF
officials have responded to his requests for medical
treatment and threats of self-harm and that Burgess has
repeatedly refused medical treatment and assistance from the
psychological services unit (PSU). Burgess highlights one
incident when a PSU staff member did not come to his cell at
his request when he threatened self-harm (and accidentally
followed through on the threat by falling and injuring his
neck). But the records show that Burgess had refused the PSU
staff member's offer of help earlier that day. It is not
necessary for me to determine whether the PSU staff
member's refusal constituted deliberate indifference; the
pertinent question at this juncture is whether this single
incident shows that Burgess will suffer irreparable harm
without a preliminary injunction. It does not.
also explains that he has now chosen to refuse food. Dkt.
136. Starvation is dangerous and could cause Burgess
irreparable harm, but Burgess's own filings indicate that
WSPF staff are handling Burgess's self-imposed starvation
appropriately. I am satisfied that preliminary injunctive
relief is not required on this front.
the outgoing-mail issue, defendants deny interfering with
Burgess's mail in any way and argue that Burgess offers
no evidence of interference. In reply, Burgess points to two
envelopes, one addressed to this court and one addressed to
an “Attorney Dawn Tellock” in Sussex, Wisconsin.
Dkt. 122-2, at 1-2. Each envelope bears two stamps; one
indicates that the envelope “has been mailed from the
Wisconsin Prison System, ” and the other indicates that
the envelope has been “received” at WSPF.
Id. Burgess argues that these stamps, coupled with
the fact that the envelopes were “torn open, ”
yet bear unused postage stamps, indicates that WSPF
“tampered” with them. Dkt. 128, at 2. Burgess
provides a note from a WSPF official indicating that the
envelope to Dawn Tellock was not delivered because the
official “could not find any attorney under [that]
address and with that name” and therefore
“questioned the authenticity of [the] correspondence
being legal mail.” Dkt. 143-2, at 1.
also points to several disbursement request forms, which
indicate that he was charged $6.90 for a two-and-a-half-pound
package “sent speedee & certified” to this
court; that he was charged $4.09 for a six-pound package sent
via UPS to an inmate at the New Lisbon Correctional
Institution (NLCI); and that he was later charged $7.90 for a
nearly three-pound package sent via USPS to the same inmate.
Dkt. 122-1, at 4-11. Burgess argues that the price
differentials show that his “mail is being tampered
with” and that WSPF officials are “stealing and
overcharg[ing].” Dkt. 122, at 3.
explained in my January 16 order, any substantive claims
concerning interference with mail belong in a separate
lawsuit. My sole concern here is whether Burgess's
ability to litigate this suit is being restricted. Burgess
has not pointed to any evidence of such a restriction. The
mailing to this court that apparently was not delivered is
troubling, but Burgess does not indicate that whatever was
within the envelope was not ultimately filed with the court,
and because WSPF participates in this court's e-filing
program, Burgess doesn't need to mail any court filings.
He can work with the WSPF librarian to file his submissions
electronically. As for the envelope addressed to Dawn
Tellock, there is no attorney with that name licensed to
practice law in Wisconsin. Rather, it appears that Dawn
Tellock may be a pseudonym for Amber Burgess, Burgess's
wife, who lives in Sussex. There is no indication that Burgess
needs to correspond with his wife (or an inmate at NLCI) to
litigate this suit. I am satisfied that preliminary
injunctive relief is not required on this front, either.
Plaintiff Edward Burgess's motion for sanctions, Dkt.
143, is DENIED.
Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction, Dkt. 106