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Wright v. Brennan

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

March 9, 2018



          J. P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge

         1. INTRODUCTION

         On May 19, 2017, Magistrate Judge Nancy Joseph screened Plaintiff's Complaint. (Docket #9). The Complaint alleged that Defendants, various City of Kenosha police officers, violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights during the course of his arrest on May 8, 2014. Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff was allowed to proceed on “Fourth Amendment claims against each of the defendants by alleging that their actions towards him were unreasonable. This includes their use of force, their failure to intervene to prevent force from being used, and their refusal to provide medical care.” Id. at 4. On February 1, 2018, Defendants moved for summary judgment. (Docket #41). Plaintiff's response to the motion was due on or before March 5, 2018. Civ. L. R. 7(b). That deadline has passed and no response has been received. The Court could summarily grant Defendants' motion in light of Plaintiff's non-opposition. Civ. L. R. 7(d). However, as explained below, Defendants also present valid bases for dismissing each claim on its merits. For both of these reasons, Defendants' motion must be granted.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that the court “shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Boss v. Castro, 816 F.3d 910, 916 (7th Cir. 2016). A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit” under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of fact is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. The court construes all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Bridge v. New Holland Logansport, Inc., 815 F.3d 356, 360 (7th Cir. 2016).

         3. BACKGROUND

         The relevant facts are undisputed because Plaintiff failed to dispute them. In the Court's scheduling order, entered August 1, 2017, Plaintiff was warned about the requirements for opposing a motion for summary judgment. (Docket #20 at 2-3). Accompanying that order were copies of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and Civil Local Rule 56, both of which describe in detail the form and contents of a proper summary judgment submission. In Defendants' motion for summary judgment, they too warned Plaintiff about the requirements for his response as set forth in Federal and Local Rules 56. (Docket #41). He was provided with additional copies of those Rules along with Defendants' motion. Id. at 3-9. In connection with their motion, Defendants filed a supporting statement of material facts that complied with the applicable procedural rules. (Docket #44). It contained short, numbered paragraphs concisely stating those facts which Defendants proposed to be beyond dispute, with supporting citations to the attached evidentiary materials. See id.

         In response, Plaintiff filed absolutely nothing-no brief in opposition, much less a response to the statement of facts. Despite being twice warned of the strictures of summary judgment procedure, Plaintiff ignored those rules by failing to properly dispute Defendants' proffered facts with citations to relevant, admissible evidence. Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003). Though the Court is required to liberally construe a pro se plaintiff's filings, it cannot act as his lawyer, and it cannot delve through the record to find favorable evidence for him. Thus, the Court will, unless otherwise stated, deem Defendants' facts undisputed for purposes of deciding their motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Civ. L. R. 56(b)(4); Hill v. Thalacker, 210 F. App'x 513, 515 (7th Cir. 2006) (noting that district courts have discretion to enforce procedural rules against pro se litigants).

         In the absence of any factual disputes, and in the interest of brevity, the Court will discuss the material facts as part of its analysis of Plaintiff's claims against each Defendant. All factual discussion is drawn from Defendants' statement of proposed facts. (Docket #44).

         4. ANALYSIS

         As noted above, Plaintiff was allowed to proceed on three species of Fourth Amendment claims. The first, directed at Defendants Brian Wilson (“Wilson”), Austin Hancock (“Hancock”), and Cory Brennan (“Brennan”), is for excessive force in effectuating Plaintiff's arrest. (Docket #1 at 6-8). The second, leveled at Defendants Jon Schrandt (“Schrandt”) and Adam Jurgens (“Jurgens”), asserts that they failed to intervene to prevent the other Defendants refused to secure medical care for his alleged injuries. Id. at 8-9. The Court will address each claim in turn.

         4.1 Excessive Force

         Plaintiff alleges that Wilson, Hancock, and Brennan used excessive force when arresting him, namely by striking him forcefully in his back and head and tasering him multiple times. Id. at 6-8. Under the Fourth Amendment, this is in essence a claim that Plaintiff was seized unreasonably. Abdullahi v. City of Madison, 423 F.3d 763, 768 (7th Cir. 2005). The Fourth Amendment's reasonableness standard applies, which is concerned with whether the force used “was objectively reasonable, judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene.” Baird v. Renbarger, 576 F.3d 340, 344 (7th Cir. 2009). Courts are called to account for all of the circumstances of a particular case, including “‘[1] the severity of the crime at issue, [2] whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and [3] whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.'” Id. (quoting Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396 (1989)).

         The undisputed facts reveal that Plaintiff's recollection of events is mistaken, and that the officers' use of force was entirely reasonable. Officers were called to an apartment complex related to a suspected domestic violence incident. The encounter began with Wilson approaching the complex in his squad car. Plaintiff, standing outside at the time, ran away after being told to stay where he was. He then went into an apartment and shut the door. Plaintiff's flight led Wilson ...

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