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Santos v. Kartman

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

March 16, 2018




         The plaintiff, who is representing himself, filed this case under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that the defendants violated his constitutional rights. Specifically, he states that the defendants violated his right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment by firing him from his kitchen job because he is Latino. The plaintiff further alleges that this firing violated his First Amendment rights, because it was in retaliation for his not telling the defendants what they thought he knew about a prison gang altercation when the plaintiff allegedly knew nothing.

         On June 23, 2017, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 20. The court will grant the defendants' motion and dismiss the case.

         I. RELEVANT FACTS[1]

         Although listed as a white male in the Wisconsin Department of Corrections' centralized computer system, the plaintiff is a self-identified Latino. Dkt. Nos. 22 at ¶19; 32 at ¶19. His mother and father are from Puerto Rico and are Latino, and he points out that his name (Jose Luis Santos) is Latino. Dkt. No. 34 at ¶¶14, 15. He also asserts that he looks Latino. Id. at ¶21. During the relevant time, the plaintiff was an inmate at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF), where he had been assigned to work in the kitchen. Dkt. No. 22 at ¶¶1, 11.

         Both defendants were employed at WSPF: defendant Mark Kartman was the security director and defendant Lorie Iverson was the food service administrator. Id. at ¶¶3-4.

         On May 21, 2016, the plaintiff and the other kitchen staff members were placed in temporary lock up status pending an investigation of a series of gang-related assaults in WSPF's kitchen, barbering area and units. Id. at ¶¶5-6, 20. The gang-related assaults involved two gangs: the Latin Folks (mostly Latinos) and the Vice Lords (mostly African Americans). Dkt. No. 34 at ¶¶5, 22.

         As part of the investigation, the WSPF staff conducted numerous confidential interviews with the inmates. Dkt. No. 22 at ¶7. The plaintiff was one of the inmates interviewed. Id. at ¶10. When asked whether he had any information about the fight that occurred in the kitchen, the plaintiff denied knowing anything. Id. at ¶¶12-13.

         During an interview with another inmate, however, that inmate indicated that the plaintiff “was supposed to have been involved” in the kitchen altercation. Id. at ¶8. The other inmate's statements indicated that the plaintiff might be at risk of retaliation from other inmates, because he failed to actually participate in the altercation. Id. at ¶9. No other kitchen staff members were identified either as being security risks or being at risk; only the plaintiff “appeared to present a risk based on the investigation.” Id. at ¶20.

         Because the other inmate had connected the plaintiff to the kitchen altercation, Kartman believed that the plaintiff might have lied about being involved. Id. at ¶14. He also believed that the plaintiff would present a security threat if allowed to continue working in the kitchen, because the other inmate had reported that the plaintiff was involved in activity that threatened security and because the plaintiff was at risk of being attacked by other inmates in retaliation for “staying out of” the altercation. Id. at ¶15. So on June 14, 2016, Kartman issued the plaintiff a memorandum informing him that he was being removed from his kitchen work assignment. Id. at ¶16. The memo stated that the removal was a result of a completed investigation, which showed “that although [the plaintiff] was not directly involved in the kitchen altercation, evidence showed that [the plaintiff] ‘played a role in and had significant information regarding the altercation.'” Id. at ¶17; Dkt. No. 34 at ¶12. The plaintiff was the only inmate placed in temporary lock up status who did not eventually get his job back. Dkt. No. 22 at ¶20.

         The plaintiff never received a conduct report for the kitchen incident. Dkt. No. 34 at ¶4. He says that no one told him that he was either a security threat or at risk for retaliation, and no one moved him to a safer place or placed him in protective custody. Id. at ¶20.

         The plaintiff asserts that Kartman took his job. Id. at ¶7. The plaintiff says that Iverson “filled out a 1408[2] firing [the plaintiff] from his job, ” but that she had no right to do so. Dkt. No. 34 at ¶6. The defendants agree that Kartman, not Iverson, made the decision to remove the plaintiff from the job in the kitchen. Dkt. No. 22 at ¶22.


         “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 also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986); Ames v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 629 F.3d 665, 668 (7th Cir. 2011). “Material facts” are those under the applicable substantive law that “might affect the outcome of the suit.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A dispute over a “material fact” is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.

         A party asserting that a fact is or isn't disputed must support the assertion by:

(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or
(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce ...

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