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.

Kalafi v. Brown

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

April 5, 2018

G'ESA KALAFI, f/k/a STANLEY FELTON, Plaintiff,
v.
LEBBEUS BROWN, TIM HAINES, CRAIG TOM, TROY HERMANS and SHANA BECKER, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          STEPHEN L. CROCKER, MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         In August 2011, while an inmate at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility, G'esa Kalafi f/k/a Stanley Felton, wrote an article titled “The Psychologist Who Needs A Psychologist” and sent it to an organization that published it on the internet. In the article, Kalafi made a number of disparaging and critical remarks about defendant Shana Becker[1], who at the time was a psychological associate at the prison, and about the WSPF staff in general. In late December 2011, prison officials discovered the article on line and took steps to have it removed, but took no action against Kalafi. A few weeks later, however, Kalafi confronted Becker with the article, insisting that the things he had written about her had been true. After a cell search turned up seven copies of the article, Kalafi was charged with violating a prison rule that prohibited lying about staff. Kalafi eventually was punished with 180 days' segregation.

         In this lawsuit, Kalafi alleges that defendants Lebbeus Brown, Tim Haines, Craig Tom, Troy Hermans and Becker retaliated against him in violation of the First Amendment by issuing the conduct report and then failing to dismiss it. In addition, Kalafi claims that his hearing officer, defendant Tom, violated his right to procedural due process by acting as a biased decisionmaker. Kalafi seeks injunctive relief in the form of expungement of the lying charge as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

         Both sides have filed motions for summary judgment. Dkts. 43, 49. I am granting Kalafi's motion for summary judgment on his First Amendment retaliation claim (and denying defendants' cross-motion) because defendants violated Kalafi's First Amendment rights when they punished him for the statements he made in the article. Under Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396, 413 (1974), Kalafi's statements were protected even if they were defamatory or false, and defendants have failed to show that punishing Kalafi for making the statements was a response no greater than necessary to further the prison's interest in security, order or rehabilitation.

         I am denying Kalafi's motion for summary judgment and granting defendants' cross-motion on Kalafi's due process claim because Kalafi has failed to adduce evidence sufficient for a reasonable jury to conclude that Tom actually abdicated his role as a neutral decisionmaker.

         As a result, all that remains for trial is the question of Kalafi's claimed damages on the First Amendment violation. I am requiring Kalafi to submit a pretrial proffer of his evidence on actual damages and punitive damages so that the court can tailor the parameters of this trial.

         FACTS

         From the parties' proposed findings of fact, I find the following facts to be undisputed for the purposes of deciding the motion for summary judgment:

         Plaintiff Stanley Lee Felton a/k/a G'esa Semedi Kalafi has identified himself in this matter as G'esa Kalafi f/n/a/ Stanley Felton. At all times relevant to his complaint, he was incarcerated at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (“WSPF”) in Boscobel, Wisconsin, and the defendants were employed at WSPF in various capacities.

         In August 2011, Kalafi wrote an article titled “The Psychologist Who Needs a Psychologist” and sent it to an organization called Between the Bars, which operates a website that posts articles written by inmates. Dkt. 46, exh.1. Kalafi included with his article a victim impact statement written by defendant Shana Becker, who was a psychological associate at WSPF. Becker had written her statement for the Grant County District Attorney's office for a circuit court matter involving another inmate at WSPF who had made sexually inappropriate remarks to her both in writing and in person.

         In his article, Kalafi referred to Becker by her full name and included several quotes from her victim impact statement. After quoting Becker's statements regarding how she had been negatively affected by the other inmate's behavior, Kalafi wrote: “The way [Becker] explains the psychological effects the prison inmates has had on her sounds like she's incompetent for the job, to be fair, to actually give an accurate assessment on a prisoners mental problems, when she seems to be suffering herself.” Kalafi went on:

The major problem with Dr. [Becker] and staff like her, having the problems she's alleging in her letter, actually causes her to give inaccurate assessments on an inmates mental state, or any at all out of anger, frustration, vindictiveness or just being plain tired of the type of inmates she's described in her letter, or similar acts. This would cause mentally ill prisoners to be at WSPF when they are not suppose to be. There is no doubt in this writers mind WSPF psychologist give inadequate psychological records, moreover, keeping in mind these psychologist work for WSPF, a place that has an “interest” in keeping certain prisoners in their prison, in administrative confinement or just in segregation status, and these so-called doctors help WSPF by not acknowledging the clear mental problems of these prisoners who may need treatment, not 24 hour confinement.

Dkt. 46, exh.1, at 3-4.

         Between the Bars published the article on its website, where, on or around December 19, 2011, it was noticed by defendant Lebbeus Brown. Brown was a captain and the Security Threat Groups Coordinator at WSPF. After seeing the article, Brown notified Dr. Stacy Hoem, the most senior licensed psychologist at the institution, who in turn notified Becker. Becker was dismayed to learn that her victim impact statement had not remained confidential and that the inmate who she was writing about had shared it with other inmates at the prison. (Becker's understanding was that the victim impact statement would be seen only by the presiding circuit court judge and would remain confidential.) Becker also was disturbed by Kalafi's article because in her view, he had used quotes taken out of context from her victim impact statement to misinterpret what she had written.

         Becker completed an incident report so that the institution could take action to have the article removed from the internet. Becker did not talk to Kalafi about the article at that time, nor was she aware whether staff had searched Kalafi's cell. Neither Brown, Becker nor anyone else at the institution took any disciplinary action against Kalafi at that time.

         A little less than a month later, on January 13, 2012, Becker was on Kalafi's unit speaking with another inmate, Karry Hilley, at around 3 p.m. Becker did not provide regular mental health treatment to Kalafi, but spoke with him occasionally during rounds. According to Kalafi, after concluding her visit with Hilley, Becker stopped at Kalafi's cell and said, “I didn't like that article you wrote.” Kalafi, who happened to have a copy of the article on his bed, grabbed it and handed it to Becker, stating, “What don't you like about the truth? I based it off what you yourself wrote.” Becker handed the article back to Kalafi and said, “You won't get away with posting this.” Becker then walked away.[2]

         Based on her cell-front interaction with Kalafi, Becker believed that Kalafi possessed actual copies of the victim impact statement. Because it was Becker's understanding that this statement was to remain confidential and was to be possessed only by the District Attorney's Office, Becker believed that Kalafi's possession of the statement amounted to possession of contraband. Becker notified security staff that Kalafi might have contraband in his cell.

         At 3:05 p.m., that same day, defendant Craig Tom ordered Kalafi out of his cell for a cell search and strip search. Dkt. 58-1, at 2. Tom was the lieutenant on duty that day; as it happens, he also was dating Becker.[3] Seven copies of the Behind Bars article were found in Kalafi's cell.[4] Neither Becker nor Tom issued a conduct report against Kalafi and they did not ask anyone else to do so.

         The items removed from Kalafi's cell were routed to defendant Brown. Brown, a former investigations captain, was tasked at WSPF with reviewing most of the written material confiscated from inmates' cells. On February 28, 2012, Brown issued a conduct report against Kalafi charging him with violating Department of Corrections' Rule 303.271, “Lying about staff.” Pursuant to DOC Rule 303.271, an inmate may be found guilty of lying about staff when he makes “a false written or oral statement about a staff member which may affect the integrity, safety or security of the institution or staff, and makes that false statement outside the complaint review system[.]”

         Brown issued the conduct report based on statements Kalafi had made in his article. Brown wrote that “Inmate Felton wrote and had the article posted on the internet blog Between the Bars” and that it had been done “outside the Inmate Complaint Review System” to affect Becker's integrity. Adult Conduct Report, dkt. 46-10. Specifically, Brown identified three statements in Kalafi's article that he found objectionable:

(1) The way Dr. SBL [Shana Becker] explain the psychological effects the prison inmates has had on her sounds like she's incompetent for the job, to be fair, to actually give an accurate assessment on a prisoners mental problems, (when she seems to be suffering herself).
(2) There is no doubt in this writers mind WSPF psychologist give inadequate psychological records, moreover, keeping in mind these psychologists work for WSPF, a place that has an “interest” in keeping certain prisoners in their prison, in administrative confinement or just in segregation status, and these so-called doctors help WSPF by not acknowledging the clear mental problems of these prisoners who may need treatment, not 24 hour confinement.
(3) On behalf of the mentally ill this writer would like to thank the good, loving, caring WSPF health officials and all those in cahoots with them, for a wonderful job and if there is a God may this powerful force damn you all to hell for eternity.

Id.

         Brown did not provide any reason for concluding these statements were false.[5] Brown noted that seven copies of the article had been found in Kalafi's cell “to send out.” Id. Other than issuing the conduct report, Brown had no further involvement with Kalafi's discipline.

         Jerome Sweeney, WSPF's security director, reviewed the conduct report and allowed it to proceed as a major offense. Kalafi requested a hearing and the hearing was assigned to defendant Tom. In 2012, Tom served as WSPF's primary hearing officer for major conduct report disciplinary hearings, although there were other supervisors who sometimes heard conduct reports.

         After being assigned to hear the conduct report about Kalafi, Tom approached his supervisor, Sweeney. Tom informed Sweeney that he and Shana Becker had a personal relationship outside of work, a fact that Sweeney already knew. (The record contains no other information about the relationship between Tom and Becker at that time, although it culminated in their 2015 marriage). Sweeney concluded that another hearing officer did not need to be assigned to Kalafi's conduct report because Tom was not involved in the incident or the investigation and he was WSPF's most experienced hearing officer. Moreover, Tom's primary duty was to hear conduct reports and he had demonstrated a high level of professionalism, integrity and ethics.

         A disciplinary hearing was conducted on March 15, 2012. Tom was the hearing officer. Prior to the hearing, Tom denied Kalafi's request to call Becker and the district attorney as witnesses. Kalafi attended the hearing with an advocate. After the hearing, Tom found that Kalafi more likely than not had lied about staff. Disciplinary Hearing Decision, dkt. 46, exh. 5. Tom's hearing decision essentially restated the allegations made in Brown's conduct report. Like Brown, Tom did not explain why he had concluded that the statements in Kalafi's article were lies.

         Tom's decision was reviewed by Sweeney. As security director, it was Sweeney's job to review all decisions made on conduct reports to ensure that they were supported by evidence. If a decision was not supported by the evidence, then Sweeney would recommend that the warden dismiss it or reduce the level of discipline imposed. In Kalafi's case, Sweeney believed the evidence supported Tom's finding of guilt and that the sanction Tom had imposed was reasonable.

         Kalafi appealed Tom's decision to the warden's designee, Deputy Warden Hermans. Hermans reviewed Kalafi's appeal and the record from the hearing and agreed with Tom's findings and disposition, but determined that Tom needed to provide more reasoning for his findings. Accordingly, Hermans returned the disciplinary decision to Tom. In his amended decision, Tom explained that Kalafi's statement that WSPF has an “interest in keeping certain prisoners in their prison, in administrative confinement or just in segregation status, and these so-called doctors help WSPF by not acknowledging the clear mental problems of these prisoners who may need treatment, not 24 hour confinement, ” ...


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.