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Dettlaff v. Prairie Du Chien Correctional Institution

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

April 6, 2018

MICHAEL J. DETTLAFF, Plaintiff,
v.
PRAIRIE DU CHIEN CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM M. CONLEY DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On May 18, 2017, the court granted pro se plaintiff Michael J. Dettlaff leave to proceed on claims under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments against defendants Paquine, Wayne and Skim for requiring him to sleep on the floor of a cold cell, as well as a First Amendment claim against defendant Bailey for delaying the delivery of legal mail. At the same time, plaintiff was denied leave to proceed on an additional Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim related to his cell because he failed to name any individual defendants who were aware of, but failed to correct, the conditions in his cell. Plaintiff has since filed an amended complaint, which is before the court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, along with plaintiff's two pending motions for assistance in recruiting counsel. (Dkt. ##32, 42.) For the reasons that follow, the court will grant plaintiff leave to proceed against additional defendants, but deny his motions for assistance in recruiting counsel.

         I. Screening of Amended Complaint (dkt. ##33, 38)

         In the amended complaint, Dettlaff proposes three substantive changes, which the court will address in turn.

         A. Paragraph 8

         In paragraph 8, Dettlaff seeks to substitute defendant Gary Boughton for defendant John Paquin. Dettlaff explains that he was mistaken in initially alleging that Paquin was the warden of Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution (“PDCI”) during the relevant time period. After discovery revealed that Boughton was the warden, and that he was the one who denied Dettlaff's appeal of his conduct report disposition, thus affirming his charge and punishment, he now seeks this change. For the reasons already explained in the court's initial leave to proceed order, Dettlaff will be granted leave to proceed against Boughton on his Fourteenth and Eighth Amendment claims, and Paquin will be dismissed from this lawsuit.

         B. New paragraph 11

         In the leave to proceed order, the court denied Dettlaff leave to proceed on an Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim related to allegations that between November 1, 2010, and January 4, 2011, he was housed in a cold cell with another inmate, lacked adequate clothing and bedding, and was forced to sleep on a concrete floor, having failed to identify any defendant who was aware of these conditions and failed to take steps to address them. Now, in his first amended complaint, Dettlaff adds a new paragraph 11, which names, as additional defendants, the supervisory staff of the segregations units between November 1, 2010, and January 4, 2011: Tonja Hesselberg, Mark Kartman, Gerald Anderson, Denny Reger, Togerson, Wade, Krachey, Russel Bausch, and Kulmin. Detlaff states that these staff members were all scheduled to supervise his unit between November 1, 2010, and January 4, 2011, and thus were obliged to transfer him to an unoccupied individual cell but failed to do so. Given the court is obligated to view all of Dettlaff's allegations in his favor at screening, Perez v. Fenoglio, 792 F.3d 768, 774 (7th Cir. 2015), I will grant Dettlaff leave to proceed on a conditions of confinement claim against these defendants.

         While Dettlaff fails to allege that any of these defendants actually saw that he was sleeping on concrete or that an unoccupied cell was, in fact, available between November 1 and January 4, he does allege that each of these individuals were scheduled to work as a supervisor in the segregation unit during this time period. Thus, at this stage, it is reasonable to infer that each of these individuals witnessed (or should have witnessed) the conditions of Dettlaff's segregation cell that required him to sleep on a concrete floor, as well as the fact that Dettlaff remained in those conditions, which further supports an inference that none of them took any steps to change those conditions. Accordingly, I will grant him leave to proceed against these defendants.

         That said, as Dettlaff proceeds with his claim, he should be aware his obligation to prove each of these defendants individual indifference, which will be much more difficult than his obligation to state a claim against them. Indeed, he will be required to submit proof that each of these individuals actually were aware of: his sleeping arrangements; lack of recreation, proper clothing and bedding; and the strobe-like lighting. He will also have to prove each individual failed to take reasonable steps to address those issues.

         C. Additional legal mail defendant

         Finally, Dettlaff seeks to add David Bowen as a defendant to his First Amendment claim, alleging that he worked in the mail room and involved in the protracted delay in providing Dettlaff's legal mail. (Id. ¶ 22.) Dettlaff specifically alleges that Bowen handed him his legal mail after he was released from solitary confinement, and the property receipt included both Bowen's signature and the date the mail was delivered to PDCI, which was two months before Dettlaff received it. As these allegations permit the inference that Bowen received Dettlaff's legal mail, but failed to take steps to ensure he received it timely, the court will permit him leave to proceed against Bowen as well.

         II. Motions for assistance in recruiting counsel (dkt. ##32, 42)

         Dettlaff also renewed his request for assistance in recruiting counsel in two motions, stating that: he is indigent; his imprisonment limits his ability to litigate this case; he lacks legal expertise; and this case requires expert testimony and locating witnesses. As an initial matter, before a district court can consider a request for counsel, it must find that the plaintiff (1) made reasonable efforts to find a lawyer on his own and was unsuccessful or (2) was prevented from making such efforts. Jackson v. County of McLean, 953 F.2d 1070 (7th Cir. 1992). To prove that he has made reasonable efforts to find a lawyer, Dettlaff must give the ...


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