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McDaniel v. Waupun Correctional Institution

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

April 9, 2018




         Order Milton McDaniel, who is representing himself, filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the defendant violated his constitutional rights by not transferring him to the behavioral health unit (BHU) due to his mental health. He has also filed a motion seeking leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee, two motions requesting use of his release account to pay his initial partial filing fee, and a motion to appoint counsel. I will address each in turn.

         As an initial matter, not all parties have had the opportunity to fully consent to magistrate judge jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Nonetheless, the court has jurisdiction to screen the complaint pursuant to the Wisconsin Department of Justice's limited consent to the exercise of magistrate judge jurisdiction as set forth in the Memorandum of Understanding between the Wisconsin Department of Justice and this court.

         1. Motion for Leave to Proceed without Prepayment of the Filing Fee

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act applies to this case because McDaniel was incarcerated when he filed his complaint. 28 U.S.C. §1915. That law allows a court to give an incarcerated plaintiff the ability to proceed with his lawsuit without prepaying the civil case filing fee, as long as he meets certain conditions. One of those conditions is that the plaintiff pay an initial partial filing fee. 28 U.S.C. §1915(b). Once the plaintiff pays the initial partial filing fee, the court may allow the plaintiff to pay the balance of the $350 filing fee over time, through deductions from his prisoner account. Id.

         McDaniel filed a motion to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee on February 12, 2018, and just days later filed a certified copy of his prisoner trust account statement. The statement showed that the average monthly deposit of his account was $10.83 and the average monthly balance was $0.01. Based on this information, on February 23, 2018, I ordered McDaniel to forward to the Clerk of Court $2.17 (20 percent of $10.83) as an initial partial filing fee. McDaniel then filed two motions requesting use of his release account to pay his initial partial filing fee because he does not have adequate funds in his regular account.

         Review of McDaniel's trust account confirms that he lacks the assets and means in his regular account to pay the initial partial filing fee. Given the reason for the release account-to be used upon the prisoner's release from custody upon completion of his sentence-and the fact that McDaniel's trust account shows his lacks the funds to pay the initial partial filing fee, I will waive the fee. See Wilson v. Anderson, Case No. 14-C-798, 2014 WL 3671878 at *3 (E.D. Wis. July 23, 2014) (citing Wis. Adm. Code § DOC 309.466). McDaniel is still obligated to pay the full filing fee, but he may do so over time pursuant to the statutory formula set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).

         2. Screening of the Complaint

         Federal law requires that I screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). I must dismiss a complaint if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally “frivolous or malicious, ” that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         To state a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, “that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint's allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).

         In considering whether a complaint states a claim, I follow the principles set forth in Twombly by, first, “identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations. Id. If there are well-pleaded factual allegations, the court must, second, “assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id.

         To state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: 1) he was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and 2) the deprivation was caused by the defendant acting under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore v. County of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Kramer v. Village of North Fond du Lac, 384 F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). I am obliged to give the pro se plaintiff's allegations, “however inartfully pleaded, ” a liberal construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         The Eighth Amendment requires the government “to provide medical care for those whom it is punishing by incarceration.” Snipes v. Detella, 95 F.3d 586, 590 (7th Cir. 1996) (quoting Estelle, 429 U.S. at 103). To prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim, a prisoner must show that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. A serious medical need is “one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention.” Wynn v. Southward, 251 F.3d 588, 593 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1373 (7th Cir. 1997)).

         As for the Eighth Amendment's subjective component, the Supreme Court has held that deliberate indifference requires that “the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). Inadvertent error, negligence, gross negligence or even ordinary malpractice are insufficient grounds for invoking the Eighth Amendment. Vance v. Peters, 97 F.3d 987, 992 (7th Cir. 1996); see also Snipes, 95 F.3d at 590-91. Indeed, a prison official has a sufficiently culpable state of mind when the official “knew of a substantial risk of harm to the inmate and acted or failed to act in disregard of that risk.” Norfleet v. Webster, 439 F.3d 392, 396 (7th ...

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