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Brooks v. Tyler

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

April 20, 2018



          J.P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge


         Plaintiff Alfonso Lorenzo Brooks ("Brooks"), a prisoner, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Kevin Tyler ("Tyler") and Charles Copeland ("Copeland"), correctional officers at Milwaukee County Jail (the "Jail"). Brooks alleges that Tyler and Copeland used excessive force against him, in violation of his constitutional rights, by pushing him to the ground and grabbing his neck in a way that choked him while escorting him to a disciplinary unit in the Jail.

         On October 2, 2017, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, supported by a brief, declarations, and proposed facts. (Docket #24-#30). Brooks requested an extension of time to file his opposition brief, and the Court granted him an extension. (Docket #31 and #34). On November 13, 2017, Brooks filed a response to the defendants' summary judgment motion. (Docket #35). The defendants did not file a reply, but their time to do so has long since passed. For the reasons explained below, the defendants' motion will 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). The court must not weigh the evidence presented or determine credibility of witnesses; the Seventh Circuit instructs that "we leave those tasks to factfinders." Berry v. Chicago Transit Auth., 618 F.3d 688, 691 (7th Cir. 2010). The party opposing summary judgment "need not match the movant witness for witness, nor persuade the court that [his] case is convincing, [he] need only come forward with appropriate evidence demonstrating that there is a pending dispute of material fact." Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 921 (7th Cir. 1994).

         3. RELEVANT FACTS

         3.1 Plaintiff's Failure to Dispute the Material Facts

         The relevant facts are undisputed because Brooks failed to dispute them. In the Court's scheduling order, entered January 23, 2017, Brooks was warned about the requirements for opposing a motion for summary judgment. (Docket #16 at 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 the 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 #24). He was provided with additional copies of those Rules along with the defendants' motion. Id. at 3-8. In connection with their motion, the defendants filed a supporting statement of material facts that complied with the applicable procedural rules. (Docket #26). It contained short, numbered paragraphs concisely stating those facts which the defendants proposed to be beyond dispute, with supporting citations to the attached evidentiary materials. See id.

         Brooks did not respond to the defendants' statement of facts and did not offer his own proposed statement of facts. In response to the defendants' summary judgment motion, Brooks submitted a two-page document in which he states, without pointing to supporting evidence, that the defendant officers used excessive force against him. (Docket #35). Brooks also states in his response that he cannot dispute the defendants' proposed facts because he has not received documents that he requested from the defense. Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d)). However, Brooks has not given any good reason why is unable to present evidence in his favor or dispute the defendants' proposed facts.

         Brooks did file a motion early in the litigation asking the Court to instruct the defendants to "help retrieve any and all documentation" of the incident underlying his complaint, (Docket #20), but the Court denied that motion and instructed Brooks to use the tools of discovery to request information directly from the defendants, (Docket #21). The Court also instructed Brooks to review the litigation guides that it provided with its trial scheduling order for information regarding the discovery process. Id. Brooks subsequently filed with the Court a document containing discovery requests, (Docket #32), and the Clerk's Office responded with a letter again explaining to Brooks that discovery requests must be sent by mail or other means directly to counsel for the defendants, not filed with the Court, (Docket #33). Brooks never filed a motion to compel the defendants to respond to properly-served discovery requests. Although the Court takes seriously its duty to construe liberally the filings of pro se litigants, it cannot act as Brooks' lawyer. The Court on several occasions provided Brooks with information about the proper use of the discovery process. It appears Brooks failed to use the discovery process to collect the evidence he wants, but the Court cannot step in to do so for him or further delay the resolution of this case by instructing him, again, on how to collect it himself. Further, Brooks could have filed a declaration swearing to his version of the events underlying his claims, which would not require use of discovery tools, but he failed to do that as well.

         Despite being warned of the strictures of the summary judgment procedure, Brooks ignored those rules by failing to properly dispute the defendants' proffered facts with citations to relevant, admissible evidence. Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003). Thus, the Court will deem the 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 Fed.Appx. 513, 515 (7th Cir. 2006) (noting that district courts have discretion to enforce procedural rules against pro se litigants).

         3.2 Relevant Facts

         All factual discussion is drawn from the defendants' statement of proposed facts and supporting declarations. (Docket #26-#29). During all times relevant to this suit, Brooks was incarcerated at the Milwaukee County Jail. ...

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