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Hoskins v. Waukesha County Jail Administration

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

April 25, 2018



          William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge

         Plaintiff Michael Hoskins, who is currently serving a state prison sentence at Waupun Correctional Institution and representing himself, filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his civil rights were violated while he was in custody at the Waukesha County Jail. This matter comes before the court on Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed without prepaying the full filing fee.

         Motion to Proceed without Prepayment of the Filing Fee

         Plaintiff is required to pay the $400.00 filing fee for this action, which includes the $350.00 statutory filing fee and a $50.00 administrative fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). If a prisoner does not have the money to pay the filing fee, he can request leave to proceed without prepayment of the full filing fee. In that case, the prisoner plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis is required to pay the full amount of the $350.00 statutory filing fee, not the $50.00 administrative fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Plaintiff has filed a certified copy of his prison trust account statement for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of his complaint, as required under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2), and has been assessed and paid an initial partial filing fee of $3.76. Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed without prepaying the filing fee will be granted.

         Screening of the Complaint

         The court is required to 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). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof 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). A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Hutchinson ex rel. Baker v. Spink, 126 F.3d 895, 900 (7th Cir. 1997).

         To state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading system, the plaintiff is required to provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The complaint must contain sufficient factual matter “that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The court accepts the factual allegations as true and liberally construes them in the plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 651 (7th Cir. 2013). Nevertheless, 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).

         Allegations of the Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges that John Doe Correctional Officer and the health department at the Waukesha County Jail used unnecessary force while stripping him out of his clothes on January 23, 2018. While he was having a seizure and trying to catch his breath that night, the jail's nurse allegedly threw cold water on him. After the seizure, Plaintiff allegedly noticed bruising on his arm and bleeding between his legs due to his clothes, including his underwear, being ripped off. John Doe Correctional Officer had allegedly used three fingers to perform a rectal search on Plaintiff. The officer also allegedly played a video of the search for other officers, who Plaintiff could see laughing at him. The injuries that Plaintiff sustained while he was being stripped and searched allegedly required that he be sent to the hospital the following day. ECF No. 1 at 2. Shocking as these allegations are, the court must treat them as true for purposes of screening the complaint.

         The Court's Analysis

         “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 visited upon him by a person or persons acting under color of state law.” Buchanan-Moore v. Cty. of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Kramer v. Vill. of N. Fond du Lac, 384 F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)). A strip-search occurring in a jail or prison can constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. King v. McCarty, 781 F.3d 889, 897 (7th Cir. 2015) (per curiam). “A prisoner states a claim under the Eighth Amendment when he plausibly alleges that the strip-search in question was motivated by a desire to harass or humiliate rather than by a legitimate justification, such as the need for order and security in prisons.” Id. (first citing Calhoun v. DeTella, 319, F.3d 936, 939 (7th Cir. 2003); then citing Meriwether v. Faulkner, 821 F.2d 408, 418 (7th Cir. 1987)). “Even where prison authorities are able to identify a valid correctional justification for the search, it may still violate the Eighth Amendment if ‘conducted in a harassing manner intended to humiliate and cause psychological pain.'” Id. (quoting Mays v. Springborn, 575 F.3d 643, 649 (7th Cir. 2009)).

         It appears from the allegations of the complaint that Plaintiff may have a claim. Plaintiff alleges not only that John Doe Correctional Officer conducted a strip-search in a wanton and cruel manner that caused severe injuries forcing Plaintiff to obtain treatment at the hospital, but also that the officer then showed a video of the search to his colleagues for the apparent purpose of entertaining them at Plaintiff's expense. If true, the strip-search was conducted in such a way as to violate Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment or, if it occurred before conviction, his fourteenth Amenmdnet right to due process. But it is not enough to state facts sufficient to give rise to a claim; the complaint must also say who is responsible for the alleged violation of constitutional rights. The complaint must name and give notice to a proper defendant.

         Plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim for relief against any defendant formally named in the caption. Specifically, the complaint names four defendants: the Waukesha County Jail Administration, Wollenhaupt, the Waukesha County Health Services Manager, and Lt. Shallow. ECF No. 1 at 1. Yet the allegations in the body of the complaint fail to associate allegedly wrongful conduct with any of these four named defendants. All four defendants named in the caption are therefore entitled to dismissal because the complaint fails to state a claim against them; it fails to provide them notice of what they are alleged to have done that violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights.

         In the body of the complaint, Plaintiff also refers to a John Doe, apparently because he does not know the officer's name. It is possible that Lt. Shallow, named in the caption, is in fact John Doe Correctional Officer, against whom Plaintiff has stated a claim. If that is the case, then Plaintiff should file an amended complaint making that association clear. More likely, Plaintiff simply doesn't know who allegedly assaulted him. If so, this is not grounds to dismiss his case at this stage. The Seventh Circuit has made clear that district courts may not simply dismiss such a complaint for that reason alone without assisting the plaintiff in conducting the investigation needed to determine the alleged wrongdoers. Billman v. Ind. Dep't of Corr., 56 F.3d 785, 790 (7th Cir. 1995) (“We think it is the duty of the ...

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