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Spates v. Sauvey

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

May 24, 2018

SCOTT E. SPATES, Plaintiff,
v.
MARY SAUVEY, LT. VAN GHEEMS, and SGT. KAPHINGST, Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO CLARIFY STATUS OF THIS CASE (DKT. NO. 74), SCREENING AMENDED COMPLAINT (DKT. NO. 37) AND DISMISSING CASE AGAINST ALL DEFENDANTS

          HON. PAMELA PEPPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Facts

         The plaintiff, a Wisconsin state prisoner who is representing himself, filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that the defendant violated his civil rights. Dkt. No. 1. The court screened the complaint, and issued an order allowing the plaintiff to proceed with an Eighth Amendment claim that defendant Dr. Sauvey refused to send him to the hospital even though the plaintiff could not walk without extreme pain. Dkt. No. 15 at 6-7. The defendant answered the complaint, dkt. no. 21, and on August 9, 2016, the court issued a scheduling order, dkt. no. 26.

         Several weeks later, on August 22, 2016, the court received from the plaintiff a motion asking for leave to file an amended complaint. Dkt. No. 31. The plaintiff explained that in his complaint, he had named a “John Doe” defendant.[1] Id. at 1. He told the court that he'd since learned that the real name of the “John Doe” defendant was Lieutenant Van Gheems, and he asked to amend the complaint to add Van Gheems as a defendant. Id. at 1-2. He also explained that he'd named a “Jane Doe” defendant in the complaint, and that he'd since learned that her real name was Sergeant Kaphingst. Id. at 2. He asked to add Kaphingst as a defendant. Id. The court granted the motion on September 1, 2016, and instructed the plaintiff to file the amended complaint on or before September 30, 2016.[2] Dkt. No. 33.

         On September 6, 2017-without the plaintiff yet having filed an amended complaint-defendant Sauvey filed a motion to stay all deadlines, so that the defendant could file a motion for summary judgment based on her assertion that the plaintiff had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Dkt. No. 34. The incidents the plaintiff complained of occurred in August 2014, and the defendant asserted that the plaintiff had not filed an offender complaint regarding the incidents until December 30, 2015, over a year after the deadline by which to file a complaint had expired. Id. at ¶1. On September 7, 2016, the court granted defendant Sauvey's motion to stay, and stayed all pending deadlines (other than the deadline the court set for the defendant to file her motion for summary judgment based on failure to exhaust administrative remedies). Dkt. No. 36. The court concluded that it would be a waste of the parties' time and resources to require the parties to conduct discovery, if it was true that the plaintiff had not filed any grievances regarding the incident for over a year. Dkt. No. 36. The court did not mention, in its order staying deadlines, the fact that it had issued an order allowing the plaintiff to amend his complaint to add the two defendants whose identities he'd discovered.

         A week later, on September 14, 2016, the plaintiff filed his proposed amended complaint, naming defendant Sauvey (whom he'd named in his original complaint), Lieutenant Van Gheems and Sergeant Kaphingst as defendants. Dkt. No. 37. The court did not, however, screen the amended complaint; to date, it hasn't done so, and that error has caused the current confusion. The court never ordered the amended complaint served on the two new defendants.

         A little less than a month later, on October 7, 2016, defendant Sauvey- and only defendant Sauvey-filed a motion for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 39. On January 17, 2017, the court granted that motion, finding that the plaintiff had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Dkt. No. 54. The order granting summary judgment listed only defendant Sauvey in the caption, and referred only to one defendant-defendant Sauvey. Id. The court entered judgment, and dismissed the entire case, on January 19, 2017; again, the judgment listed only one defendant-defendant Sauvey. Dkt. No. 55. Again, it was an error for the court to dismiss the entire cause. It should have dismissed the case only as to defendant Sauvey.

         On January 26, 2017, the plaintiff appealed the court's decision to the Seventh Circuit. Dkt. No. 56; Spates v. Sauvey, No. 17-1170, Dkt. No. 1 (7th Cir.). The plaintiff listed only one defendant in his notice of appeal- defendant Sauvey. Id. The Seventh Circuit's record for the case named only one defendant on appeal-defendant Sauvey. See, e.g., Id. at Dkt. No. 60.

         On August 29, 2017, defendant Sauvey filed a motion in the Seventh Circuit to dismiss the appeal. Spates v. Sauvey, Id. at Dkt. No. 22. The motion alleged that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals did not have appellate jurisdiction over the appeal, because this court's decision dismissing the case was not a final decision. Id. at 2. Sauvey explained that the plaintiff had added two defendants to the case, but that the court had not resolved the claims against those defendants. Id. at 3. She noted that the amended complaint remained pending against Van Gheems and Kaphingst. Id. at 4. Sauvey asked the Seventh Circuit to dismiss the appeal and remand it to this court for further proceedings. Id. The plaintiff responded to that motion, arguing that he thought this court's order dismissing his case should have “cover[ed] the merits of the case, ” and that the court's ruling should have been “dispositive of all other issues.” Id. at Dkt. No. 24 at 4. After some back and forth between the plaintiff and the Seventh Circuit, the plaintiff filed a motion asking the Seventh Circuit to dismiss his appeal without prejudice. Id. at Dkt. No. 41. He told the Seventh Circuit that he was making the request because he realized that this court had not addressed the two new defendants, and he indicated that he wanted the chance to appeal whatever decision this court might issue as to all three defendants. Id. at 3. On March 30, 2018, the Seventh Circuit granted the plaintiff's motion and dismissed the appeal. Id. at Dkt. No. 42.

         II. The Plaintiff's Current Motion (Dkt. No. 74)

         On April 19, 2018, the court received from the plaintiff the current motion for clarification. Dkt. No. 74. The plaintiff says that the Seventh Circuit told him that two new defendants were added to the complaint, and asks why he never was informed of this fact. Id. at 2. He asks whether the court ever contacted Van Gheems and Sgt. Kaphingst or their lawyers. Id. And he asks what the court expects of him, saying that he is “lost.” Id.

         It is understandable that the plaintiff is lost. This court made mistakes in processing his case. First, it failed to screen his amended complaint. The court cannot say for sure why it failed to screen the complaint; it suspects that it was distracted by defendant Sauvey's motion for summary judgment. That is not an excuse, and the failure is the responsibility of the court.

         The court's second mistake is that when it granted Sauvey's motion for summary judgment, the court indicated that it was dismissing the entire case, forgetting that the plaintiff had filed an amended complaint naming two other defendants. The court could not dismiss the entire complaint without dealing with the plaintiff's proposed amended complaint, and with the claims he'd alleged against Van Gheems and Kaphingst, and it had not done that.

         The plaintiff rightfully asks what he should do now. The answer is that the plaintiff does not need to do anything. It is the court's responsibility to do something, something it should have done months ago-screen the amended complaint against Van Gheems and Kaphingst.

         III. Screening the Proposed Amended ...


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