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Pietila v. Tritt

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

June 13, 2018

MICHAEL SCOTT PIETILA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAPTAIN KYLE TRITT, Defendant. MICHAEL SCOTT PIETILA, Plaintiff,
v.
JEREMY WESTRA, GRANT ROPER, BRIAN SCHMIDT, ANN YORK, JACOB ARONSON, and MICHAEL CLARK, Defendants.

          ORDER

          J. P. STADTMUELLER, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         1. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff filed both of these actions on November 13, 2017. In Pietila v. Tritt, Plaintiff was allowed to proceed on a claim under the Eighth Amendment against Captain Kyle Tritt, a correctional officer at Waupun Correctional Institution, for depriving Plaintiff of various necessities. Pietila v. Tritt, 17-CV-1586-JPS (“Pietila I”), (Docket #14). In Pietila v. Westra, the Court permitted Plaintiff to present a claim of excessive force, also a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights, against Jeremy Westra, Grant Roper, Brian Schmidt, Ann York, Jacob Aronson, and Michael Clark, all members of Waupun's security staff. Pietila v. Westra et al., 17-CV-1587-JPS (“Pietila II”), (Docket #10).

         In early May 2018, Defendants moved for summary judgment in both cases on the basis of Plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). Pietila 1. (Docket #20); Pietila II, (Docket #19). Plaintiff has filed a number of documents in each case since that time, some of which are responsive to the motions, but none of which are terribly coherent. In any event, his time in which to respond to Defendants' motions has now expired. For the reasons explained below, Defendants' motions must be granted.

         2. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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); 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).

         3. BACKGROUND

         3.1 Plaintiff's Failure to Dispute the Material Facts

         The facts relevant to each motion are undisputed because Plaintiff failed to dispute them. In the Court's scheduling orders, entered in March 2018, Plaintiff was warned about the requirements for opposing a motion for summary judgment. Pietila I, (Docket #18 at 3); Pietila II, (Docket #14 at 3). Accompanying those orders 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 Defendants' motions for summary judgment, they too warned Plaintiff about the requirements for his responses as set forth in Federal and Local Rules 56. Pietila I, (Docket #20 at 1-2); Pietila II, (Docket #19 at 1-2). He was provided with additional copies of those rules along with Defendants' motions. Pietila I, (Docket #20 at 3-11); Pietila II, (Docket #19 at 3-11).

         In neither case did Plaintiff file a response to a statement of facts or any evidence of his own. Rather, as mentioned above, Plaintiff submitted a series of documents, only some of which appear responsive to the motions for summary judgment. See Pietila I, (Docket #24) (styled a “motion for default summary judgment, ” but arguably a brief in response to the summary judgment motion), (Docket #27) (response to a motion to stay filed by defendant); Pietila II, (Docket #23) (brief styled a “reply” to the summary judgment motion), (Docket #26) (reply to a prior motion filed by Plaintiff). Even those documents which seem responsive make no attempt to dispute Defendants' factual contentions. Pietila I, (Docket #24); Pietila II, (Docket #23).

         One wrinkle remains, however. In Pietila I, the motion materials also included a statement of facts, as required by Local Rule 56. Pietila I, (Docket #22); Civ. L. R. 56(b)(1)(B). Such a statement is absent in Pietila II. The Court will, nevertheless, excuse Defendants' noncompliance with the Local Rules in this instance. The only evidence relied upon in Pietila II is a three-page affidavit, a three-page printout of Plaintiff's complaint-filing history, and a copy of Wisconsin's statewide procedures for filing inmate complaints. Pietila II, (Docket #21, #21-1, and #22). Plaintiff's submissions included no evidence at all, suggesting that he has none to oppose that of Defendants. Further, he did not object to their noncompliance with the Local Rules or argue that their presentation of the facts was erroneous. See Id. (Docket #23).[1]

         Despite being twice warned of the strictures of summary judgment procedure in each case, Plaintiff ignored those rules by failing to properly dispute Defendants' proffered evidence with his own relevant, admissible evidence. Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003). Though the Court is required to liberally construe a pro se plaintiff's filings, it cannot act as his lawyer, and it cannot delve through the record to find favorable evidence for him. Thus, the Court will, unless otherwise stated, deem Defendants' assertions of fact 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 Exhaustion of Prisoner Administrative Remedies

         It will be helpful to review how the PLRA's exhaustion requirement plays out in the Wisconsin prison system prior to relating the relevant facts. The PLRA establishes that, prior to filing a lawsuit complaining about prison conditions, a prisoner must exhaust “such administrative remedies as are available[.]” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). To do so, the prisoner must “file complaints and appeals in the place, and at the time, the prison's administrative rules require, ” and he must do so precisely in accordance with those rules; substantial compliance does not satisfy the PLRA. Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir. 2002); Smith v. Zachary, 255 F.3d 446, 452 (7th Cir. 2001); Burrell v. Powers, 431 F.3d 282, 284-85 (7th Cir. 2005). Several important policy goals animate the exhaustion requirement, including ...


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