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Smith v. Eckstein

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

June 13, 2018

ANTONIO MARQUES SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
SCOTT ECKSTEIN, STEVE SCHUELER, JOHN KIND, CAPTAIN BAUMANN, CAPTAIN STEVEN, SGT. SIAGON, JOHN DOE, and MAILROOM OFFICERS, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED WITHOUT PREPAYMENT OF THE FILING FEE (DKT. NO. 6), SCREENING COMPLAINT UNDER 28 U.S.C. §1915A, AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE AND TEMPORARY EMERGENCY RESTRAINING ORDER (DKT. NO. 9)

          HON. PAMELA PEPPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The plaintiff, a Wisconsin state prisoner who is representing himself, filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983, dkt. no. 1, along with a motion for leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee, dkt. no. 6. He also filed a motion asking the court to order the defendants to show cause why the court should not issue a temporary restraining order. Dkt. No. 9. This order resolves the motions and screens the complaint.

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

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) applies to this case because the plaintiff was incarcerated when he filed his complaint. 28 U.S.C. §1915. The PLRA allows a court to give an incarcerated plaintiff the ability to proceed with his lawsuit without prepaying the 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).

         On May 15, 2017, the court ordered the plaintiff to pay an initial partial filing fee of $17.17. Dkt. No. 5. The plaintiff paid that fee on June 5, 2017. Accordingly, the court will grant the plaintiff's motion. The court will require the plaintiff to pay the remainder of the filing fee over time as set forth at the end of this decision.

         II. Screening the Plaintiff's Complaint

         The law requires the court 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 if the plaintiff raises 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 a court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         To state a claim 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 defendant was 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)); see also Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The court gives a 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)).

         A. The Plaintiff's Allegations

         The plaintiff is incarcerated at the Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI). Dkt. No. 1 at 1. On November 15, 2016, the plaintiff had a court hearing in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, relating to criminal charges he was facing. Id. at 3. At the hearing, the prosecutor informed the judge that the prosecutor had received an email from GBCI concerning mail that the plaintiff had written to one of his attorneys in his criminal case. Id. The prosecutor told the court that he didn't open the plaintiff's letter, because it was privileged correspondence between the plaintiff and his attorney. Id. at 4. The prosecutor stated that he did not know why GBCI staff had opened the envelope, read the letter and forwarded it to the prosecutor, but he told the judge that he thought it appropriate to tell the court about it. Id. The plaintiff says that the judge “was clear in his ruling and order that the actions of GBCI mailroom staff and administration had violated [the plaintiff's] First Amendment attorney/client privileged communication right.” Id. The judge commended the prosecutor for not reading the letter, and he directed the prosecutor to delete the email. Id. The judge added that he was “very disturbed” by the actions of the GBCI staff. Id.

         After the court hearing, the plaintiff wrote to defendants Warden Eckstein, Deputy Warden Schueler and Security Director Kind. Id. He asked them for the name of the person who opened his legal mail, as well as the identity of the person who'd emailed it to the prosecutor and the person who'd authorized all of this, but they refused to tell him. Id. at 5. He also asked whether any other privileged communications had been opened or read; the defendants “refused to answer” his questions. Id.

         On November 29, 2016, the plaintiff filed an inmate complaint about the incident. Id. at 5. Defendant Kind responded that the issue had been addressed with the staff involved, and the complaint was dismissed (because it allegedly had been addressed). Id. Warden Eckstein approved the dismissal of the complaint. Id. The plaintiff filed an appeal to the corrections complaint examiner, who recommended dismissal of the appeal. Id. at 5-6.

         The plaintiff states that defendant Sgt. Siagon, who oversees the mailroom department, can't authorize a mailroom officer to open an inmate's mail to his attorney. Id. at 6. The plaintiff thinks that defendants Captain Baumann, Security Director Kind and Deputy Warden Schueler each have the authority to direct staff to open outgoing mail from an inmate to his lawyer. Id. He also believes that Captain Steven, who is the supervising captain of the mailroom and an investigator supervisor, likely played a significant role in opening ...


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