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Czapiewski v. Pingel

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

June 27, 2018

ZACHARY PINGEL, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff David Czapiewski, who is representing himself, filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. I allowed him to proceed on claims that: (1) defendants Zachary Pingel, Brian Bantleon, Richard Zimkiewicz, and Theodore Stern were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment when they failed to help him after he expressed thoughts of self-harm; (2) Pingel issued plaintiff a conduct report in violation of the First Amendment; and (3) Pingel failed to place plaintiff in observation status in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Before me now are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         At the relevant time, plaintiff was an inmate housed at the Wisconsin Resource Center (WRC), and defendants were employed at WRC. Pingel was a psychiatric care technician (PCT), Zimkiewicz was a psychiatric care supervisor, Stern was a captain, and Bantleon was the security director.

         On November 12, 2015, plaintiff, who is 6'5” and about 290 pounds, approached the desk were Pingel and two other PCTs were stationed. According to plaintiff, he said, “I am having thoughts of harming myself and staff and want to be removed from the unit and placed on ‘Observations Status.'” Docket No. 84 at ¶ 4; Docket No. 58 at ¶ 1. Plaintiff explains that, on a number of occasions while incarcerated, he has expressed thoughts of self-harm and has been placed in observations status.

         One of the PCTs, who is not a defendant, reported to Zimkiewicz that plaintiff had stood over the staff desk and made threats about wanting to hurt them because of an incident involving a television set. Staff reported to Zimkiewicz that plaintiff's behavior and comments were intimidating and threatening.

         Zimkiewicz talked to plaintiff to figure out what was going on. During the conversation, plaintiff was adamant that he was not actually going to hurt himself; he had only thought about it, like a memory. Plaintiff insisted that he could think about whatever he wanted and that thoughts are not crimes. Zimkiewicz agreed that thoughts are not crimes and asked plaintiff to confirm that he did not have an intent to hurt himself. Plaintiff confirmed he was not going to hurt himself. He then started talking about his television. According to Zimkiewicz, plaintiff's behavior escalated when he asked him about his threats to staff. He does not explain what he means by “escalated, ” and plaintiff denies that his behavior escalated.

         Following this conversation, Zimkiewicz decided to place plaintiff in temporary lock-up (TLU) pending an investigation into plaintiff's statements and demeanor and pending a conduct report he intended to issue plaintiff for threatening staff. Zimkiewicz explains that he did what he thought was best in order to ensure the safety of the inmates and staff and to prevent plaintiff's behavior from escalating later in the shift.

         Plaintiff was escorted to TLU, which is a non-punitive status. Inmates believed to have committed a major rule violation are generally placed in TLU pending an investigation. Zimkiewicz spoke to plaintiff before and throughout plaintiff's movement to TLU, and plaintiff expressed no interest in observation status and repeatedly stated that he did not have any intent to harm himself.

         Plaintiff was upset about being moved to TLU because he did not think his comments were threatening to either himself or to staff; he insisted that he had only thought about it. Zimkiewicz told plaintiff that telling staff about his ideas of hurting them while towering over their desk because he could not get his television set was perceived by the staff as threating. He informed plaintiff he was going to TLU pending a conduct report for making threats. Plaintiff was issued a notice of placement in TLU, which allowed plaintiff the opportunity to write a statement. In his statement, plaintiff admitted that he told staff he was having thoughts of harming PCTs. Bantleon reviewed and approved plaintiff's TLU placement pending review by the treatment team of plaintiff's thoughts/threats.

         In TLU, staff perform welfare checks on the inmates every fifteen minutes, just as they would for an inmate on clinical observation. Defendants explain that placing plaintiff in TLU allowed them to adequately monitor his behavior, safety, and well-being, to provide a safer working environment for staff, and to temporarily limit plaintiff's access to property that he might have used to harm himself or others. Plaintiff insists that placing him in TLU without allowing him to talk to the on-call crisis psychological staff exacerbated his mental health crisis.

         Plaintiff asserts that because of his mental health crisis, he attempted suicide by jumping head-first off of his sink. He states that he was knocked unconscious for several minutes and that he continues to experience back pain and migraines. Defendants point out that there is no documentation indicating that plaintiff engaged in self-harming behaviors while he was in TLU. PCT notes indicate that plaintiff acted appropriately, made his needs known, took his medication, and slept most of the shift. Plaintiff points to a health services request that he wrote nearly a year and a half later, on April 12, 2017, wherein he complained about headaches he was suffering as a result of diving off of his sink on November 12, 2015.

         Plaintiff was returned to the general population the next day, on November 13, 2015. Pingel, at the direction of Zimkiewicz, issued plaintiff a disciplinary conduct report for threats based on his comments to staff that he was thinking of harming them.

         Bantelon approved the conduct report on November 13, 2015, and Stern approved the conduct report on November 16, 2015. Stern designated the report as a major rule violation and determined that it should be proceed to full due process hearing. A full due process hearing was held on November 23, 2015. The hearing officer (who is not ...

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