United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
MICHAEL S. HOSKINS, Plaintiff,
SCOTT WALKER, et al., Defendants.
WILLIAM C. GRIESBACH, CHIEF JUDGE
plaintiff, who is currently serving a state prison sentence
at Waupun Correctional Institution (WCI) and representing
himself, filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging that his civil rights were violated. This matter
comes before the court on Plaintiff's motion for leave to
proceed without prepaying the full filing fee and to screen
the complaint, as well as his motion to waive the initial
partial filing fee. ECF Nos. 2, 5.
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
but not the $50.00 administrative fee. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(b)(1). The plaintiff asserts that he lacks the
funds to pay the partial filing fee and asks the court to
waive it. ECF No. 5. The motion will be granted, and the
court waives the initial partial filing fee. 28 U.S.C. §
OF THE COMPLAINT
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).
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).
OF THE COMPLAINT
named two defendants in this action: Scott Walker, who is the
Governor of the State of Wisconsin, and Cathy Jess, who is
the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. He
contends that he wrote letters to Governor Walker in April,
May, and June of 2018 raising concerns about the conditions
of his confinement at WCI. Specifically, he contends that his
letters to Governor Walker asserted that he was denied
recreation, isolated in a poorly ventilated cell, attacked by
his cell mate, and denied access to the shower. Plaintiff
contends that Governor Walker never responded to his letters.
He also asserts that he filed several inmate complaints but
never received responses to them. As a result, he claims that
he also wrote letters to Secretary Jess alerting her to the
lack of response to his complaints, his concerns about the
conditions of his confinement, and his desire to have cameras
installed in the cell hall and offices at WCI. Plaintiff
alleges that Secretary Jess did not respond to his letters,
plaintiff may prevail on a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 by showing that he was (1) deprived of a federal
right (2) by a person acting under color of state law.
Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The
conditions of confinement of a prison violate the Eighth
Amendment “when (1) there is a deprivation that is,
from an objective standpoint, sufficiently serious that it
results ‘in the denial of “the minimal civilized
measure of life's necessities, ”' and (2) where
prison officials are deliberately indifferent to this state
of affairs.” Gray v. Hardy, 826 F.3d 1000,
1005 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511
U.S. 825, 834 (1994)). However, § 1983 “does not
establish a system of vicarious responsibility.”
Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592 (7th Cir. 2009)
(citing Monell v. N.Y. City Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978)). Liability depends on a
defendant's personal actions and knowledge and does not
arise out of the actions of people a defendant supervises.
Seventh Circuit has expressly disclaimed liability for public
officials such as Governor Walker and Secretary Jess under
the circumstances described in Plaintiff's complaint:
Public officials do not have a free-floating obligation to
put things to rights, disregarding rules (such as time
limits) along the way. Bureaucracies divide tasks; no
prisoner is entitled to insist that one employee do
another's job. The division of labor is important not
only to bureaucratic organization but also to efficient
performance of tasks; people who stay within their roles can
get more work done, more effectively, and cannot be hit with
damages under § 1983 for not being ombudsmen.
Burks's view that everyone who knows about a
prisoner's problem must pay damages implies that he could
write letters to the Governor of Wisconsin and 999 other
public officials, demand that every one of those 1, 000
officials drop everything he or she is doing in order to
investigate a single prisoner's claims, and then collect
damages from all 1, 000 recipients if the letter-writing
campaign does not lead to better medical care. That can't
be right. The Governor, and for that matter the
Superintendent of Prisons and the Warden of each prison, is
entitled to relegate to the prison's medical staff the
provision of good medical care. See Durmer v.
O'Carroll, 991 F.2d 64 (3d Cir.1993).
Burks, 555 F.3d at 595. Plaintiff's entire claim
turns upon an assumption that writing letters to high-level
state officials such as the Governor and a department
Secretary is sufficient to give those officials subjective
knowledge of the unconstitutional conditions that he alleges.
But the Seventh Circuit's reasoning in Burks
clearly forecloses liability under these circumstances.
Accordingly, this plaintiff has provided no arguable basis
for relief, having failed to make any rational argument in
law or fact to support his claims. See House v.
Belford, 956 F.2d 711, 720 (7th Cir. ...