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Strong v. Outagamie County Sheriff's Department

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

July 30, 2018

DENNIS STRONG, Plaintiff,
v.
OUTAGAMIE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, DOUGLAS L. VERHEYEN, LANCE L. WILSON, CHAD A. BEAUVAIS AND WISCONSIN MUNICIPAL MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED WITHOUT PREPAYMENT OF THE FILING FEE (DKT NO. 2) AND SCREENING COMPLAINT (DKT. NO. 1)

          HON. PAMELA PEPPER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The plaintiff, a state prisoner who is representing himself, filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that the defendants violated his civil rights. Dkt. No. 1. This decision resolves the plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee, dkt. no. 2, and screens his complaint, dkt. no. 1.

         I. Motion for Leave to Proceed without Prepayment of the Filing Fee (Dkt. No. 2)

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act applies to this case because the plaintiff was in custody when he filed his complaint. 28 U.S.C. §1915. That law allows a court to give an incarcerated plaintiff the ability to proceed with his case without prepaying the civil case filing fee, if he meets certain conditions. One of those conditions is that the plaintiff pay an initial partial filing fee. 28 U.S.C. §1915(b). Once the plaintiff pays the initial partial filing fee, the court may allow the plaintiff to pay the balance of the $350 filing fee over time, through deductions from his prisoner account. Id.

         On February 20, 2018, the court waived the initial partial filing fee. Dkt. No. 5. The court will grant the plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee, and will allow him to pay the $350 filing fee over time in the manner explained at the end of this order.

         II. Screening the Plaintiff's Complaint

         A. Federal Screening Standard

         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 the court cannot grant relief, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from that 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) someone deprived him 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)).

         B. The Plaintiff's Allegations

         The plaintiff, who was confined at the Outagamie County Jail during the events he describes in the complaint, has sued the Outagamie County Sheriff's Department, Lieutenant Douglas L. Verheyen, Sergeant Lance L. Wilson, Chad A. Beauvais and the Wisconsin Municipal Mutual Insurance Company. Dkt. No. 1.

         The plaintiff alleges that on January 16, 2016, defendant Wilson sexually harassed him. Id. at 6. Allegedly, Wilson stated, “Welcome home sweetheart, ” to the plaintiff while “exhibiting a physical gesture of a kiss and a sound effect thereof followed with a wink of the eye directed explicitly to Strong.” Id.

         The plaintiff alleges that about forty-five days later, in March 2016, he “returned” to the jail (the court assumes that he was out of custody in the meantime). Id. The plaintiff states that following his return, he reported Wilson's conduct “to various parties to include those from DOC [Department of Corrections] and OCSO [Outagamie County Sheriff's Office].” Id. at 7. According to the plaintiff, he subsequently met with Wilson's supervisor, defendant Verheyen, and gave Verheyen “explicit details of Wilson's sexual harassment upon Strong on 1/16/2016 as well as occasions prior.” Id. Verheyen allegedly had the plaintiff moved “to the most luxurious [area] of the jail for lock-up inmates as a condition Strong does not pursue further issues into Wilson's sexual harassment upon Strong[.]” Id. The plaintiff alleges that jail security classification specialist Chad Beauvais opposed the move, “given Strong's history of concerns and current need for a high security housing setting at the time.” Id.

         The plaintiff allegedly returned to the jail on June 19, 2016, with a release date of October 17, 2016. Id. On October 7, 2016, the plaintiff learned that his daughter had died suddenly on October 6, 2016. Id. Appleton Police Department Detective Neil Rabas was investigating the death; he informed the plaintiff that the funeral service was scheduled for October 12, 2016 in the City of Appleton, at a church about two miles from the jail. Id. at 8. The plaintiff alleges that he asked Wilson (the supervisor on duty at the jail at the time) to telephone family about the death and for details of the funeral, to contact a family attorney so that attorney could ask Judge Krueger for a three- to four-hour court-ordered furlough to allow the plaintiff to attend the funeral. Id. Wilson allegedly denied the plaintiff's request to call his family and to contact an attorney. Id. The plaintiff says that Wilson told him that Wilson would contact Judge Krueger on the plaintiff's behalf to ...


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