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Morris v. Dickman

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

July 31, 2018

TAMMY DICKMAN, et al. Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER


         The court granted pro se plaintiff Michael Morris leave to proceed on an access to courts claim against all of the named defendants. On September 27, 2017, however, the court granted defendants' motion to dismiss. (Dkt. #85.) Since that date, Morris has filed 25 motions, some asking the court to reconsider dismissing his claims, and the remainder dealing with his attempts to appeal that judgment. For the reasons that follow, the court sees no basis to reconsider its original decision on the merits.

         I. Motions to alter or amend (dkts. ##87, 88, 89, 120, 124, 126, 130).

         Two of Morris's motions seek clarification that the court received exhibits 80-130 or to alter and amend other exhibits, apparently out of concern that the court would resolve his motion for reconsideration without receiving all of the exhibits filed with his motion to alter or amend. (Dkts. ##88, 89.) These motions will be granted as follows: (1) the court has considered Morris's properly-filed motions for reconsideration pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), and (2) the court has considered all of the exhibits to his motion to alter or amend, which included several hundred pages. (See dkts. ##87-1, 87-2, 120-2.)

         As for Morris's additional motions to alter or amend the judgment, his arguments are hard to follow, but read generously, he appears to contest the following:

• The court's dismissal of defendant Rice, an assistant attorney general for the State of Wisconsin, because he had no duty to ensure that Morris's filings challenging his criminal conviction were properly filed.
• The court's dismissal of defendant Dickman, an employee of the business office at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility, because she had no involvement in handling Morris's indigency materials in support of his state court petitions, Morris having not yet been incarcerated at WSPF, and regardless, the state courts actually reviewed Morris's filings in his petitions and determined that he was not entitled to relief on the merits.
• The court's dismissal of defendant Fremgen, a court clerk with the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, who allegedly mislabeled some of his filings, because that court also ultimately addressed his petitions on the merits after receiving his numerous filings.

         In apparent support of his motions challenging these rulings, Morris recounts the timeline of events surrounding his petitions for relief in the Wisconsin courts, arguing that Dickman and Fremgen repeatedly ignored his communications about his filings, and as a result, the state courts incorrectly interpreted the intent of those filings. As Morris casts it, he is challenging the fact that these defendants stopped him from filing documents that would shed light on the improper investigation leading to his criminal conviction. Morris attaches numerous exhibits related to those proceedings, but none appear to support a finding that the named defendants here could be held liable on an access to courts claim. Rather, these exhibits are a collection of actual filings in the state proceedings, including the Wisconsin Court of Appeals decision denying him a petition for writ of mandamus, his indigency submissions, his various fund disbursement requests that were later authorized by Dickman, as well as numerous documents that appear to be part of his criminal case. (See dkts. ##87-1, 87-2, 121-2.) While Morris maintains that defendants in suit somehow thwarted his ability to pursue his state court petitions, the facts as pleaded and his later submissions confirm that the Wisconsin courts considered his many filings and concluded that Morris had not met the extraordinary burden of establishing that his convictions were not based on evidence. Accordingly, no reasonable trier of fact could find any alleged delay in filing by defendants Dickman and Fremgen (or failures to catch these delays by defendant Rice) caused any injury to Morris.

         II. Motions regarding appeal (dkts. ##98, 99, 100, 106, 109, 113, 114, 117, 119, 128, 129, 135, 140, 142, 143, 144, 146).

         Through a series of confusing filings, Morris appears to seek this court's reconsideration of its decision on the merits, while proceeding with his appeal of that decision before the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Understandably, this has created some confusion in the clerk's office of each court, as well as apparently caused him to file an increasing flurry of motions. In an effort to put an end to this onslaught, the court will describe his motions in general terms, while denying the majority of his motions and providing Morris specific instructions on how to proceed if he wishes to pursue his appeal.

         On October 5 and 6 of 2017, after Morris filed his first motion to alter or amend the judgment, he filed two notices of appeal (dkts. ##90, 95), and the Seventh Circuit assigned each notice an appeal number, 17-3053 and 17-3074. Afterwards, Morris filed a motion to correct the record (dkt. #99), indicating that he wished to pursue only one appeal and requesting the dismissal of Case No. 17-3074. Because Morris indicated that his first notice of appeal (which was assigned Case No. 17-3053) was filed in error, the Seventh Circuit chose to dismiss that one instead. Morris v. Dickman, Case No. 17-3053, dkt. #4, (7th Cir. Oct. 11, 2017). Adding to the confusion, Morris then filed a third notice of appeal on October 16, 2017, which he labeled “Amended Notice of Appeal” and which the Seventh Circuit assigned Case No. 17-3128. Accordingly, at this point Morris appears to still have two open appeals challenging the court's September 26, 2017, judgment: Case Nos. 17-3074 and 17-3128.

         The Seventh Circuit subsequently suspended all proceedings in either appeal until this court resolves Morris's pending motions to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal. See Morris v. Dickman, Case No. 17-3074, dkt. #7 (7th Cir. Oct. 26, 2017); Morris v. Dickman, Case No. 17-3128, dkt. #1 (7th Cir. Oct. 16, 2017). While the court resolves those motions in this opinion, this is where Morris's filings become really confusing.

         In early October, Morris had filed two, previous motions for leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal (dkts. ##98, 100), but then on October 13, 2017, Morris filed a motion to “destroy” those motions (dkt. #106). Three days later, on October 16, 2017, Morris filed his “Amended Notice of Appeal, ” which became Case No. 17-3128, and another motion to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal (dkt. #109). Nevertheless, throughout the rest of October, Morris filed numerous motions that fall into three categories: (1) requests for clarification regarding which case number he should proceed under on appeal (dkts. ##113, 117); (2) requests to use this court's e-filing program to ...

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