United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
JASON M. FIELDS, Plaintiff,
LIEUTENANT TODD A. ZOLKOWSKI, OFFICER TED M. VANDENBERG, & LIEUTENANT RUSSELL D. BLAHNIK, Defendants.
DECISION AND ORDER
William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge United States District
Jason Fields filed this pro se civil rights action against
three Grand Chute law enforcement officers alleging they used
excessive force in effecting his arrest at the Extended Stay
Motel in Grand Chute, Wisconsin on March 8, 2015. His
complaint also asserts state law claims for battery and
intentional infliction of emotional distress. Fields filed
the case in the Circuit Court for Outagamie County, but the
defendants removed it to federal court asserting jurisdiction
under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The case is before the court on
cross motions for summary judgment. ECF Nos. 14, 23. Fields
has agreed to voluntarily dismiss his state law claims since
he failed to comply with the state law governing notice.
Because a dispute as to the material facts exists as to the
remaining federal claim, both motions will be denied.
after midnight on March 8, 2015, Lieutenant Todd Zolkowski
and Officers Ted Vandenberg and Russell Blahnik of the Grand
Chute Police Department were dispatched to the Extended Stay
America motel to arrest Fields, who was staying at the motel
with a woman and a child. Fields had three outstanding
warrants for his arrest on felony charges of forgery,
bailjumping and fraud. Id. at ¶¶ 5, 8, 37.
The officers were advised by dispatch that Fields and the
woman were probably drinking and that Fields had a weapon and
would probably run.
with this information, the defendants, dressed in their
uniforms and with their badges displayed, stationed
themselves in the hallway outside Field's motel room and
had the night auditor at the motel call the room and tell
Fields that there was someone waiting for him. As Fields
stepped outside the room, Officer Blahnik stated
“police department.” Fields made the statement
“the police” and quickly stepped back into the
room. With the door closing, Lieutenant Zolkowski reached in
and attempted to grab Fields. The ensuing struggle which
continued out into the hallway was partially captured on the
officers' body cameras and downloaded to a disc submitted
in support of the defendants' motion. ECF No. 16, Ex. F.
Fields contends that without provocation or justification,
Officer Vandenberg grabbed him and slammed him up against the
wall, causing injury to his face and neck. ECF No. 25 ¶
8. The video depicts Fields struggling with the officers and
insisting that he is not resisting, while at the same time
failing to comply with their command that he stop struggling
with them and face the wall so they can place handcuffs on
him. At one point, Fields is taken to the floor where he is
eventually handcuffed, searched, and taken into custody. In
the course of the struggle, Fields sustained abrasions to the
side of his face and to his chin.
was later charged in Outagamie Circuit Court with bailjumping
and resisting arrest based on the events described above.
Following a trial at which Fields and each of the defendants
testified, a jury returned a verdict finding Fields not
guilty of each count. This lawsuit followed.
contends that the defendants falsely claimed he was resisting
as a pretext for using excessive force against him and
causing him unnecessary pain and suffering. Pl.'s Resp.
to Defs.' Proposed Findings of Fact, ECF No. 34, ¶
23. He argues that the jury's verdict in his favor in the
criminal case conclusively establishes that he did not resist
and thus the defendants' use of force against him was
unreasonable. The defendants deny that the jury verdict in
the criminal case has any preclusive effect and contend that
the force used to effect the arrest was reasonable.
Alternatively, the defendants argue that they acted in good
faith and are therefore immune from liability.
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is
proper if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with any
affidavits, show that there is no genuine issue of material
fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). “[T]he plain language of
Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after
adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party
who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's case,
and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317
the summary judgment stage, the facts must be viewed in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is
‘genuine' dispute as to those facts.”
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) (citing
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). However, “when the moving party
has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do
more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt
as to the material facts . . . . Where the record taken as a
whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the
nonmoving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for
trial.'” Id. (citing Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87
(1986)). “The mere existence of some alleged factual
dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment; the
requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material
fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).
argues his acquittal for resisting an officer precludes the
defendants from arguing that he was resisting them while they
arrested him. The Court must apply Wisconsin law to determine
whether a Wisconsin state court judgment has a preclusive
effect. Simpson v. Nickel, 450 F.3d 303, 306 (7th
Cir. 2006) (“Whether a given decision has preclusive
effect depends on state law”) (citing 28 U.S.C. §
1738); see also Stericycle, Inc. v. City of Devalan,
120 F.3d 657, 658-59 (7th Cir. 1997) (“Federal courts
must give Wisconsin judgments the same preclusive effect as
would the state courts of Wisconsin.”). “Issue
preclusion . . . ‘is designed to limit the relitigating
of issues that have been actually litigated in a previous
action.'” Paige K.B. v. Steven G.B., 226
Wis.2d 210, 219, 594 N.W.2d 370 (1999) (quoting Lindas v.
Cady, 183 Wis.2d 547, 558, 515 N.W.2d 458 (1994))
(remaining citations omitted). The Wisconsin Supreme Court
has held that the doctrine of issue preclusion (collateral
estoppel), applies “‘where the matter raised in
the second suit is identical in all respects with that
decided in the first proceeding and where the controlling
facts and applicable legal rules remain unchanged . . .
.” State ex rel. Flowers v. Dep't of Health
& Soc. Servs., 81 Wis.2d 376, 387, 260 N.W.2d 727
(1978) (quoting C.I.R. v. Sunnen, 333 U.S. 591, 599
(1948) (emphasis in original).
is dispositive as to how a Wisconsin court would treat
whether Fields' acquittal would have preclusive effect on
the issue of whether he was resisting officers during a civil
case. In Flowers, a defendant on parole was charged
with reckless use of a weapon and battery. The first charge
was dismissed for lack of evidence, and a jury acquitted him
of the second. Id. at 383. Nevertheless, the
defendant's parole was revoked on these and other
grounds. Id. Flowers alleged that the government was
collaterally estopped from using the conduct underlying the
charges on which he was acquitted as the basis of his parole
revocation. Noting that the burden of proof in a criminal
case was beyond a reasonable doubt, whereas the burden at a
parole revocation was only a preponderance of the evidence,
the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that the acquittal could not
have a preclusive effect. Id. at 387-89; see
also Restatement (Second) ...