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Baldwin v. Raemisch

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

January 24, 2019

JIMMY BALDWIN, Plaintiff,
v.
RICK RAEMISCH, RANDALL HEPP, C. SEMANKO, WARREN DOHMS, SARA A. KIEKHOEFER, N. CARLSON, CAPTAIN BUESGEN, and C.O. SWEENY, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pro se plaintiff Jimmy Baldwin is an inmate at Columbia Correctional Institution. He brings this civil complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendants violated his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by extending his mandatory release date and sentencing him to a year of segregation based on allegations that he had been involved in a forgery and escape plot. Baldwin contends that he was found guilty based on insufficient evidence, which defendants did not give him adequate opportunity to contest in the disciplinary hearing. He also brings a separate claim for malicious prosecution against Warren Dohms based on Dohm's involvement in bringing later-dropped criminal charges against Baldwin. Baldwin has made an initial partial payment of the filing fee under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).

         The next step is for me to screen his complaint and dismiss any portion that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law cannot be sued for money damages. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A. Because Baldwin is a pro se litigant, I must read his allegations generously. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972) (per curiam).

         After reviewing Baldwin's complaint with these principles in mind, I conclude that that all but one of his claims are barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994). His remaining claim for malicious prosecution must also be dismissed because it does not amount to a constitutional violation. Although his allegations might state a state-law tort claim for malicious prosecution, Baldwin does not meet the threshold requirements for diversity jurisdiction. I will therefore dismiss Baldwin's case.

         ALLEGATIONS OF FACT

         I draw the following facts from Baldwin's complaint, Dkt. 1, along with the documents he attaches, which may be considered as part of the complaint itself. Int'l Mktg., Ltd. v. Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., 192 F.3d 724, 729 (7th Cir. 1999). Although Baldwin is now incarcerated at CCI, the incidents at issue in his complaint took place when he was incarcerated at Stanley Correctional Institution (SCI) and concern SCI staff.

         On November 24, 2009, an “amendment” to Baldwin's judgment of conviction was executed. This amendment reduced Baldwin's sentence from 73 years to 45 years. In December, defendant Sara Kiekhoefer, a social worker at SCI, met with Baldwin to discuss this amended judgment. Because Baldwin had served beyond the mandatory release date on a 45-year sentence, he was now eligible for early release subject to approval by the parole commission. Baldwin told Kiekhoefer that he was confused, because he had not litigated any sentence modification and was unaware of anyone else having done so on his behalf. He asked Kiekhoefer whether she was sure that they had the right “Baldwin, ” and Kiekhoefer indicated that the SCI records office staff had done a thorough check.

         On December 7, Baldwin appeared before a parole commission member, Defendant N. Carlson. Carlson questioned Baldwin about the amended judgment. Baldwin indicated that it had come as a surprise to him, and that he could only think it was one of the “Christmas Early Release Reviews” that had long been a subject of rumors among inmates. Carlson recommended Baldwin for release. Ultimately, Baldwin was released from SCI on January 19, 2010. While out on release, Baldwin stayed in Milwaukee, made no attempt to flee the area, and complied with the conditions of his parole.

         On January 26, 2010, defendant Warren Dohms, captain of security at SCI, learned that the amended judgment of conviction was not authentic. Baldwin was quickly apprehended and reincarcerated. Over the course of two months, Dohms investigated the matter. When a search of the Wisconsin court records website revealed no record of any motion to amend Baldwin's judgment of conviction, defendant C. Semanko, the records supervisor at SCI, sent a scanned copy of the suspect documents to the Milwaukee County clerk of courts. June Simeth, the court staff responsible for amended judgments, confirmed that the documents appeared to be a “cut and paste job.” Dkt. 1, ¶ 19.

         On March 29, Baldwin received a conduct report accusing him of escape and of counterfeiting and forgery, Dkt. 1-1, at 11, and a form informing him of his “major disciplinary hearing rights.” Id., at 15. That form indicated that the hearing would be held no sooner than two days after the date he received the conduct report and that he would be allowed to present evidence, question adverse witnesses, and request his own witnesses. Baldwin submitted a form requesting four witnesses: Simeth; Dohms; a fellow inmate (as a character witness); and an “unknown writer” referred to in Dohms's conduct report. Dkt. 1-1, at 21. In his complaint, Baldwin says that the request for the “unknown writer” referred to “the Records Office Staff member” who “provided [Dohm] with the Information that caused him to initially begin his investigation (Defendant C. Semanko).” Dkt. 1, at 12. Ultimately, Dohms and Semanko both testified at the hearing. Baldwin's other witness requests were denied.

         Baldwin was also assigned a staff advocate, whom he asked to gather two pieces of evidence that he says are exculpatory: First, he asked for a written statement from Kiekhoefer attesting to Baldwin's numerous requests for assurances whether she was positive that the early release was legitimate. Second, he asked for a copy of the parole hearing proceedings in front of Carlson, which would demonstrate that Baldwin had expressed surprise about the early release.

         The major disciplinary hearing took place on March 31, 2010, at 12:40 p.m. in front of defendants Buesgen and Sweeny. Baldwin had received the March 29 conduct report at 4:30 p.m., so the two full days promised in the “major disciplinary hearing rights” form had not yet elapsed. And because of the compressed timeframe, the staff advocate had not yet had time to gather the evidence he requested.

         At the outset of the hearing, Baldwin voiced objections to the lack of two full days' notice, the denial of his requests for witnesses, and the fact that his staff advocate had not yet had time to gather his requested evidence. The hearing committee ignored Baldwin's objections and did not note them on the official hearing record. Baldwin submitted a written statement in which he denied forging any documents and complained that there had not been a full investigation. Dkt. 1-1, at 22. Over Baldwin's objections, the hearing committee members then had Baldwin placed in a holding cell while they privately interviewed Semanko via telephone. When they were done, they reconvened the hearing and found Baldwin guilty of violating the institutional rules. The hearing committee imposed a disposition of eight days of adjustment segregation; 360 days of program segregation; and ten days' denial of good behavior credit toward his mandatory release entitlement.

         Baldwin appealed the hearing committee's decision to the SCI warden, but the warden affirmed the committee's guilt finding. Baldwin then filed a grievance through the Inmate Complaint Review System (ICRS), alleging procedural errors. That grievance was dismissed. Baldwin then filed an application for writ of certiorari in Dane County Circuit Court, but the writ was ultimately quashed. He then appealed it to the court of appeals, which ...


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