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Ingram v. Gillingham

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

February 15, 2019



          William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff Darnell Ingram, who was confined at Fond du Lac County Jail at the time of filing, filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his civil rights were violated. Along with his complaint, Ingram filed a motion for leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee and a copy of his prisoner trust account statement. In an order dated January 16, 2019, the court waived the initial partial filing fee and directed Ingram to notify the court within 21 days whether he wished to voluntarily dismiss this action to avoid the possibility of incurring a strike under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). On February 8, 2019, instead of notifying the court of his intent to dismiss this action, Ingram filed a motion to stay the case pending his receipt of free legal advice.

         Ingram's motion to stay will be denied. Ingram chose to file this action on January 4, 2019, while he was confined in Fond du Lac County Jail, where he likely lacked access to the free legal advice he now seeks. Ingram could have waited to file his complaint until his release on January 31, 2019, or he could have notified the court of his intent to withdraw this action. Either of these options would have allowed Ingram to obtain legal advice and modify his complaint. The fact that Ingram is not now confined and is in the process of seeking legal advice does not hold in abeyance the court's obligation to screen his complaint “as soon as practicable after docketing.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Granting a stay of this action would frustrate this obligation and would only delay this matter, especially in light of the fact that the court concludes he has stated claims against at least some of the defendants. If and when Ingram finds an attorney to assist him, he remains free to amend his complaint as long as he does not unduly delay. Ingram's motion to stay will therefore be denied and his complaint will be screened.

         Motion to Proceed without Prepayment of the Filing Fee

         Although Ingram is no longer confined, he remains subject to the requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) because he was incarcerated at the time he filed his complaint. The PLRA gives courts discretion to allow plaintiffs to proceed with their lawsuits without prepaying the $350 filing fee, as long as they comply with certain requirements. 28 U.S.C. § 1915. One of those requirements is that the plaintiff pay an initial partial filing fee. The court previously waived the initial partial filing fee. ECF No. 8. Ingram's motion to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee will therefore be granted. Ingram is still required to pay the remainder of the fee over time as he is able.

         Screening of the Complaint

         The 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).

         To 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).

         Allegations of the Complaint

         Ingram alleges that, on November 3, 2018, he was placed in Fond du Lac County Jail “on p.o. hold due to consumption of alcohol . . . for 10 days.” ECF No. 1 at 2. He alleges that supervisor Eric Gross ignored his incarceration in retaliation for a civil action Ingram filed in 2009. Ingram alleges that, on or about November 13, 2019, Gross and probation agent Aleesha Gillingham attempted to search and seize his cell phone to punish him without a court order and without proper cause. The next day, on November 14, 2019, Ingram alleges that Gillingham and Gross served him with a recommendation of revocation “due to 2 false alligation [sic] of refusal search [sic] and possession of cocaine.” Id. at 3.

         Ingram alleges that, on November 16, 2018, he, an older, black male, and David Bradford, a young, white male probationer, were riding in a car and were arrested. Ingram alleges that Gross released Bradford, who had a warrant for absconding his probation. Ingram, on the other hand, was held in Fond du Lac County Jail. This detention, Ingram alleges, was the result of age and race discrimination. Ingram further alleges that, on November 23, 2019, Gillingham, Gross, and Department of Corrections (DOC) Assistant Regional Chief Donna Harris “rescinded revocation and employed a 90 day sanction without huber.” Id. Ingram alleges that his 90-day confinement was based on “fabricated alligations [sic] of possession of cocaine and refusal of search.” ECF No. 10 at 1.

         He alleges that the District Attorney's Office filed and later dropped criminal charges relating to his alleged possession of cocaine. He alleges that a police report confirmed that he did not possess cocaine and that Gillingham did not read the police report or otherwise investigate the allegations. He further alleges that he wrote letters regarding the deprivation of his rights to DOC staff, including Harris and Regional 7 Chief Sally Tess. He alleges that Harris responded on behalf of herself and all other defendants, stating that Ingram had “lost rights” and that the defendants “can do whatever thay [sic] wish.” ECF No. 1 at 4.

         Ingram alleges that he fully exhausted his administrative remedies on December 18, 2018. As a result of his alleged constitutional deprivations, Ingram seeks monetary damages and an order preventing the defendants from overseeing his probation in the future.

         The ...

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