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Adell v. Ray

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

May 22, 2019



          William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge United Stated District Court

         Plaintiff Mark Anthony Adell, who is currently serving a state prison sentence at Waupun Correctional Institution (WCI) and representing himself, filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his civil rights were violated. This matter comes before the court on Adell's motion for leave to proceed without prepaying the full filing fee and to screen the complaint.

         Motion to Proceed without Prepayment of the Filing Fee

          Adell has requested leave to proceed without prepayment of the full filing fee (in forma pauperis). A prisoner plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis is required to pay the full amount of the $350.00 filing fee over time. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Adell has filed a certified copy of his prison trust account statement for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of his complaint, as required under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). It appears that Adell lacks the funds to pay an initial partial filing fee. Therefore, the court will waive the initial partial filing fee, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4), and grant Adell's motion to proceed in forma pauperis.

         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

          Adell's 13-page complaint, to which he attaches 268 pages of exhibits, concerns his attempts to use the Inmate Complaint Review System (ICRS) at Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF) to file complaints related to his medical care at WSPF. He alleges that the “health care services defendants” intentionally denied him adequate medical attention and that the ICRS complaints he filed regarding his medical care were rejected or confiscated without justification. Dkt. No. 1 at 4. He alleges that Ellen Ray, W. Brown, and J. Payne, whom Adell identifies as inmate complaint examiners (ICE), conspired to reject, confiscate, return, and/or file without assignment of a tracking number various complaints he filed about allegedly inadequate medical care. He further alleges that the ICEs sometimes rejected his complaints based on reasons that had no grounding in law. He claims that the ICEs' treatment of his complaints delayed his receipt of care and caused him unnecessary pain.

         The Court's Analysis

         Adell has failed to state a claim against the “health care services defendants.” Id. He claims these defendants denied him adequate medical care, but he does not state what each defendant did or failed to do in violation of his constitutional rights. The Eighth Amendment proscribes the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain, including deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of prisoners. U.S. Const. amend. VIII; Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). “To state an Eighth Amendment claim based on deficient medical care, a plaintiff must allege an objectively serious medical condition and an official's deliberate indifference to that condition.” Perez v. Fenoglio, 792 F.3d 768, 776 (7th Cir. 2015). Adell's vague allegations of pain are insufficient to allege an objectively serious medical condition, which is “one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would perceive the need for a doctor's attention.” Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005). Adell has also failed to allege that any of the defendants knew of a substantial risk to his health and disregarded that risk. See id.; Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). He therefore may not proceed on any claims against the “health care services” defendants.

         Adell also fails to state a deliberate indifference claim against the ICEs. An inmate's correspondence to a prison official may establish a basis for personal liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 where the correspondence provides sufficient knowledge of a constitutional deprivation and the official facilitates, approves, condones, or turns a blind eye to it. Perez, 792 F.3d at 781-82 (citations omitted). “In other words, prisoner requests for relief that fall on ‘deaf ears' may evidence deliberate indifference.” Id. at 782 (quoting Dixon v. Godinez, 114 F.3d 640, 645 (7th Cir. 1997)). While Adell alleges that the ICEs rejected, returned, and sometimes confiscated complaints he filed regarding “threats to his health and personal safety, ” such vague allegations are insufficient to allege a constitutional deprivation that would raise a plausible right to relief were it ignored or otherwise condoned. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (meeting a plaintiff's pleading standard requires more than “labels and conclusions”).

         Nor are there sufficient allegations that the ICEs turned a blind eye to the complaints. Adell attaches a bevy of inmate complaints and ICE responses to the complaints. To support his broad allegations that the ICE defendants mishandled his complaints, Adell cites Exhibits 1 through Z, which comprise all of the 268 attached exhibits. See Dkt. No. 1 at 4. The only exhibits Adell specifically identifies to argue that the ICE defendants improperly confiscated his complaints, see Id. at 5, do not show that his complaints fell on deaf ears. Exhibit 17 is an ICE return letter from Ray noting that two of Adell's complaints would not be processed or returned because of his failure to comply with Wisconsin Administrative Code § DOC 310.10(5), Dkt. No. 1-1 at 18; Exhibits 21 and 22 are a letter and information request to Ray asking that she return documents she confiscated, and Ray's response, stating “[a]s you were told - the complaints will not be returned, ” id at 24-25; Exhibit 67 is an ICE return letter from Payne informing Adell that his submission is not accepted and will not be returned for failure to comply with § DOC 310.10(5), Dkt. No. 1-2 at 17; Exhibit 70 is an ICE return letter from Brown notifying Adell that his June 14, 2018 submission was not accepted under § DOC 310.10(5) because Adell failed to correct the deficiencies in his first complaint, as set forth in a previous return letter, id. at 20; and Exhibit 129 is an ICE return letter from Brown stating that Adell “disregarded all direction” given to him in a previous return letter and resubmitted the same submissions, which Brown noted would not be processed or returned, Dkt. No. 1-4 at 19.

         These exhibits suggest that several of Adell's complaints were not returned to him, but non-return does not mean that the ICEs turned a blind eye to a constitutional deprivation. Rather, the ICEs responded to each of Adell's complaints, and to the extent they chose not to accept the complaints, they did so because Adell did not comply with their directions when they first returned the complaint. That Adell disagrees with the ICEs' decisions regarding his inmate complaints does not mean that he can hold them liable under § 1983. See Matz v. Klotka, 769 F.3d 517, 528 (7th Cir. 2014) (“A damages suit under § 1983 requires that a defendant be personally involved in the alleged constitutional ...

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