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Hampton v. Sheboygan County Detention Center

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

June 5, 2019



          William C. Griesbach, Chief United States District Judge.

         The plaintiff, who is currently serving a state prison sentence at Waupun Correctional Institution 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 Plaintiff'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

         The plaintiff 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). The plaintiff 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). On May 8, 2019, the court waived the initial partial filing fee and gave the plaintiff 21 days to notify the court if he did not wish to proceed with his case. To date, the court has not received a response from the plaintiff. Accordingly, the court will grant the plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee and screen the complaint.

         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

         In December 2015, Plaintiff was transferred from the Dodge Correctional Institution to the Sheboygan County Detention Center for sentencing after being convicted of battery by a prisoner. On December 22, 2015, while housed at the Sheboygan County Detention Center, Plaintiff was assaulted by another inmate, Keimon Joiner. Plaintiff sustained injuries to his ear, mouth, hand, lips, and chin and had several broken teeth.

         Before the attack, Plaintiff had heard from other inmates that Joiner threatened to break Plaintiff's jaw because the victims of Plaintiff's crimes, Anthony S. Sims and Donald Ray Polk, were either Joiner's friends or family. Plaintiff notified CO Openeer about Joiner's threats and asked to be placed in a unit separate from Joiner. Plaintiff alleges that Openeer told Sergeant Richter about the threats but placed Plaintiff in the S-Pod with Joiner. After Plaintiff realized he was placed in the same pod as Joiner, he told CO Velvelde that Joiner threatened to hurt him and requested to be moved. Plaintiff claims Velvelde stated that Sergeant Richter was aware of his requests but placed Plaintiff on S-Pod with the hope that Plaintiff and Joiner could handle their business. Although Plaintiff met with Joiner to attempt to diffuse the situation, Joiner stated that he wanted “blood for blood.” Compl. ¶ 29, Dkt. No. 1, at 6. Plaintiff then returned to his assigned cell to go to sleep. After some time, Plaintiff heard his cell door open and ignored the sound, thinking his cellmate was entering the cell. Plaintiff alleges that Joiner entered his cell, delivered blows to the top of Plaintiff's head, and ran out of the cell.

         Plaintiff pressed the emergency call button in his cell and requested medical treatment because he had been jumped. Officer Velvelde immediately secured Plaintiff inside his cell and locked down the pod. Sergeant Richter retrieved Plaintiff from his cell and escorted him to the medical unit.

         Nurse Nick examined Plaintiff and concluded that Plaintiff should be transferred to Sheboygan Memorial Medical Center for stitches and further treatment. Plaintiff was immediately transferred to the hospital; received stitches inside his mouth, chin, ear, and hand; and then returned to Sheboygan County Detention Center. After returning to the Detention Center, Plaintiff alleges that, when he asked Officer Openeer about additional medical treatment, Openeer responded that Plaintiff must now know how Officer Schultz felt when Plaintiff attacked him during his altercation with Donald Polk. The next day, Plaintiff was transported to Dodge Correctional Institution.

         The Court's Analysis

         Plaintiff claims that Sergeant Richter, Officer Velvelde, and Officer Openeer failed to protect him from Joiner's attack. The Eighth Amendment prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments” and imposes a duty on jail officials to ensure that inmates receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care and to take reasonable measures to guarantee an inmate's safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994); see U.S. Const. Amend. VIII. Jail officials have a duty to protect inmates from violence caused by other inmates when they are aware that the inmate faced “a substantial risk of serious harm” and “disregard[ed] that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 847; see also Pierson v. Hartley, 391 F.3d 898, 903-04 (7th Cir. 2004). In this case, Plaintiff alleges that, even though Richter, ...

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