United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
RYAN K. ROZAK, Plaintiff,
RANDALL R. HEPP, DYLON RADTKE, CHRIS KREUGER, MARK SCHOMISCH, B. MLODZIK, M. PATTEN, R. LYYSKI, JOHN BAHR, CATHY JESS, JULIE DAHM, SARAH FELTES, MS. J. BOVEE, LAURA BARTOW, A. HOLT, E. DAVIDSON, M. GREENWOOD, HARPER, and DW SECRETARY RASMUSSEN, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
D. Peterson District Judge.
Ryan K. Rozak, appearing pro se, is a prisoner at Fox Lake
Correctional Institution (FLCI). Rozak alleges that defendant
prison officials repeatedly opened his legal mail out of his
presence, and denied his open-records requests for
information about prisoner grievances regarding mail
tampering. He has made an initial partial payment of the
filing fee as previously ordered by the court.
next step is for me to screen Rozak's 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. In doing so, I must read his pro se complaint
generously, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521
(1972) (per curiam), and accept his allegations as true,
see Bonte v. U.S Bank, N.A., 624 F.3d 461, 463 (7th
Cir. 2010). For reasons explained below, I conclude that
Rozak's allegations about mail tampering are too vague to
satisfy Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, and I will give
Rozak a short time to supplement his allegations about these
claims. I will deny him leave to proceed on the rest of his
alleges that prison officials routinely open his legal mail
before it gets to him. From May 2013 to December 2018, staff
opened his legal mail 15 times. During this several-year
period, Rozak complained to various prison staff members.
Defendants Sergeant Harper, Captain Mlodzik, and mailroom
worker A. Holt have acknowledged what they say are mistakes
by mailroom workers. Rozak believes that his legal mail being
opened so many times cannot be chalked up to mistakes.
filed a series of grievances about the opening of legal mail.
He won some of those grievances and lost others. As part of a
grievance, Rozak asked defendant complaint examiner Laura
Bartow about how often prisoner legal mail is opened. She
said that they do not keep track, but that legal mail is
inadvertently opened every day. Through the grievance
process, defendants Warden Randall Hepp, Deputy Warden Chris
Krueger, and Security Director Mark Schomisch were alerted to
the problem, but Rozak's mail continued to be opened.
made an open records request to defendant Sarah Feltes
regarding grievances filed by prisoners about legal mail
being opened. Feltes did not indicate on the form whether his
request was granted or denied, which Rozak inferred was a
denial. Rozak filed a series of grievances about his
open-records requests, but none of them was successful.
as part of a prisoner's First Amendment right of access
to the courts, prison staff may not open correspondence from
a prisoner's lawyer out of the prisoner's presence.
See Guajardo-Palma v. Martinson, 622 F.3d 801, 804
(7th Cir. 2010). To win on an access-to-the-courts claim,
Rozak needs to show an underlying nonfrivolous claim that the
prison officials' actions impeded. See Christopher v.
Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 415 (2002); Lewis v.
Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351-53 (1996). But Rozak does not
explain what legal action or actions he had that were
hindered by defendants' actions.
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to
include “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Under
Rule 8(d), “each allegation must be simple, concise,
and direct.” The purpose of Rule 8 is fair notice, and
thus a complaint “must be presented with
intelligibility sufficient for a court or opposing party to
understand whether a valid claim is alleged and if so what it
is.” Vicom, Inc. v. Harbridge Merchant Servs.,
Inc., 20 F.3d 771, 775 (7th Cir. 1994). Because Rozak
does not explain how he was harmed by the alleged mail
tampering, his complaint violates Rule 8. But I will give him
a short time to submit a supplement in which he explains what
non-frivolous claim was hindered by defendants' actions;
he can do so by explaining what litigation the opened legal
mail was for.
had Rozak stated an access-to-the-courts claim, it would
still leave the question about the proper defendants for that
claim. Rozak does not explicitly say who opened his mail. But
I take him to be attempting to bring claims against the
prison officials who he made aware of the problem yet failed
to correct it. See Matthews v. City of East St.
Louis, 675 F.3d 703, 708 (7th Cir. 2012) (supervisors
could be personally involved in a constitutional deprivation
if they “know about the conduct and facilitate it,
approve it, condone it, or turn a blind eye for fear of what
they might see”). Rozak says that the following
mailroom staff or prison supervisors were made aware of the
problem: defendants Hepp, Krueger, Schomisch, Mlodzik, Holt,
and Harper. If Rozak supplements his complaint to explain how
he was harmed by the tampering, I would allow him leave to
proceed against these officials.
seeks leave to proceed against various complaint examiners
for denying grievances about the opening of his mail. But I
would not allow him to proceed on claims against any of the
examiners because he does not explain how the continued
problem was the fault of grievance examiners: he won at least
some of his grievances, and examiners alerted higher-level
staff members to the problem. See Burks v. Raemisch,
555 F.3d 592, 595 (7th Cir. 2009) (Claim against complaint
examiner fails where prisoner “has not accused
[examiner] of refusing to do her job and of leaving the
prisoners to face risks that could be averted by faithful
implementation of the grievance machinery. He contends,
instead, that [examiner] should be held liable because she
carried out her job exactly as she was supposed to.”).
Rozak alleges that defendants Sergeant R. Lyyski and Sergeant
John Bahr worked in the mailroom during at least some of the
time in question, but he does not allege that they were aware
of the mail-opening problem or were personally involved in
the events discussed above. So I would not allow Rozak to
proceed on claims against these defendants either. When he
supplements his complaint, he should explain what these
defendants did to harm him and how he was harmed by those
also alleges that prison officials will not grant his
open-records requests to obtain grievance records documenting
the frequency of legal-mail-tampering grievances. He cannot
bring an access-to-the-courts claim about open-records
denials because the only harm he appears to have suffered is
in obtaining evidence for use in this case. If Rozak properly
amends his complaint as explained above, I will allow him to
proceed on mail-tampering claims and he will then have the
opportunity to use the discovery process to request
information from defendants. ...