United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
WILLIE L. VALES, JR., Plaintiff,
SGT. MANTHEI, C.O. BARZYK, and C.O. NICKLAUS, Defendants.
Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge.
Willie L. Vales, Jr., proceeds in this matter pro
se. He filed a complaint alleging that Defendants
violated his constitutional rights. (Docket #1). This matter
comes before the court on Plaintiff's petition to proceed
without prepayment of the filing fee (in forma
pauperis). (Docket #2). Plaintiff has been assessed and
has paid an initial partial filing fee of $6.22. 28 U.S.C.
court shall screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking
relief against a governmental entity or an 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. Id. §
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). The court may, therefore, dismiss a
claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably
meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are
clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.
“Malicious, ” although sometimes treated as a
synonym for “frivolous, ” “is more usefully
construed as intended to harass.” Lindell v.
McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107, 1109- 10 (7th Cir. 2003)
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). It is not
necessary for the plaintiff to plead specific facts and his
statement need only “give the defendant fair notice of
what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S.
41, 47 (1957)). However, a complaint that offers mere
“labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). To state
a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, “that is plausible on its
face.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). 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).
considering whether a complaint states a claim, courts should
follow the principles set forth in Twombly by first,
“identifying pleadings that, because they are no more
than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Legal
conclusions must be supported by factual allegations.
Id. If there are well-pleaded factual allegations,
the court must, second, “assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement
to relief.” Id.
state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, a
plaintiff must allege that: 1) he was deprived of a right
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and
2) the deprivation was visited upon him by a person or
persons acting under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore
v. Cty. of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009)
(citing Kramer v. Vill. of N. Fond du Lac, 384 F.3d
856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also Gomez v. Toledo,
446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The court is obliged to give the
plaintiff's pro se allegations, “however
inartfully pleaded, ” a liberal construction. See
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).
are security officers at Waupun Correctional Institution,
where Plaintiff is incarcerated. (Docket #1 at 3). Plaintiff
alleges that he fought with another inmate on March 30, 2019,
and that Defendants were present at the nearby officers'
station. Id. at 4-5. They responded to the fight,
but Plaintiff does not say when; he suggests that they should
have intervened sooner. Id. When the combatants were
told to stop fighting, Plaintiff threw up his hands and
walked away. Id. Defendant C.O. Barzyk
(“Barzyk”) nevertheless sprayed Plaintiff in the
face with pepper spray. Id. To add insult to injury,
Plaintiff was also struck again by the other inmate after
being sprayed. Id.
may proceed against Barzyk on a claim of excessive force. The
Eighth Amendment prohibits the “unnecessary and wanton
infliction of pain” on prisoners. Outlaw v.
Newkirk, 259 F.3d 833, 837 (7th Cir. 2001). When a
correctional officer is accused of using excessive force, the
core inquiry is “whether force was applied in a
good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or
maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.” Hudson
v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992); Santiago v.
Walls, 599 F.3d 749, 757 (7th Cir. 2010). Several
factors are relevant to this determination, including the
need for force, the amount applied, the threat the officer
reasonably perceived, the effort made to temper the severity
of the force used, and the extent of the injury caused to the
prisoner. Hudson, 503 U.S. at 7; Fillmore v.
Page, 358 F.3d 496, 504 (7th Cir. 2004). While it
appears that Barzyk's intervention was meant to restore
order, taking Plaintiff's allegations as true, Plaintiff
had already given up the fight, and so pepper spray was
may also proceed against all of the Defendants on a claim
that they failed to timely intervene in the fight. Again,
their conduct comes under the purview of the Eighth
Amendment. An officer may be liable for failing to intervene
in an inmate altercation if they were deliberately
indifferent to the inmate's health or safety.
Grieveson v. Anderson, 538 F.3d 763, 778 (7th Cir.
2008). This requires that the inmate be in objectively
serious danger, that the officer knew about the danger, and
that the officer nevertheless consciously disregarded the
danger. Id. Here, construing Plaintiff's
allegations generously, Defendants may have been able to
intervene in the fight sooner than they did. Plaintiff
alleges that he suffered a “major physical
injury” from the fight but does not describe it in
detail. See (Docket #1 at 6). Among other things,
Plaintiff will need to prove that this injury stemmed from
Defendants' failure to timely break up the fight.
Court further notes that Plaintiff may not proceed against
any of the Defendants in their official capacities, as all of
his claims relate solely to their individual conduct.
Miller v. Smith, 220 F.3d 491, 494 (7th Cir. 2000).
Additionally, Plaintiff cites Defendants' apparent
failure to abide by prison policies as a basis for liability.
See (Docket #1 at 5-6). Even if these allegations
were true, they do not create constitutional liability; a
violation of prison policies is not the same as a violation
of the Eighth Amendment. Lennon v. City of Carmel,
Ind., 865 F.3d 503, 509 (7th Cir. 2017). Finally, the
Court will dismiss Plaintiff's claim for
“injunctive” relief, as it seeks only money
damages. See (Docket #1 at 7). Those amounts are
already encompassed by Plaintiff's request for
the Court finds that Plaintiff may proceed on the following
claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b):
of excessive force against Plaintiff, in violation of the