United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA B. CRABB DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff and prisoner Christopher Mence filed a civil action
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, contending that defendants Matt
Reeseman and Rick Konkakipasiki violated his constitutional
rights by using a taser on him. Plaintiff's complaint is
before the court for screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A,
to determine whether any portion of his complaint is
frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief many be granted or seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief.
conclude that plaintiff may not proceed with his case at this
time because his complaint does not provide enough
information to support a federal claim, as required by Rule 8
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Although I am
dismissing plaintiff's complaint, I will give him an
opportunity to file an amended complaint that explains his
claims more clearly.
Christopher Mence is a prisoner at Wisconsin Resource Center,
but the incident at issue in his complaint appears to have
taken place before he was moved to the center. (Plaintiff
does not say when or where the incident took place.) He
alleges that he was detained in a holding cell when he placed
toilet paper on the camera. When guards told him to remove
the toilet paper, he refused. They entered his cell and
directed him to place his hands against the wall while they
removed the toilet paper and other property from the cell.
Plaintiff complied, but at some point, he decided to turn
around and sit down on a cement bunk. When he did so,
defendant Matt Reeseman deployed his taser on him, causing
plaintiff to fall and injure his face. Plaintiff contends
that defendants used excessive force against him.
not clear what standard governs plaintiff's excessive
force claim, because plaintiff does not specify where he was
being detained at the time of the incident and why. Both the
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments impose duties on state
officials regarding the safety and well-being of individuals
in their custody. If plaintiff was serving a sentence as a
convicted prisoner at the time of the incident, his claim is
governed by the Eighth Amendment. The Eighth Amendment
“prohibits the infliction of ‘cruel and unusual
punishments' on those convicted of crimes.”
Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297 (1991).
“The ‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of
pain' on a prisoner violates his rights under the Eighth
Amendment.” Lewis v. Downey, 581 F.3d 467, 475
(7th Cir. 2009). To prevail on an Eighth Amendment excessive
force claim, a convicted prisoner must prove that the
offending officer applied force “maliciously and
sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm, ”
rather than “in a good faith effort to maintain or
restore discipline.” Hudson v. McMillian, 503
U.S. 1, 6-7 (1992) (quoting Whitley v. Albers, 475
U.S. 312, 320-21 (1986)). The factors relevant to this
determination include: (1) why force was needed; (2) how much
force was used; (3) the extent of the injury inflicted; (4)
whether the defendant perceived a threat to the safety of
staff and prisoners; and (5) whether efforts were made to
temper the severity of the force. Whitley, 475 U.S.
Fourteenth Amendment applies to claims brought by pretrial
detainees, who are not convicted prisoners, and need not
prove that the defendant had a specific state of mind to
succeed on an excessive force claim. To succeed on an
excessive force claim, pretrial detainees need only show that
the force used was “objectively unreasonable.”
Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2473
(2015). That is, the pretrial detainee must show
“objective evidence that the challenged governmental
action is not rationally related to a legitimate governmental
objective or that it is excessive in relation to that
purpose.” Id. at 2473-74.
allegations are somewhat difficult to follow, but they do not
appear to support a claim of excessive force under either the
Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment. He alleges that defendants
had to enter his cell because he refused to comply with
orders and that, instead of keeping his hands against the
wall while defendants removed his property, plaintiff decided
to turn around and sit on a bunk. Defendant Reeseman's
decision to respond by deploying his taser appears to have
been a reasonable reaction to plaintiff's movement, which
Reeseman likely interpreted as a security risk. Plaintiff
argues that Reeseman should have repeated his order that
plaintiff keep his hands against the wall, but at that point,
plaintiff had already demonstrated that he would not follow
orders. No reasonable jury could conclude that it was
objectively unreasonable for Reeseman to respond to
plaintiff's movement by deploying his taser.
plaintiff's allegations are somewhat difficult to follow,
it may be that I have misunderstood his allegations about the
underlying incident. Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), a complaint
must include “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” This
means that the complaint must provide notice to the
defendants of what plaintiff believes they did to violate his
rights. Additionally, the complaint must contain enough
allegations of fact to support a claim under federal law.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009)
(citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544
(2007)). Plaintiff's complaint does not meet this
standard, but I will give him the opportunity to clarify his
claims and include the allegations that are missing.
plaintiff chooses to file an amended complaint, he should
keep it short and to the point and draft it as if he were
telling a story to people who know nothing about his
situation. In particular, he should include allegations that
would allow someone reading the complaint to answer the
• When did the incident occur?
• Where was plaintiff incarcerated at the time of the
• What were defendants' job titles?
• Was plaintiff a convicted prisoner at ...