United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
DANTE R. VOSS, Plaintiff,
KEVIN A. CARR, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
D. Peterson District Judge.
plaintiff and prisoner Dante Voss has filed a complaint in
which he challenges the constitutionality of DAI Policy
#309.51.01, which, according to Voss, governs the
availability of “legal loans, ” which are funds
for a prisoner's use in litigation. The case is before
the court for screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and
§ 1915A. I conclude that Voss hasn't stated a claim
upon which relief may be granted, but I will give him leave
to file an amended complaint that provides additional
information to support his claim that defendant Kevin Carr
(the secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections)
has violated his right to have access to the courts.
Overview of the claims
the allegations in the complaint relate to Voss's claim
that DAI Policy #309.51.01 prevented him from filing a timely
notice of claim for several state-law claims he wishes to
file against prison staff, who are state employees.
Specifically, Voss alleges that he needed a legal loan in
September 2018 to serve a notice of claim by certified mail,
as required by Wis.Stat. § 893.82, but his request for a
legal loan was denied because he had already reached his $50
limit for the year. So Voss sent his notice by First-Class
Mail instead, which Voss says isn't sufficient under
§ 893.82(5). Voss says that he received a legal loan in
January 2019, but by then his deadline for filing a notice of
claim had passed, so it was too late to mail the notice
end of his complaint, Voss raises two other claims. First, he
says that he has “already exhausted” his legal
loan limit for 2019 and that “Defendant has refused to
provide Plaintiff with further assistance to access the
courts for civil matters.” Dkt. 1, ¶¶ 32-33.
Second, Voss he alleges that DAI Policy #309.51.01 is
discriminatory because it reduces a prisoner's legal loan
limit from $100 to $50 if the prisoner hasn't repaid
legal loans from previous years. Id., ¶ 41.
these allegations, I understand Voss to be asserting three
claims: (1) the refusal to give him funds for serving his
notice of claim by certified mail violated his constitutional
right to access the courts; (2) the refusal to give him
additional funds for current litigation violates his right to
access the courts; and (3) reducing his legal loan from $100
to $50 for his failure to repay legal loans from previous
years violates his right to equal protection of the laws.
Access to courts
succeed on an access-to-courts claim, a plaintiff must show
that he was, or is, suffering an “actual injury”
by being “frustrated” or “impeded” in
bringing a non-frivolous claim about his criminal conviction,
sentence, or conditions of confinement. Lewis v.
Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 353-55 (1996). I will consider
whether Voss has adequately alleged these elements as to his
claims related to his alleged failure to comply with the
notice of claim statute and his alleged inability to maintain
Notice of claim
discussed below, this claim raises multiple legal questions
that are not resolved in this circuit. For the purpose of
screening, I will assume that all of these questions should
be resolved in Voss's favor. But I cannot allow Voss to
proceed on this claim because he hasn't adequately
alleged that he was barred from bringing a nonfrivolous
individual can't be sued for damages under the
Constitution unless he was “personally involved”
in the violation. Gill v. City of Milwaukee, 850
F.3d 335, 344 (7th Cir. 2017). The general rule is that an
individual isn't personally involved unless he
participated in the constitutional violation or knew about
the particular conduct at issue and had the ability to stop
case, Voss doesn't allege that defendant Carr personally
denied a request for a legal loan. But a supervisory official
may also be personally involved by “formulating and
directing an unconstitutional policy.” Del Raine v.
Williford, 32 F.3d 1024, 1052 (7th Cir. 1994). Because
Carr is the secretary of the Wisconsin Department of
Corrections, it is ...