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Porter v. Dittman

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

December 4, 2019

BRANDON PORTER, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN MR. M. DITTMAN, et al. Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          William M. Conley District Judge.

         In this proposed civil action, pro se plaintiff Brandon Porter alleges that various employees of the Colombia Correctional Institution violated his constitutional rights by manufacturing a conduct report against him and wrongfully disciplining him. Because plaintiff is a prisoner seeking redress from “officer[s] or employee[s] of a governmental entity, ” the court is required to screen his proposed complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons set forth below, Porter has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Accordingly, his proposed complaint must be dismissed, although he will be given an opportunity to replead.

         ALLEGATIONS OF FACT [1]

         At all relevant times, plaintiff Brandon Porter was an inmate at Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, Wisconsin. (Compl. (dkt. #1) ¶ 3.) Porter has named seven defendants: Warden M. Dittman, Security Director Weber, Captain Lucas Wogernese, Lieutenant Beuttner, Sergeant Carl, Unit Manager Lindsay Walker and Examiner Mary Leiser. All defendants are or were employed by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections at Columbia Correctional Institution. (Id. ¶¶ 4-10.)

         The chain of events leading up to Porter's claims began in November of 2015, when prison officials apparently started to suspect drug activity in the housing unit in which Porter was lodged. When questioned about this suspected activity on November 17, 2015, Porter denied knowing anything about it. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23.) At that time, he was also required to take a urine test (presumably to check for drug use) which he passed. Two days later, on November 19, 2015, Sergeant Carl searched the cell that Porter shared with another inmate. (Id. ¶ 21.) After being informed that contraband had been found in his cell, Porter again denied knowing anything about drug activity and maintained his innocence. (Id. ¶ 23.) He was required to take a second urine test, which he also passed. (Id. ¶ 21.)

         The next day, plaintiff was placed in Temporary Lock-Up (“TLU”), prompting him to write several letters to Security Director Weber, as well as speak to multiple staff members asking why he was placed in TLU. (Id. ¶¶ 24-25.) No one gave him an answer. Instead, he was held in TLU for eleven days before receiving a “placement form, ” which stated that he had been put in TLU “pending investigation for contraband found in cell” and another form stating simply “drug paraphernalia.” (Id. ¶ 26.) At around noon on his twelfth day in TLU, Porter was released. At that time, Carl told Porter that it was his “lucky day” because the contraband that was allegedly found in Porter's cell had been “LOST.” (Id. ¶ 27.)

         A few days later, Lieutenant Beuttner asked Porter, “So how's it feel to be off TLU Mr. Porter?” (Id. ¶ 28.) When he did not reply, Beuttner then said, “It's okay, you got off this time but we'll get you next time, you'll slip up again.” (Id.)

         Two months later, on January 22, 2016, Lieutenant Beuttner and two other officers took Porter back to TLU. (Id. ¶ 13.) Beuttner did not explain why Porter was being placed on TLU status, but said that Porter would find out soon enough unless he had information on “how the drugs [were] coming in.” (Id. ¶ 15.) After Porter denied knowing “what you're talking about, ” Beuttner retorted, “Well, if that's how you're going to play it, then I can't help you.” (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) Porter was then strip-searched and placed in TLU. Later that day, Correctional Officer Morgan gave Porter paperwork explaining that he had been “placed on TLU status pending investigation for miscellaneous contraband and drug paraphernalia found in cell.” (Id. ¶ 17.)

         Six days into his second stay in TLU, January 28, Porter was pulled from his cell and brought to an interview room where Unit Manager Walker served Porter with a conduct report written by Sergeant Carl. Walker offered Porter a disposition of ninety days in segregation (presumably in exchange for not contesting the conduct report), but he requested a hearing instead.

         Porter's hearing began on February 8, 2016, but was allegedly adjourned because Carl had not yet answered any of Porter's questions and also because the evidence had not been produced or reviewed by the hearing committee. The hearing resumed three days later, February 11, during which Porter attempted to question Carl. After the hearing committee “denied” all of his questions, Porter then asked the committee about the alleged contraband. Neither the physical contraband nor pictures of the contraband were produced for Porter's review at the hearing. Rather, one of the hearing officers, Captain Wogernese, said that he had reviewed the evidence with the committee and had seen pictures of the contraband. Wogernese also said that he believed Porter had the contraband in his cell based on the physical evidence, the credible testimony of the staff, and Porter's two previous charges. In contrast, Porter emphasizes that he had no past history of drug use or possession since being incarcerated, nor had he ever failed a urine test during his ten years of incarceration.

         The hearing committee sentenced Porter to ninety days in segregation. After appealing this disposition to Warden Dittman, Porter was confined in the D.S.1 segregation unit from January 22 until February 16, 2016. Porter complains that during his confinement he was housed with mentally ill inmates who would flood their cells, throw bodily waste, kick at their cell doors, and otherwise make noise such that Porter found it difficult to sleep. Porter complained about these conditions, but to no avail until February 16, when he was moved to the D.S.2 segregation unit. There, Porter received more privileges, but was forced to sleep on the floor of his cell. Porter made several attempts to be moved. He was told by Walker, “If you don't like it don't come to the hole.” (Id. ¶ 40.)

         Ultimately spending a total of forty-three days in segregation, Porter was released back to the standard housing unit on March 4, 2016. After his release, Porter wrote to Warden Dittman to ask if his release had anything to do with his appeal; Dittman then sent back a copy of his paperwork stating “DISMISSED.” Among other things, Porter argues that Dittman's response confirms defendants “had indeed knowingly and willingly lied and falsified documentation to conspire against [him].” (Id. ¶ 41.)

         OPINION

         Plaintiff alleges a number of constitutional violations under the umbrella of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, he claims that defendants violated the Eighth Amendment, the First Amendment, and the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment by: planting contraband in his cell (or alternatively, falsely claiming to have found contraband, when no such contraband ever existed); placing him in TLU despite knowing plaintiff was innocent; failing to protect him from being falsely placed in TLU; falsifying documents and testimony (presumably to use against plaintiff in the disciplinary proceedings); housing him in ...


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