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Shields v. Mahoney

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

December 19, 2019

CORTEZ WILLIE SHIELDS, Plaintiff,
v.
SHERIFF DAVE MAHONEY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          William M. Conley District Judge.

         The court previously granted pro se plaintiff Cortez Willie Shields leave to proceed on an Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim against Sheriff Dave Mahoney, based on his alleged exposure to lead in the drinking water and mold in his cell. (Dkt. #13.) In that order, the court denied him leave to proceed against other defendants because the complaint lacked sufficient allegations to determine their respective involvement. (Id. at 5 (citing Zimmerman v. Tribble, 226 F.3d 568, 574 (7th Cir. 2000) (explaining that to demonstrate liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege sufficient facts showing that an individual personally caused or participated in a constitutional deprivation)).) Before the court are two motions filed by Shields. The first is a motion for leave to amend his complaint to add a number of additional defendants, most of whom were named in his original complaint. (Dkt. #16.) For the reasons that follow, the court will grant him leave to proceed against Sgt. Skipenski, Lt. Immel, Deputy Merrill, Capt. Annalt and Lt. Pierce, but will deny him leave to proceed against Capt. Olson. Shields also filed a motion seeking recruitment of pro bono counsel. (Dkt. #28.) For the reasons that follow, the court will deny that motion without prejudice.

         OPINION

         I. Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint [1]

         As described in the court's prior order, Shields complains that defendants violated his rights by subjecting him to unsafe environmental conditions, namely lead exposure from drinking hot water and exposure to mold in his cell, while he was housed in the Dane County Jail. Specifically, he complained of lead exposure from drinking hot water and exposure to mold in his cell.[2] The court granted him leave to proceed against Sheriff Mahoney. Shields seeks to add a number of other Dane County employees as defendants.

         As explained in the prior order, assuming Shields' claims arise under the Eighth Amendment, Shields must allege facts as to each of the defendants that satisfy a test involving both an objective and subjective component. Lunsford v. Bennett, 17 F.3d 1574, 1579 (7th Cir. 1994). The objective analysis focuses on whether prison conditions were sufficiently serious so that “a prison official's act or omission results in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities, ” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834, or “exceeded contemporary bounds of decency of a mature, civilized society, ” Lunsford, 17 F.3d at 1579. The subjective component requires an allegation that prison officials acted wantonly and with deliberate indifference to a risk of serious harm to plaintiff. Id.

         First, Shields seeks to proceed on claims against Sgt. Skipenski. Shields alleges that he complained to Skipenski about his concerns about lead exposure, and Skipenski responded inconsistently, informing him that “95 percent of the water lines are within establish[ed] standards, ” but also advising him not to drink the water. (Am. Compl. (dkt. #16) 2.) Shields further alleges that Skipenski told him that steps were being taken to address health concerns, but none were. The court finds these allegations sufficient to state an Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim against Skipenski based on lead exposure.

         Shields also seeks to proceed against Lt. Immel. Shields alleges that he informed Immel of his concerns about lead in a grievance, and Immel responded in the same Skipenski responded -- namely, informing him that testing showed that 95% of the water lines were within established standards, but also telling him to not consume hot water. (Id. at 3.) The court similarly finds these facts sufficient to assert a claim against Immel.

         Next, Shields seeks to add Deputy Merrill as a defendant based on her alleged awareness of mold in the showers, her statement that the showers were “disgusting” and that she would bring bleach and inform Sgt. Olson and Capt. Annhalt, but that she failed to take any of these steps. (Id. at 3-4.) The court finds these allegations sufficient to implicate Deputy Merrill in an Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim based on exposure to mold in his cell.

         Shields also seeks add Capt. Annalt as a defendant based on his awareness of mold in the showers and issues with water, his promise to address the health and safety of the jail environment and his failure to do so. (Id. at 4.) Here, too, the court finds these allegations are sufficient to assert an Eighth Amendment claim against Annhalt.

         In his original complaint, Shields named a John Doe defendant, which he has now identified as Lt. Pierce. In his amended complaint, Shields alleges that Pierce reviewed an appeal of a grievance in which he complained about lead and mold exposure, and failed to take any action to address Shields concerns, and, as alleged, intentionally covered up the unfit living conditions. (Id. at 5.) The court finds these allegations sufficient to implicate the Eighth Amendment.

         Finally, Shields seeks to name Capt. Olson as a defendant based on allegations that he knew his cell door would not open. (Id. at 4-5.) Shields, however, was not granted leave to proceed on a conditions of confinement claim based on his cell door not opening. Moreover, his allegations are insufficient to finds that difficulties with his cell door opening rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment claim. While Shields makes a passing reference to mold in this section of his amended complaint, this reference is insufficient to give rise to a reasonable inference that Olson was deliberately indifferent to Shields' exposure to mold.

         In summary, the court will grant Shields leave to proceed on Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claims against Sgt. Skipenski, Lt. Immel, Deputy Merrill, Capt. Annalt and Lt. Pierce, but will deny him leave to proceed against Capt. Olson.

         II. Motion for Recruitment ...


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