United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge.
Jermaine Lockhart, a prisoner proceeding in this matter
pro se, 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 $1.54. 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)).
times relevant, Plaintiff was a prisoner at Waupun
Correctional Institution, and Defendants were doctors on the
mental health staff at the prison. On July 19, 2019,
Plaintiff was housed in the segregation unit of the prison.
That day, while Defendant Gipsy Alvarez
(“Alvarez”) was conducting observation checks on
the segregation prisoners, Plaintiff called out to her,
stating that he intended to overdose on the pills he had in
his cell. Alvarez did not engage with Plaintiff or notify
security staff of the threat. Plaintiff later took the pills
and was taken to the hospital for treatment. Plaintiff
maintains that Alvarez knew he had a history of overdosing on
Plaintiff returned from the hospital, Defendant Torria Van
Buren (“Van Buren”) placed Plaintiff on
observation status. Van Buren also imposed a behavior
management plan on Plaintiff because he had been stalking
Alvarez and making sexual comments to her. Plaintiff filed a
complaint against Alvarez for failing to act on his threat of
self-harm. Plaintiff was later informed by Defendant Gayle
Griffith (“Griffith”) that Van Buren decided to
keep Plaintiff on observation status three days longer
because he filed the complaint. Plaintiff says he was
traumatized by the harsh conditions of observation status.
light of the generous standard of review applicable at the
screening stage, the Court concludes that Plaintiff may
proceed on two claims against the defendants. As for Alvarez,
she may be liable under the Eighth Amendment for being
deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical
needs. Such a claim requires proof that
(1) the prisoner suffered an objectively serious harm that
presented a substantial risk to his safety, and (2) the
defendants were deliberately indifferent to that risk.
Collins v. Seeman, 462 F.3d 757, 760 (7th Cir.2006).
In this prison suicide case, the first element is
automatically satisfied because “it goes without saying
that suicide is a serious harm.” Id.
(quotation omitted). The second, “deliberate
indifference” element requires a dual showing
“that the defendant: (1) subjectively knew the prisoner
was at substantial risk of committing suicide and (2)
intentionally disregarded the risk.” Id. at
761 (citing Matos ex rel. Matos v. O'Sullivan,
335 F.3d 553, 557 (7th Cir.2003)).
Minix v. Canarecci, 597 F.3d 824, 831 (7th Cir.
2010). A genuine threat of self-harm can constitute a serious
medical need, and Alvarez was clearly indifferent to
Plaintiff's plight. The Court notes that the issue of
harassment may become critical to this claim. If
Plaintiff's overdose was motivated by his desire to
harass Alvarez, rather than genuine suicidal ideation, the
claim will be dismissed and Plaintiff will be subject to
sanction. For now, however, the Court must construe his
allegations generously and allow him to proceed against
Van Buren, Plaintiff states a claim for retaliation in
violation of the First Amendment for Plaintiff's use of
the prison grievance system. To prevail on this claim,
Plaintiff must ultimately show that “(1) he engaged in
activity protected by the First Amendment; (2) he suffered a
deprivation that would likely deter First Amendment activity
in the future; and (3) the First Amendment activity was
‘at least a motivating factor' in the
Defendants' decision to take the retaliatory
action.” Gomez v. Randle, 680 F.3d 859, 866
(7th Cir. 2012). The filing of a complaint, grievance, or
lawsuit by a prisoner is activity protected under the First
Amendment. Id. Plaintiff alleges that his complaint
was the primary motivation for Van Buren to keep him on
observation status. This suffices to allow Plaintiff to
proceed against Van Buren. It is unclear what Griffith's
role was in these events; did she have the authority to
remove Plaintiff from observation, or was that Van
Buren's decision alone? Lacking an answer to this
question, the Court will also allow Plaintiff to proceed
against Griffith on this claim.
the Court finds that Plaintiff may proceed on the following