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Widmer v. Kempfer

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

November 6, 2013

MICHAEL WIDMER, No. B30985, Plaintiff,


G. PATRICK MURPHY, District Judge.

Plaintiff Michael Widmer, an inmate in Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on a variety of incidents, primarily involving excessive force and harassment by prison guards (Doc. 1). Contending that his life is in imminent danger, Plaintiff also moves for a temporary restraining order (Doc. 2).

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening. - The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal. - On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross "the line between possibility and plausibility. Id. at 557. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts "should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements." Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

The Complaint

According to the complaint, On October 8, 2013, C/O Kempfer cuffed Plaintiff's hands behind his back so tightly that the skin was cut and Plaintiff lost sensation in his hands. Kempfer then intentionally lifted Plaintiff's arms high, causing Plaintiff (who has unspecified medical needs permits) to stoop over in pain. C/O Davis also squeezed Plaintiff's cuffs, as Plaintiff screamed in pain. C/O Lindberg and Sgt. Schurtz watched Plaintiff beg for relief, but they did nothing. Lindberg commented that Plaintiff was going to learn what happens to snitches. Schurtz then smiled at Lindberg and proceeded to hit Plaintiff in the face with his fist, chipping Plaintiff's tooth. Although Plaintiff requested medical treatment, Kempfer, Davis, Schurtz and Lindberg did nothing to aid Plaintiff. Rather, Kempfer walked Plaintiff back to his cell, with Plaintiff's cuffed arms held high behind his back, and his mouth bleeding.

On October 25, 2013, Plaintiff C/O Kilpatrick opened the slot to Plaintiff's cell door to allow trash and laundry to be removed. An inmate worker then slammed the slot door on Plaintiff's fingers, holding it closed for a minute. The tip of Plaintiff's finger was cut off and the nail was damaged. C/O Kilpatrick did nothing but laugh, and he then refused to get Plaintiff medical care.

On October 26, 2013, C/O Spiller and C/O Westerman refused to "contact medical staff" for Plaintiff. After Plaintiff asked to speak to a supervisor, Spiller refused to open Plaintiff's door slot for trash pick-up. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff heard who he believed to be C/O Davis go behind his cell and jerk the cable cord, breaking Plaintiff's television. The voice then announced, "Write that up, bitch."

Plaintiff further complains that on July 31, 2013, as he was boarding a bus to go to court, C/O Lawless seized his legal mail and legal pads. Plaintiff contends Lawless denied him access to the courts and, as a result, he lost parental rights. Plaintiff characterizes Lawless's actions as retaliation.

Compensatory and punitive damages are sought, as well as injunctive relief.

Based on the allegations in the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into four counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit.

Count 1: On October 8, 2013, Defendants Kempfer, Davis, Lindberg and Schurtz violated Plaintiff's rights under the Eighth Amendment by subjecting him to excessive force and by denying him medical care;
Count 2: On October 25, 2013, Defendant Kilpatrick stood by while Plaintiff was injured by another inmate, and then refused Plaintiff medical care, all in violation of the Eighth Amendment;
Count 3: October 26, 2013, Defendants Spiller and Westerman both refused to contact medical staff for Plaintiff; Spiller subsequently refused to open Plaintiff's door slot; and Defendant Davis damaged Plaintiff's television; and
Count 4: On July 31, 2013, Defendant Lawless retaliated against Plaintiff and denied him access to the courts, all in violation of the First Amendment.



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