Clarence M. Easterling, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Michael Thurmer, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Submitted October 18, 2017 [*]
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Wisconsin. No. 2:14-cv-01392-PP - Pamela Pepper,
Flaum, Ripple, and Rovner, Circuit Judges.
Easterling, a Wisconsin inmate, brought this action against
correctional officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
contending that they violated his constitutional rights to
due process of law and freedom of association by denying him
visits with his daughter in 2004 and 2013. With respect to
the claims based on 2004 events, the district court dismissed
on the pleadings. It ruled that they were time-barred. With
respect to the claims based on 2013 events, it later entered
summary judgment for the defendants, concluding that other
defenses blocked that claim.
district court correctly ruled that Mr. Easterling's
claims arising out of actions taken in 2004 were barred by
the statute of limitations. The remaining defendants
permissibly denied him visits in 2013 because he did not use
the correct procedure to request them. We also have
considered Mr. Easterling's other contentions, but none
has merit. The judgment of the district court is therefore
claims dismissed as untimely, we rely on facts alleged in Mr.
Easterling's complaint. See Collins v. Vill. of
Palatine, 875 F.3d 839, 842 (7th Cir. 2017). For the
remaining claims, we view the entire record in the light most
favorable to Mr. Easterling. See Murphy v.
Rychlowski, 868 F.3d 561, 565 (7th Cir. 2017).
Easterling was convicted in 1998 of sexually assaulting a
minor female and sentenced to probation. In 2001, just before
he was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for armed
robbery,  his daughter, A.N., was born. He and
A.N.'s mother share joint custody of her. Mr. Easterling
is currently imprisoned at the Wisconsin Secure Program
Facility where he wants A.N. to visit him.
Wisconsin, a minor child can visit an inmate only when the
inmate complies with a formal visitation process. Wis. Admin.
Code DOC § 309.08(1)(b) (2017). According to a Division
of Adult Institutions ("DAI") policy, the inmate
must send a questionnaire (which solicits the visitor's
consent) to the minor's legal guardian, who must complete
and return it to the prison. The warden then has discretion to
deny visits if, among other reasons, the warden has
"reasonable grounds" to believe that "the
inmate's offense history indicates there may be a problem
with the proposed visitation" or if "the proposed
visitor may be subjected to victimization." Id.
§ 309.08(4)(f)-(g). Upon denial, which is effective for
six months unless otherwise noted, the inmate can file a
grievance challenging the decision, or the prospective
visitor can write a letter to the warden. Id. §
2004, two years after Mr. Easter ling's sentencing, A.N.
(through her mother) sought a visit with him at the prison
where he was then housed. After receiving the completed
questionnaire, Phillip Kingston, the warden of that prison,
assisted by an officer who handled inmate-visitation requests
at that time, denied the request. They cited a requirement
that Mr. Easterling complete sex offender treatment before
being allowed to visit with his daughter. Mr. Easterling
filed an inmate complaint challenging the denial, which
prison officials dismissed. Mr. Easterling then wrote to the
warden in January 2005, asking "if he would ever be
allowed to receive a visit from his
daughter." According to Mr. Easterling, Warden
Kingston answered that visits "depended on
[Easterling]" and could occur after "completion of
a prison intake assessment in 2002, a psychologist had
recommended that Easterling complete sex offender treatment
as part of his recommended programming. When his visitation
request was denied in 2005, Mr. Easterling did not ask the
warden what treatment he needed or if he could receive it. He
believed that he did not need sex offender treatment then
because, he alleges, he is not a "sex offender"
under Wisconsin law. He acknowledges now, however, that he
would complete such treatment if offered it. (He has been on
a department-wide waiting list for the program, but only
those close to their release date receive priority.)
years after he was denied visitation, Mr. Easterling was
transferred to the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility. A month
after his move, in May 2013, he sent information requests to
defendants Tim Haines (the warden) and Debra Adams (his
probation and parole agent), asking them if he could visit
with his daughter. He did not use the formal visitation
process. Warden Haines and Ms. Adams responded to the
requests. Warden Haines told Mr. Easterling that he could
file an inmate complaint. Mr. Easterling complied, but Warden