Tingia Wheeler v. Cynthia Radtke
Filed Nonprecedential Disposition PER CURIAM. AFFIRMED. Frank H. Easterbrook, Circuit Judge; Michael S. Kanne, Circuit Judge and David F. Hamilton, Circuit Judge. [6843927-1]  [17-1316]
To be cited only in accordance with Fed. R. App. P. 32.1
United States Court of Appeals
For the Seventh Circuit
Chicago, Illinois 60604
Submitted May 26, 2017*
Decided May 26, 2017
FRANK H. EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judge
MICHAEL S. KANNE, Circuit Judge
DAVID F. HAMILTON, Circuit Judge
Appeal from the United States
District Court for the Eastern District
O R D E R
Tingia Wheeler, a Wisconsin inmate, brought this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against Cynthia Radtke, a prison officer, after she issued him a conduct report that he
regarded as punishment for inmate complaints he filed that alleged staff misconduct.
The district court granted summary judgment for Radtke, finding it undisputed that she
didn’t know that Wheeler had filed the inmate complaints. Because Wheeler did not
* We have agreed to decide this case without oral argument because the briefs
and record adequately present the facts and legal arguments, and oral argument would
not significantly aid the court. See FED. R. APP. P. 34(a)(2)(C).
establish that his submission of inmate complaints motivated Radtke to write the
conduct report, we uphold the grant of summary judgment.
Radtke charged Wheeler in early 2013 with violating prison rules against gang
activity after three confidential informants identified him as an active leader of the
Gangster Disciples. Wheeler said he was framed and, in an effort to clear his name,
began writing letters to family members and inmates suggesting ways to identify the
confidential informants. Once he thought he knew the informants’ identities, he urged
his contacts to expose the informants as “snitches” and pressure them into recanting. He
suggested, for example, contacting the informants’ families, using social media to
publicly shame them, and—if they were out on parole—harassing them at work and
fingering them for taking part in fake robberies. In an effort to publicize the identity of
one suspected informant named “Will”, Wheeler wrote to a local radio station
requesting that it give a “shout‐out” to Will and play a certain song with lyrics
suggesting that Will was an informant. Wheeler even asked the radio station to
announce what he thought, mistakenly, to be Will’s address.
At that point Radtke, believing that Wheeler’s actions endangered both the public
and his suspected informants, intervened. She and another officer met with Wheeler,
notified him that they had been monitoring his letters, and told him to stop trying to
expose the confidential informants. Two days later Wheeler submitted inmate
complaints about Radtke’s behavior at the meeting. According to Wheeler, Radtke
showed him the letters, told him that he was mistaken about the informants’ identities,
and said that she was going to “write [him] up for everything under the sun.” The
prison’s security director reviewed Wheeler’s complaints but returned them because
they were insufficiently specific. Wheeler’s complaints eventually were dismissed.
Two weeks after Wheeler submitted the complaints, Radtke wrote a conduct
report charging Wheeler with several violations related to his letters. In the conduct
report she described Wheeler’s letters and his “intensive efforts” to reveal the identities
of the confidential informants, publicize them as snitches, and induce them to recant.
She believed that his actions posed the risk of “physical and violent retaliation” against
suspected inmates as well as “serious violence and injury” to others. Wheeler responded
that Radtke had read his letters out of context and that he had not made any threats.
After a disciplinary hearing, Wheeler was found guilty of making threats and received
180 days of disciplinary segregation.
Wheeler sued Radtke for writing the conduct report in retaliation for his
complaints about her, in violation of the First Amendment. According to a declaration
that Wheeler later submitted, Radtke admitted during their meeting that the confidential
informants had lied, and she threatened to report Wheeler if he filed an inmate
complaint. Radtke carried out that threat in response, Wheeler asserted, repeating the
statement of a guard that Wheeler would not have received a conduct report had he not
filed the complaints against her. Another inmate attested to overhearing this
conversation with the guard.
As discovery proceeded, Wheeler asked for the names of the confidential
informants. Radtke opposed this request on security and relevancy grounds, and the
district court agreed with her and denied Wheeler’s request. Rebuffed in his efforts to
obtain this information, Wheeler asked the court three times to recruit counsel, adding
that he suffered from an unspecified “debilitating mental state” resulting from his time
in solitary confinement. The court denied Wheeler’s first two requests on grounds that
he had not attempted to find counsel himself, and the third request on grounds that
Wheeler was capable of litigating the case, which was not complex and involved only
The district court ultimately granted summary judgment for Radtke. Wheeler, the
court explained, had no admissible evidence that Radtke knew of his complaints before
she wrote the conduct report, and therefore failed to establish a necessary element of his
claim—i.e., that his protected speech was at least a motivating factor in Radtke’s decision
to write the conduct report.
On appeal Wheeler generally challenges the summary‐judgment ruling and
maintains that Radtke “very well knew of not just my complaint, but every move I
made.” Wheeler, however, does not support this assertion with any admissible evidence.
It was his burden to present sufficient evidence that Radtke knew of the complaints that,
he believes, prompted her to write the conduct report. See Wackett v. City of Beaver Dam,
642 F.3d 578, 582 (7th Cir. 2011); Stagman v. Ryan, 176 F.3d 986, 1001 (7th Cir. 1999). But
as the district court pointed out, Wheeler offered only hearsay evidence—his declaration
and an affidavit from another inmate—repeating a guard’s statement. Inadmissible
hearsay evidence may not be considered on summary judgment. See Cairel v. Alderden,
821 F.3d 823, 830 (7th Cir. 2016); Gunville v. Walker, 583 F.3d 979, 985 (7th Cir. 2009).
Wheeler also argues that the district court abused its discretion when it declined
to recruit counsel, ignoring his mental‐health infirmities and the limitations he faced
accessing confidential information during discovery. But the district court applied the
correct legal standard, properly considering both the complexity of the case and
Wheeler’s ability to litigate it himself. See Olson v. Morgan, 750 F.3d 708, 711–12 (7th Cir.
2014); Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 655 (7th Cir. 2007) (en banc). His filings demonstrate
that he understood the relevant legal issues and was capable of presenting this
We have considered Wheeler’s remaining contentions, and none has merit.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?