Wilson v. Pinckneyville Mailroom Staff et al
ORDER GRANTING 38 Motion for Summary Judgment. Judgment is GRANTED in favor of Defendant Donald Gaetz as to Count 8(B). The Pinckneyville mailroom staff is DISMISSED with prejudice as a Defendant in this action, which necessarily means that Counts 4, 8(A), and 11 are also DISMISSED with prejudice. The Warden of Pinckneyville is also DISMISSED with prejudice as a Defendant in this action. There being no claims or Defendants remaining in this action, the Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to enter judgment and close this case on the Courts docket. Signed by Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel on 3/9/2018. (klh2)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
MICHAEL S. WILSON,
PINCKNEYVILLE MAILROOM STAFF, )
DONALD GAETZ, and
WARDEN OF PINCKNEYVILLE,
Case No. 3:15-cv-01345-NJR-DGW
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge:
Pending before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants
Donald Gaetz and the Warden of Pinckneyville (Doc. 38). For the reasons stated below,
the motion is granted.
Plaintiff Michael Wilson brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on events that occurred while he was incarcerated at several
Illinois correctional facilities. In the original complaint, Wilson alleged fifteen separate
claims against twenty-five individual defendants (Doc. 1, p. 1). The Court conducted a
preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, and severed the following three
claims into this case:
Count 4 -
dating from January 2013, unknown Pinckneyville mailroom
staff “constantly” delayed or lost Plaintiff’s regular and legal
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Count 8 -
contains two allegations: (A) unknown Pinckneyville
mailroom staff failed to send outgoing legal mail, thus
violating Wilson’s right to access the courts with reference to
a pending detainer; and (B) Warden Gaetz denied Wilson
access to the courts when he took no steps to inform Plaintiff
of a detainer lodged against him, in retaliation for Plaintiff’s
earlier lawsuit against Defendant Gaetz.
Count 11 -
Pinckneyville mailroom staff purposefully failed to send out
Plaintiff’s legal mail in order to hinder his search for counsel
in Case No. 14-cv-71-NJR-DGW (S.D. Ill.).
(Doc. 1, p. 12).
Several of the claims relate to a detainer filed against Wilson by the Olmsted
County Court in Minnesota. It is undisputed that while Wilson was a prisoner housed at
Centralia Correctional Center, a warrant was issued against him in Olmsted County,
Minnesota (Doc. 39, p. 2). Olmsted County requested Wilson be arrested, or detained if
already in custody (Doc. 39-1, p. 33). Wilson was informed of the detainer while he was
at Centralia (Doc. 19, p. 3).
Wilson was subsequently transferred to Pinckneyville in November 2011
(Doc. 39, p. 3), where Defendant Donald Gaetz was employed as the warden beginning
the following month (Doc. 39, p. 3). It is undisputed that Wilson communicated with the
Olmsted County Court in 2013 and was ultimately successful in having the charges
against him dismissed (Doc. 39-1, p. 54).
With regard to claims against Pinckneyville Mailroom Staff, Wilson was informed
he would have to specifically identify the members of the mailroom staff who were at
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fault in order to proceed on his claims (Doc. 1, p. 13). 1 To aid in that effort, the Court
added the Warden of Pinckneyville as a defendant in her official capacity to respond to
Wilson’s reasonable discovery requests (Doc. 1, p. 13). 2 On August 12, 2016, the Court
entered a Scheduling Order setting a deadline—December 16, 2016—for Wilson to move
to add or substitute specific defendants for the unidentified mailroom staff (Doc. 26,
p. 3). None were ever substituted.
Over a year later, on August 28, 2017, Defendants Gaetz and the “Warden of
Pinckneyville” filed the pending motion for summary judgment (Docs. 38, 39). On
October 5, 2017, Wilson filed a motion asking for an extension of time to respond to the
summary judgment motion (Doc. 42), and he was granted through November 2, 2017, to
file his response (Doc. 43). To date, no response has been filed.
I. LEGAL STANDARD
Summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact
and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). In
deciding a motion for summary judgment, “[a] court may not . . . choose between
competing inferences or balance the relative weight of conflicting evidence; it must view
all the evidence in the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and
Although the requirement for identifying the individual mailroom staff was only referenced in the
preliminary review of Count 4, the Court assumes it also intended that Wilson identify the mailroom staff
responsible for the deprivations alleged in Counts 8 and 11.
At this time, and at the time the motion for summary judgment was filed, Jacqueline Lashbrook was the
Warden of Pinckneyville (see Docs. 14, 15, 18, 38). According to the State of Illinois’ website, however,
Karen Jaimet is now the Warden of Pinckneyville.
March 8, 2018).
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resolve all factual disputes in favor of the non-moving party.” Hansen v. Fincantieri
Marine Grp., LLC, 763 F.3d 832, 836 (7th Cir. 2014) (citations omitted).
The moving party “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court
of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” United States v. King-Vassel,
728 F.3d 707, 711 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986))
(alteration in original). “Once the moving party puts forth evidence showing the absence
of a genuine dispute of material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to
provide evidence of specific facts creating a genuine dispute.” Carroll v. Lynch, 698 F.3d
561, 564 (7th Cir. 2012). “Factual disputes are genuine only if there is sufficient evidence
for a reasonable jury to return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party on the evidence
presented, and they are material only if their resolution might change the suit’s outcome
under the governing law.” Maniscalco v. Simon, 712 F.3d 1139, 1143 (7th Cir. 2013)
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted). If the non-moving party fails to
properly support its assertion of fact or fails to properly address the moving party’s
assertion of fact, the court may “consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the
materials—including the facts considered undisputed—show that the movant is entitled
to it.” FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e)(2), (3).
I. MAIL ROOM STAFF AND THE WARDEN
The majority of the pending claims allege violations of Wilson’s constitutional
rights by individuals in the Pinckneyville mailroom. Specifically, Wilson alleges
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individuals in the Pinckneyville mailroom interfered with his non-legal mail by failing to
post it in a timely manner, in violation of the First Amendment. In addition, Wilson
alleges individuals in the Pinckneyville mailroom interfered with his access to the
Courts by delaying the posting of mail related to his pending detainer (Doc. 1-2, p. 50;
Doc. 1-3, pp. 1-4), and his attempts to secure representation in another case (Doc. 1-4,
The allegations in the original complaint were made against “Pinckneyville
mailroom staff,” but failed to specifically identify any staff members individually.
Where a complaint states specific allegations describing unconstitutional conduct of
individual prison staff members, but the names of those defendants are not known,
courts generally allow the prisoner to engage in limited discovery to ascertain the
identity of those defendants. Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 832 (7th
As set forth above, the Warden of Pinckneyville was added as a defendant to
respond to Wilson’s reasonable discovery requests aimed at identifying the individuals
on the mailroom staff who were at fault. To date, Wilson has not identified those
individuals. As a result, no individual defendants were ever served or given an
opportunity to answer the allegations.
Consequently, the Pinckneyville mailroom staff is dismissed with prejudice from
this action, which necessarily means that Counts 4, 8(A), and 11, which were directed at
the mailroom staff, are likewise dismissed with prejudice. Further, because the Warden
was added solely in her official capacity to assist in identifying the responsible members
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of the mailroom staff, her purpose has been served, and she can also be dismissed from
II. WARDEN GAETZ
Wilson raises two allegations against Warden Gaetz, both contained in Count
8(B). The first allegation is that Gaetz denied Wilson access to the courts when he took no
steps to inform Wilson of a detainer lodged against him (Doc. 1, p. 12). The second
allegation is that Gaetz’s failure to inform Wilson of the detainer was in retaliation for
Wilson filing an earlier lawsuit against him (Doc. 1, p. 12).
A. Access to Court
Inmates have a right to access the courts. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977).
To prove a violation of that right, an inmate must prevail on a two-part test. Jenkins v.
Lane, 977 F.2d 266, 268 (7th Cir. 1992). First, the inmate must show prison officials failed
“to assist in the preparation and filing of meaningful legal papers by providing prisoners
with adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law.” Id.
Second, the prisoner must generally show “some quantum of detriment caused by the
challenged conduct of state officials resulting in the interruption and/or delay of the
plaintiff’s pending or contemplated litigation.” Id. Regardless of the length of an alleged
delay, a prisoner must show actual substantial prejudice to specific litigation. Gentry v.
Duckworth, 65 F.3d 555, 559 (7th Cir. 1995). Delay alone is not enough. Id. Rather,
prejudice occurs when the prison official’s action causes the doors of the court to “be
actually shut” to a plaintiff. Id.
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Here, Wilson’s claim fails on the second prong. 3 It is undisputed that in 2013
Wilson was able to send and receive correspondence, as well as file documents
regarding the detainer with the Court in Olmsted County, Minnesota (Doc. 39-1,
pp. 34-53). It is further undisputed that, as a result of that correspondence, the charges in
Olmsted County were dismissed (Doc. 39-1, p. 54). Thus, even were Gaetz in some way
responsible for a delay in Wilson responding to the detainer, the evidence shows Wilson
suffered no actual prejudice. Not only did the doors of the Olmsted County Court
remain open to Wilson, he was able to obtain a successful outcome. Thus, the Court finds
Gaetz is entitled to summary judgment on the portion of Wilson’s claim alleging he was
denied access to the courts.
Prison officials may not retaliate against an inmate for exercising First
Amendment rights, even if their actions would not independently violate the
Constitution. Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 552 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Howland v.
Kilquist, 833 F.2d 639, 644 (7th Cir. 1987)). To prevail on a First Amendment retaliation
claim, a plaintiff must show: (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. Bridges v. Gilbert, 557
F.3d 541, 546 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Massey v. Johnson, 457 F.3d 711, 716 (7th Cir. 2006)).
Gaetz argues that Wilson cannot prove he was denied adequate legal assistance, and therefore fails on
the first prong of the Jenkins test as well (Doc. 39, p. 9). Because Wilson cannot prove the second element of
the test, and thus fails to show denial of access to the courts, the Court finds it unnecessary to address the
first prong of the test and related arguments raised by Gaetz.
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Here, the first prong of the test is easily met. The filing of a lawsuit qualifies as a
form of protected speech. Bridges, 557 F.3d at 551. Wilson cannot, however, meet the
second prong of the test because he did not show that he suffered a deprivation likely to
deter First Amendment activity in the future. As discussed above, the only harm to
Wilson regarding the detainer was a possible delay—he was ultimately successful. To
succeed on a retaliation claim, the deprivation must be so substantial it would deter a
reasonable person from exercising his rights in the future. Id. at 546. The Court finds a
delay that has no substantive impact on the outcome is not so substantial that it would
deter a reasonable person from exercising a future exercise of his first amendment rights.
Wilson also cannot meet the third prong of the test. He has the burden of
producing evidence that his speech was at least a motivating factor for Defendant
Gaetz’s retaliatory action; in other words, that absent the retaliatory motive, things
would have occurred differently. See Bridges, 557 F.3d at 546; Kidwell v. Eisenhauer, 679
F.3d 957, 965 (7th Cir. 2012). This necessarily means that Wilson must show that Gaetz
had actual knowledge of the protected conduct. Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 594 (7th
Cir. 2009). Here, Wilson alleges that a lawsuit he filed against Gaetz was a motivating
factor in Gaetz’s decision to not inform him about the detainer. There are two problems
with this argument.
First, there is no evidence that Gaetz was even aware of the detainer. It is
uncontested that Gaetz did not review individual inmates’ files to determine whether
there were pending detainers (Doc. 39, p. 3). Instead, the responsibilities relating to the
Interstate Agreement on Detainers are handled by counselors and records office staff
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(Doc. 39, p. 3). Accordingly, there is no evidence before the Court that Gaetz was even
aware that a detainer was pending against Wilson. Further, it is uncontested that Wilson
was notified of the detainer before he was transferred to Pinckneyville (Doc. 39, p. 3).
Thus, the duty to inform Wilson of the detainer under the Interstate Agreement on
Detainers, 730 ILCS 5/3-8-9, was discharged by the warden of Centralia, and the Court is
unaware of any requirement that Wilson be informed of the detainer again upon transfer
to a new facility.
The second problem is that the lawsuit that purportedly motivated Gaetz to
retaliate against Wilson—Wilson v. Gaetz, Case No. 3:14-cv-00071-NJR-DGW (S.D.
Ill.)—was filed on January 21, 2014, six months after Wilson began communicating with
the Olmsted County Court (Doc. 39-1, pp. 34-38). 4 Because the lawsuit had not been
filed at the time Gaetz allegedly retaliated against Wilson, it could not have served as a
motivating factor for the retaliation.
Thus, the Court finds Gaetz is entitled to summary judgment on the portion of
Wilson’s claim alleging Gaetz’s retaliated against him for exercising his First
The Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 38) is GRANTED. Judgment is
GRANTED in favor of Defendant Donald Gaetz as to Count 8(B). The “Pinckneyville
mailroom staff” is DISMISSED with prejudice as a Defendant in this action, which
necessarily means that Counts 4, 8(A), and 11 are also DISMISSED with prejudice. The
The Court can take judicial notice of the date on which a lawsuit was filed. See FED. R. EVID. 201(b)
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Warden of Pinckneyville is also DISMISSED with prejudice as a Defendant in this
There being no claims or Defendants remaining in this action, the Clerk of Court
is DIRECTED to enter judgment and close this case on the Court’s docket.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: March 9, 2018
NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL
United States District Judge
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