Case: Gonzalez v. Litscher

3:01-cv-00521 | U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin

Filed Date: Sept. 13, 2001

Closed Date: 2003

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On September 13, 2001, a Native American prisoner at the Supermax Correctional Institution in Boscobel, Wisconsin filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Wisconsin Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants had violated his constitutional right to free exercise of his religion in three ways: 1) by removing a religious book from his cell, 2) by accommodating the religious needs of other prisone…

On September 13, 2001, a Native American prisoner at the Supermax Correctional Institution in Boscobel, Wisconsin filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Wisconsin Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants had violated his constitutional right to free exercise of his religion in three ways: 1) by removing a religious book from his cell, 2) by accommodating the religious needs of other prisoners but not his own, and 3) by denying him access to religious items such as a sweat lodge, medicine bag, ceremonial drums, feathers, and smoking pipes.

On September 20, 2002, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (Judge Barbara Crabb) granted the defendants summary judgment on the first and second claims, as well on the claim that he had been unconstitutionally denied a sweat lodge, holding that the plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies and that the denial of access to a sweat lodge was reasonably related to legitimate penological interests. The court denied the defendants summary judgment on the issue of denial of the medicine bag, ceremonial drums, feathers, and smoking pipes, holding that a fact issue existed as to whether denial of access to these articles was justified. The court also ruled that the defendants were shielded from the plaintiff's claims for money damages by the doctrine of qualified immunity. Gonzales v. Litscher, 230 F.Supp.2d 950 (W.D.Wis. 2002).

The plaintiff appealed the order of partial summary judgment and asked the court to allow Eric Gomez and William Medina, two of his fellow inmates, to intervene in the case. On October 21, 2002, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (Judge Crabb) denied the appeal to allow money damages, ruling that the qualified immunity order would stand. Gonzalez v. Litscher, 2002 WL 32350049 (W.D.Wis. Oct. 21, 2002).

The defendants filed a motion in limine asking the court to admit two of the plaintiff's prior felony convictions into evidence. On October 22, 2002, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (Judge Crabb) held that the evidence of prior convictions should be admitted for the limited purpose of impeachment. Gonzalez v. Litscher, 2002 WL 32362233 (W.D.Wis. Oct. 22, 2002).

On October 29, 2002, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (Judge Crabb) held a bench trial and entered judgment for the defendants. The plaintiff asked the court to give him a transcript of the trial so that he could file an appeal. On November 5, 2002, the court denied his motion for a copy of the transcript because he had not paid his filing fees. Gonzalez v. Litscher, 2002 WL 32364853 (W.D.Wis. Nov. 5, 2002).

On November 15, 2002, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (Judge Crabb) denied Gomez's motion to intervene and denied the plaintiff's motion to amend the judgment. The court noted that the plaintiff did not pay the proper filing fees for his appeal and ordered him to show cause why he failed to pay the fees or submit the proper paperwork to file the appeal in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2), the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Gonzales v. Litscher, 2002 WL 32341744 (W.D.Wis. Nov. 15, 2002). The plaintiff appealed.

On December 26, 2002, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (Judge Crabb) ordered that the plaintiff should be given a copy of the trial transcript because he had paid part of his filing fees. Gonzalez v. Litscher, 2002 WL 32341808 (W.D.Wis. Dec. 26, 2002).

On October 21, 2003, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Judge Kenneth Ripple, Judge Daniel Manion, and Judge Ann Williams) affirmed the district court's summary judgment order. Gonzalez v. Litscher, 79 Fed.Appx. 215 (7th Cir. 2003).

Summary Authors

Kristen Sagar (4/22/2006)

People


Judge(s)

Crabb, Barbara Brandriff (Wisconsin)

Manion, Daniel Anthony (Indiana)

Ripple, Kenneth Francis (Indiana)

Williams, Ann Claire (Illinois)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Schmelzer, Jody J. (Wisconsin)

Judge(s)

Crabb, Barbara Brandriff (Wisconsin)

Manion, Daniel Anthony (Indiana)

Ripple, Kenneth Francis (Indiana)

Williams, Ann Claire (Illinois)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Schmelzer, Jody J. (Wisconsin)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Docket [PACER]

Dec. 8, 2003 Docket
45

Opinion and Order [Granting S/J for Defendants on Some Issues]

230 F.Supp.2d 950

Sept. 20, 2002 Order/Opinion
55

Order [Denying Plaintiff's Motion to Reconsider Dismissal of Claims for Money Damages]

2002 WL 32350049

Oct. 21, 2002 Order/Opinion
57

Order [Re: Various Motions In Limine]

2002 WL 32362233

Oct. 22, 2002 Order/Opinion
62

Order [Denying Plaintiff's Request for Trial Transcript]

2002 WL 32364853

Nov. 5, 2002 Order/Opinion
68

Order [Re: Motion to Proceed En Forma Pauperis]

2002 WL 32341744

Nov. 15, 2002 Order/Opinion
72

Order [That a Trial Transcript Be Furnished to Plaintiff]

2002 WL 32341808

Dec. 26, 2002 Order/Opinion

Order [Affirming D.C. Grant of S/J]

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

79 Fed.Appx. 215

Oct. 21, 2003 Order/Opinion

Docket

Last updated May 13, 2022

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: Wisconsin

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Key Dates

Filing Date: Sept. 13, 2001

Closing Date: 2003

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Native American inmate challenging prison policy regarding religious items allowed in cells.

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: Yes

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Wisconsin Department of Corrections, State

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Free Exercise Clause

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Defendant

Nature of Relief:

None

Source of Relief:

None

Order Duration: 2002 - 0

Issues

General:

Religious programs / policies

Affected Gender:

Male

Type of Facility:

Government-run