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). Kristen Sagar - 04/22/2006