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Williams v. Ortiz

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 26, 2019

Travis Delaney Williams, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Simeon Ortiz, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued May 21, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. No. 14-C-792 - William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge.

          Before Flaum, Kanne, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.


         Travis Williams appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of several correctional employees. Because he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and because the defendants did not provide him with objectively unreasonable medical care, we affirm.

         I. Background

         Travis Williams entered Racine County Jail in Wisconsin as a pre-trial detainee on May 8, 2013. He surfers from osteoarthritis, a condition for which he has received Social Security disability insurance since 1982. When Williams was admitted to the jail after his arrest, he had been recently using a walker and a cane to get around.

         Although the Racine County Jail typically provides its inmates with a single mattress to sleep on at night, when the jail places inmates on disciplinary-segregation status it does not allow them to keep their mattresses in their cells during the daytime hours. In late 2013, the medical staff provided Williams with double mattresses to sleep on as an accommodation for his osteoarthritis. The jail allowed Williams to have double mattresses at night for sleeping, and allowed him to keep a single mattress in his cell during the day. By February 2014, the medical staff concluded that Williams's medical condition no longer required a second mattress, but the staff initially allowed him to keep his double mattresses.

         Like other correctional facilities, the Racine County Jail has an administrative grievance and appeal procedure for its inmates. The procedures for appealing an adverse administrative action at the Racine County Jail are included in a jail handbook that is accessible in the jail's common areas. Essentially, the Racine County Jail follows a two-step appeal procedure. The jail handbook provides that the hearing supervisor may impose a sanction or penalty based on the findings of a disciplinary proceeding. The hearing supervisor can impose up to ten days of segregation for each rule violation. An inmate can execute his first appeal of the disciplinary finding and imposed sanctions to the Assistant Jail Administrator (Lieutenant Bradley Friend) or to the Lieutenant in Charge of Jail Operations. Once the first appeal is returned, the inmate can execute his second appeal of an adverse finding to the Jail Administrator (Captain Douglas Wearing). The inmate must write this second appeal on an inmate request form and submit it to a staff member within 24 hours of the finding decision. The jail administrator's appeal decision is final.

         Williams's troubles, at least as they are relevant to this case, began on June 3, 2014. That day he used the shower outside of the authorized timeframe and was consequently written up and placed on 24-hour lockdown. When a guard, Officer Robert Hernandez, handed him the write-up, Williams grew angry and threatened and yelled abusive insults at Hernandez. Hernandez wrote a disciplinary ticket that recommended twelve days of segregation for Williams. That same day, Doctor Simeon Ortiz examined Williams because he complained of pain when walking. Ortiz noted that Williams showed no signs of pain upon palpitation of his heels during examination and that he had joint mobility, but Ortiz also ordered an x-ray.

         On June 5, the medical staff performed an x-ray, which revealed that Williams had bone spurs. Williams also found himself involved in other disciplinary incidents that day: Williams yelled verbally abusive comments at Hernandez in the morning. Later on, Officer Austin Isferding responded to Williams's complaint about his lunch. Williams claims he received a plate of stuffing that he described as "contaminated" with a long strand of hair and a "crunchy material." He ate all the other food on his plate and then complained about the contamination and asked for new food. Although Isferding provided a new serving of stuffing, Williams alleges that Isferding just piled the new stuffing on top of the contaminated stuffing. Williams grew angry in reaction to this slight. Isferding consequently ordered Williams to lock up in his cell. As Isferding attempted to shut Williams's cell door, Williams shoved rolls of toilet paper in between the bars to prevent the door from closing. Then Williams attempted to tie the bars together with a bed sheet. Isferding wrote up Williams for the incident and recommended six days of segregation. On that day, after Williams was written up, he submitted a written grievance to Friend about the stuffing situation. Also on that day, Sergeant Patrick Noonan went to Williams's cell to conduct a hearing on Williams's conduct, but Williams claims that he was incapacitated by medication he took earlier in the day and that the hearing never occurred. In the following days, Williams submitted additional stuffing-situation grievances to Friend.

         On June 8, the jail staff conducted a hearing to evaluate Williams's write ups for the incidents on June 3 and 5. Williams alleges that the hearing never happened, but the officers claim that Williams refused to participate. The hearing officer determined that Williams would serve twenty days of segregation as a result of his behavior during these incidents. Separately, the guards found Williams with contraband that day and wrote him up, recommending an additional three days in segregation.

         Williams began serving his 20-day term in segregation the evening of June 8. The jail-pursuant to its standard segregation policy-allowed him to keep only one mattress for sleeping and no mattress during the daytime. Williams objected that he needed the mattress on account of his osteoarthritis. Over the weeks that followed, the jail's medical staff continued to address Williams's medical complaints and Williams continued to correspond with Lieutenant Friend and Captain Wearing concerning his grievances. We provide a brief overview of these events to better illustrate the grounds of the parties' arguments.

         On June 9, Williams submitted a third grievance to Friend about the stuffing situation. The district court determined that this was a separate, stand-alone complaint. Williams argues on appeal that this grievance was ...

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