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Seventh Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Wisconsin Property Claim

by Edward Lyon

Wisconsin prisoner Christopher Streckenbach submitted two boxes of personal property for his son to pick up at a visit. The son never came within the policy's 30 day period. The property was weighed for mailing by mailroom supervisor VanDensen, but Streckenbach's account was $2 short of funds for postage. The property was destroyed as dictated by prison policy.

Streckenbach filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 lawsuit claiming his property was destroyed without notice to him, and even though the policy had existed since 2013, he and other prisoners had never received notice of the policy.

The district court granted summary judgment for VenDensen and the assistant and senior warden, holding the supervisor had qualified immunity and Streckenbach provided no legal theory to support his claim.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding VanDensen not responsible for general notice requirements since they were posted on bulletin boards and the defendants were not vicariously liable for mistakes others make. The court did hold that "Complaints need not plead law or spell out theories of liability" citing Johnson v. Shelby, 135 S.Ct. 364 (2014). The court further noted the policy was changed in 2015, eliminating the visitation pick up option.

See: Streckenbach v. VanDensen, No. 16-1695 (7th Cir. 2017)

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Related legal case

Streckenbach v. VanDensen