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Davenport v. Rodgers

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

February 23, 2015

DAVID DAVENPORT, Plaintiff,
v.
BRIAN RODGERS, Defendant.

ENTRY GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, AND DIRECTING ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT

JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, District Judge.

For the reasons explained in this Entry, the defendant's motion for summary judgment [dkt. 30] is granted.

I. Background

The plaintiff in this 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 civil rights action is David Davenport ("Mr. Davenport"), who at all relevant times was a pretrial detainee awaiting trial at the Marion County Jail ("the Jail"). He is currently confined at the Putnamville Correctional Facility. The remaining defendant is Brian Rodgers ("Mr. Rodgers"), a civilian mail clerk at the Jail.

Mr. Davenport alleges that Mr. Rodgers violated his First Amendment rights when Mr. Rodgers without consent opened and read two of Mr. Davenport's letters that he wrote while in the Jail and then gave the letters to the Marion County Prosecutor who used the letters as evidence in Mr. Davenport's criminal trial. Mr. Davenport seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

The defendant seeks resolution of Mr. Davenport's claims through the entry of summary judgment. Mr. Davenport has opposed the motion for summary judgment and the defendant has replied.

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A "material fact" is one that "might affect the outcome of the suit." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). To survive a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must set forth specific, admissible evidence showing that there is a material issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Darst v. Interstate Brands Corp., 512 F.3d 903, 907 (7th Cir. 2008). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011).

A dispute about a material fact is genuine only "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). If no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, then there is no "genuine" dispute. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).

III. Discussion

A. Undisputed Facts

On the basis of the pleadings and the portions of the expanded record that comply with the requirements of Rule 56(c)(1), construed in a manner most favorable to Mr. Davenport as the non-moving party, the following facts are undisputed for purposes of the motion for summary judgment:

On or about October 3, 2011, while Mr. Davenport was detained in the Jail, he wrote a letter to his nephew and placed the letter in an envelope addressed to "Cuz and Cuz." Mr. Davenport delivered the letter to personnel at the jail who deposited the letter in the U.S. Mail, but the U.S. Post Office returned it to the Jail for insufficient postage. Mr. Rodgers was employed at the Jail as a civilian mail clerk. His duties included randomly checking inmate non-legal mail.

Many inmates in jails are prohibited from communicating with other inmates. For example, inmates might be prohibited from communicating with each other for reasons of institutional safety and security, to protect inmate "victims" from inmate "aggressors, " or to prevent co-defendants awaiting trial from coordinating their trial testimony. In order to get around this prohibition, it is a common tactic for inmates to address a letter to someone outside the jail and write the name of some other inmate with whom they are prohibited from communicating in the upper left hand corner as the sender. Inmates then put insufficient postage on the envelope, calculating that when it is returned for insufficient postage, it will be given to the inmate with whom they are prohibited from communicating. Consequently, when Mr. Davenport's letter addressed to "Cuz and Cuz" was returned to the Jail for insufficient postage, it ...


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