United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
RICHARD K. ARMSTRONG, Plaintiff,
UNKNOWN OFFICER with C. Shepherd, C. SHEPHERD Correctional Officer, STILLWELL Ms., Internal Affairs, J. KLUNKERFUSS Internal Affairs, H. ANDREWS Disciplinary Review Officer, T. ANDIS Disciplinary Hearing Officer, CHARLES PENFOLD Grievance Specialist, BRIAN SMITH Superintendent, Defendants.
ENTRY DENYING MOTION FOR COUNSEL, DISMISSING
COMPLAINT, AND DIRECTING FURTHER PROCEEDINGS
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE
plaintiff's motion for counsel [dkt. 2] is denied as
premature. The Complaint is screened below, and the
defendants have yet appear in this action. The Seventh
Circuit has found that until the defendants have been served
and “respond to the complaint, the plaintiff's need
for assistance of counsel . . . cannot be gauged.”
Kadamovas v. Stevens, 706 F.3d 843, 846 (7th Cir.
plaintiff is a prisoner currently incarcerated at New Castle
Correctional Facility, but the events relevant to his claims
all occurred while he was incarcerated at Plainfield
Correctional Facility (“Plainfield”). Because the
plaintiff is a “prisoner” as defined by 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(h), this Court has an obligation under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A(b) to screen his complaint before service on the
defendants. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court
must dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous or malicious,
fails to state a claim for relief, or seeks monetary relief
against a defendant who is immune from such relief. In
determining whether the complaint states a claim, the Court
applies the same standard as when addressing a motion to
dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
See Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th
Cir. 2006). To survive dismissal,
[the] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is
plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Pro se
complaints such as that filed by the plaintiff are construed
liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers. Obriecht v. Raemisch,
517 F.3d 489, 491 n.2 (7th Cir. 2008).
plaintiff alleges that defendants Correctional Officer C.
Shepherd and another unknown officer planted a shank in his
property box. They subsequently informed him that a shank was
found during a search of his property box and that he would
be charged in a Conduct Report for possession of dangerous
contraband. Two internal affairs officers told the plaintiff
that they were looking into the incident and he should
request a continuance for his disciplinary hearing. The
plaintiff requested a continuance, but the hearing officer
ignored this request, held the disciplinary hearing, and
found him guilty on November 18, 2014.
plaintiff filed a disciplinary hearing appeal to the
Superintendent of Plainfield on December 1, 2014, arguing
that the shank was planted on him. He was transferred to
Miami Correctional Facility on December 18, 2014. On January
13, 2015, the Superintendent dismissed the Conduct Report
against the plaintiff.
on the foregoing allegations, the plaintiff brings
constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against Correctional Officer C. Shepherd and the unknown
officer for planting a shank in his property box, and against
the Superintendent of Plainfield and several other Plainfield
employees who were involved in the disciplinary process.
the plaintiff's allegations rise to the level of a
constitutional violation. The core of the plaintiff's
allegations is that he was falsely charged with a Conduct
Report by the officers who planted a shank in his property
box. But the plaintiff does not have a due process right to
avoid false disciplinary charges “because ordinarily,
‘even assuming fraudulent conduct on the part of prison
officials, the protection from such arbitrary action is found
in the procedures mandated by due process.'”
Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624-25 (7th
Cir. 2006) (quoting McPherson v. McBride, 188 F.3d
784, 787 (7th Cir. 1999)); see Hanrahan v. Lane, 747
F.2d 1137, 1141 (7th Cir.1984) (“We find that an
allegation that a prison guard planted false evidence which
implicates an inmate in a disciplinary infraction fails to
state a claim for which relief can be granted where the
procedural due process protections as required in Wolff
v. McDonnell are provided.”). Any impropriety with
the Conduct Report itself would be properly addressed during
the disciplinary proceedings, the result of might be
challenged in a habeas proceeding, not a civil rights action
such as this one. But here, the plaintiff's charges were
dismissed on appeal, thus there appears nothing to challenge
does the plaintiff state a § 1983 claim based on an
Eighth Amendment violation. The Seventh Circuit has noted
that “‘a frame-up or malicious prosecution is not
an example of punishment in the sense of the Eighth
Amendment.'” Lagerstrom, 463 F.3d at 625
(quoting Leslie v. Doyle, 125 F.3d 1132, 1136-37
(7th Cir. 1997)).
the plaintiff does not allege a First Amendment violation
because he does not allege that the shank was planted in his
property box in retaliation for the exercise of a
constitutionally protected right. But even if he did, he
would still not state a claim because his disciplinary charge
was eventually dismissed. See Bridges v. Gilbert,
557 F.3d 541, 555 (7th Cir. 2009) (“A single
retaliatory disciplinary charge that is later dismissed is
insufficient to serve as the basis of a § 1983
the plaintiff has failed to allege a constitutional violation
such that his complaint brought ...