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OSTACK v. Indiana Department of Correction

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

May 12, 2017

CHRISTOPHER M. OSTACK, Plaintiff,
v.
INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, PUTNAMVILLE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, TWO UNKNOWN OFFICERS, Defendants.

          ENTRY DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND DIRECTING FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

          HON. WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA

         I. Filing Fee

         The plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis [dkt. 3] is granted. The assessment of even a partial filing fee is not feasible at this time based on the reported balance of the plaintiff's inmate trust fund account. Notwithstanding the foregoing ruling, the plaintiff owes the filing fee. “All [28 U.S.C.] § 1915 has ever done is excuse pre-payment of the docket fees; a litigant remains liable for them, and for other costs, although poverty may make collection impossible.” Abdul-Wadood v. Nathan, 91 F.3d 1023, 1025 (7th Cir. 1996).

         II. Standard of Review

         The plaintiff is a prisoner currently incarcerated at Putnamville Correctional Facility (“Putnamville”). 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).

         III. Discussion of Claims

         Plaintiff Christopher M. Ostack has sued the Indiana Department of Corrections, Putnamville Correctional Facility, and two unknown officers alleging that they failed to protect him from violence at the hands of another inmate. Specifically, Ostack alleges that on March 18, 2017, he was moved to dorm 18 North. Upon arrival, Ostack's assigned cellmate, Edward Hobson AKA Pearl, became progressively more threatening. On March 19, 2017, at approximately 2:30 p.m., Ostack and Hobson both told the officers that they could not bunk together. Ostack told them that he was not safe. The officers refused to give their names and they were not wearing identification. The officers did not move Ostack and around 7:30 p.m. that same day, Ostack was attacked by Hobson. He was beaten with a double lock and severely injured. Ostack states that he seek money damages, transfer, restoration of credit time and an investigation.

         A. Dismissal of Certain Claims

         Defendant Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) is dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Eleventh Amendment immunity bars suits against states and their agencies regardless of the relief sought, whether damages or injunctive relief. Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 58 (1996); Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 102 (1984). In addition, states and their agencies are not “persons” subject to suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 under the circumstances alleged in Ostack's complaint. Will v. Michigan Department of State Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989).

         Similarly, Putnamville is dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted because the facility is not a person subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Ostack's claim that he was wrongly convicted of battery in a prison disciplinary proceeding based on the circumstances alleged in this action must be dismissed. He acknowledges that the disciplinary proceeding resulted in the deprivation of earned good time. It is for this reason that any claim based on the disciplinary proceedings must be dismissed without prejudice. The settled law in these circumstances is that when a prisoner makes a claim that, if successful, could shorten his term of imprisonment, the claim must be brought as a habeas petition, not as a § 1983 claim. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). In Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641 (1997), the foregoing rule was “extend[ed] . . . to the decisions of prison disciplinary tribunals.” Gilbert v. Cook, 512 F.3d 899, 900 (7th Cir. 2007).

         B. Claim ...


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