United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
JOSEPH D. LEWIS, Plaintiff,
SCOTT MELLINGER, MADISON COUNTY INDIANA, Defendants.
ENTRY ON MOTION TO DISMISS, OTHER PENDING MOTIONS,
AND DIRECTING FURTHER PROCEEDINGS
JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, CHIEF JUDGE.
plaintiff brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 against defendants Scott Mellinger, the Sheriff of
Madison County, and the Madison County Commissioners,
asserting that they violated several of his constitutional
rights while he was incarcerated in Madison County Jail. The
defendants move to dismiss all but one of the plaintiff's
claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). For the reasons explained,
the defendants' motion to dismiss, dkt. , is granted.
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In reviewing the sufficiency of a
complaint, the Court must accept all well-pled facts as true
and draw all permissible inferences in favor of the
plaintiff. See Active Disposal, Inc. v. City of
Darien, 635 F.3d 883, 886 (7th Cir. 2011). The Court
will not accept legal conclusions or conclusory allegations
as sufficient to state a claim for relief. See McCauley
v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 617 (7th Cir. 2011).
Factual allegations must plausibly state an entitlement to
relief “to a degree that rises above the speculative
level.” Munson v. Gaetz, 673 F.3d 630, 633
(7th Cir. 2012). This plausibility determination is “a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to
draw on its judicial experience and common sense.”
plaintiff asserts several constitutional claims against each
defendant. Against the Madison County Commissioners, he
alleges that they have a policy of holding inmates for longer
than forty-eight hours without establishing probable cause,
that they have a policy of preventing inmates from providing
other inmates legal assistance, and that they do not permit
sufficient access to the law library. As to Sheriff
Mellinger, the plaintiff alleges the same claim regarding
holding inmates for longer than forty-eight hours, and he
asserts claims regarding inadequate meals, toothbrushes, and
emergency call buttons. The plaintiff seeks compensatory and
Court begins with the plaintiff's claims against the
Madison County Commissioners. The defendants argue that these
claims must be dismissed because the Sheriff, not the County
Commissioners, has authority over administering the
incarceration of jail inmates. The plaintiff does not respond
to this argument.
defendants are correct. The county, and thus its
commissioners, have a duty to “maintain” the
county jails, which requires them “to keep the jail
open for use and in good repair.” Weatherholt v.
Spencer County, 639 N.E.2d 354, 356 (Ind.Ct.App. 1994).
The Sheriff, on the other hand, is responsible for
“administering the manner of an inmate's
incarceration.” Id.; see Ind. Code
§ 36-2-16-5(a) (“The Sheriff shall . . . (7) take
care of the county jail and the prisoners there . . .
.”); cf. Estate of Drayton v. Nelson, 53 F.3d
165, 167 (7th Cir. 1994). The Madison County Commissioners
are thus not responsible for, and therefore cannot be held
liable for, the plaintiff's treatment while in the
Madison County Jail. Accordingly, all of the plaintiff's
claims against the Madison County Commissioners are
Court turns next to the plaintiff's claims against
Sheriff Mellinger. The defendants seek dismissal of all of
the plaintiff's claims against Sheriff Mellinger except
for the claim regarding the alleged policy or practice of
holding inmates longer than forty-eight hours before a
probable cause determination. First, the defendants'
argue that these claims should be construed as claims against
Sheriff Mellinger in his individual capacity, given that the
complaint refers to Sheriff Mellinger himself and the fact
that the plaintiff seeks punitive damages, rather than
injunctive relief. See Miller v. Smith, 220 F.3d
491, 494 (7th Cir. 2000). The plaintiff does not dispute
this, and thus the Court will treat them as individual
capacity claims. Construed as such, the plaintiff fails to
allege sufficient facts to show that Sheriff Mellinger was
personally involved in the alleged constitutional violations,
as there are no specific allegations regarding Sheriff
Mellinger's involvement in the underlying conduct.
See Matz v. Klotka, 769 F.3d 517, 528 (7th Cir.
2014); see also Minix v. Canarecci, 597 F.3d 824,
833 (7th Cir. 2010) (“[I]ndividual liability under
§ 1983 requires ‘personal involvement in the
alleged constitutional deprivation.'”) (citation
and quotation marks omitted). Therefore, the plaintiff's
claims regarding deficient food, toothbrushes, and emergency
buttons in the Madison County Jail are dismissed.
Court notes, however, that in the plaintiff's response
brief he appears to assert that he was also stating claims
against Sheriff Mellinger (not just the County Commissioners)
regarding the failure to permit inmates to assist other
inmates with legal work and the overall deficient access to
the law library. To the extent this is true, any such claims
against Sheriff Mellinger must also be dismissed. At best,
the plaintiff is attempting to assert an access to the courts
claim. But the right to access the courts requires
allegations “that as a result of the prison's
action the plaintiff had lost a case or suffered
some other legal setback.” Pratt v. Tarr, 464
F.3d 730, 732 (7th Cir. 2006) (emphasis added). Thus the
right to access the courts is an individual right-which
requires an allegations that the plaintiff himself suffered a
legal setback-not a claim that can be asserted based on
another inmate's alleged denial of access to the courts.
the plaintiffs allegations that his access to the law library
was insufficient, the right of access to the courts is
“not an abstract freestanding right to a law library or
legal assistance.” In re Maxy, 674 F.3d 658,
660 (7th Cir. 2012) (citations and quotation marks omitted).
Thus his allegations regarding law library access also fail
to state a viable First Amendment claim.
reasons explained, the defendants' motion to dismiss,
dkt. , is granted. The plaintiffs claim against Sheriff
Mellinger regarding the alleged policy of holding inmates
longer than forty-eight hours with a probable cause
determination shall proceed in this action. If the Court
misconstrued or left unaddressed any claims in the plaintiffs
Complaint, he shall have through May 29, 2017, in which to
notify the Court. If this date passes without such a
notification, the Court will issue a scheduling order
directing how this action shall proceed.
plaintiffs motion to set a trial, dkt. , is denied. This
action will proceed as ...