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Doe v. McCauley

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

June 30, 2017

JANE DOE, Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint. [Dkt. 24.] For the following reasons, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, a former inmate at the Indiana Women's Prison, brought suit against Defendants on December 16, 2016, alleging that Defendants denied her request to be taken to a healthcare provider to obtain an abortion and otherwise obstructed her efforts to obtain the same. [Dkt. 1.] Plaintiff alleges that Defendants' actions violated her Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment and her Fourteenth Amendment right to lawfully terminate her pregnancy. [Id.] Plaintiff seeks damages under 42 U.S.C § 1983. [Id. at 2.]

         Plaintiff now seeks leave to file an amended complaint to allege additional claims for injunctive and declaratory relief. [Dkt. 24-1 at 12-14.] Specifically, Plaintiff seeks to enjoin enforcement of Directive #03-12, a policy at the Indiana Women's Prison which “prohibits scheduling an inmate to visit an abortion provider unless the inmate has pre-paid the costs of transportation and security to the abortion provider.” [Id. at 12 (¶ 85).] Defendant opposes the Motion, which is fully briefed and ripe for consideration. [Dkts. 24, 25, & 26.]

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) provides that the “court should feely give leave” to amend the pleadings “when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). However, “the district court need not allow an amendment . . . when the amendment would be futile, ” Bethany Pharmacal Co. v. QVC, Inc., 241 F.3d 854, 861 (7th Cir. 2001), such as where an added claim “could not survive a . . . motion to dismiss, ” Foster v. DeLuca, 545 F.3d 852, 584 (7th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation omitted).

         III. Discussion

         Defendants argue that Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint would be futile because Plaintiff lacks standing to bring her proposed claims for injunctive and declaratory relief. Specifically, Defendants maintain that because Plaintiff is no longer incarcerated at the Indiana Women's Prison, she lacks standing to pursue injunctive relief as to the prison's policy.

         In reply, Plaintiff contends that her proposed claims falls under the “capable of repetition yet evading review” exception to the standing doctrine because her claims are based on her prior pregnancy.[1] [Dkt. 26 at 1.]

         Justiciability is “the threshold question in every federal case, determining the power of the court to entertain the suit.” Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975). Under Article III of the Constitution, federal courts have jurisdiction over “cases and controversies, ” but before a court can evaluate the merits of a case, it must first establish whether the parties have “standing to sue.” Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149, 154-55 (1990). Standing is the aspect of justiciability that assesses whether the plaintiff has a personal stake in the outcome of the case. Warth, 422 U.S. at 498. There are three requirements to establish standing: injury in fact, causation, and redressability. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992). The injury must be “(a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent.” Id. (internal quotation and citations omitted). The causal connection must be “fairly traceable to the . . . defendant[, ]” and “it must be likely as opposed to merely speculative that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision” Id. (internal quotation and citations omitted). The plaintiff bears the burden to establish all the elements of standing. Apex Digital v. Sears Roebuck & Co., 572 F.3d 440, 443 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Even if there is standing at the beginning of a case, the mootness doctrine requires that a justiciable controversy exist at all stages throughout the litigation. See Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43, 67 (1997). “Federal courts may not decide questions that cannot affect the rights of litigants in the case before them.” Chafin v. Chafin, 568 U.S. 165, 172 (2013) (internal quotation and citation omitted). Therefore, a case is moot if the plaintiff no longer has a personal stake in the outcome of the case. Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 101 (1983) (internal quotation and citation omitted).

         However, cases involving pregnancy are subject to an exception to the typical standing and mootness requirements. Pregnancy can happen at any time and is likely to come to term before a trial can be completed. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 125 (1973). Because the termination of a pregnancy would typically render the case moot, and “pregnancy litigation seldom [would] survive much beyond the trial stage, . . . appellate review [would] be effectively denied” under the traditional mootness analysis. Id. The Supreme Court has therefore concluded that pregnancy is a “justification for a conclusion of nonmootness.” Id. Pregnancy is the paradigmatic case of an ephemeral phenomenon that is “capable of repetition yet evading review”; without the exception, cases based on pregnancy would be regularly become moot before they could be evaluated. Id.

         Although the “capable of repetition yet evading review” exception applies in the pregnancy context, the same standard does not apply to cases claiming injury from incarceration. See Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 716 (7th Cir. 2011). Instead, “[p]ast exposure to illegal conduct does not in itself show a present case or controversy regarding injunctive relief if . . . unaccompanied by any continuing, present adverse effects.” O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 495-96 (1974). After being released, a former inmate must demonstrate a “realistic possibility that [s]he [would] again be incarcerated in the same state facility and therefore be subject to the actions” complained of in order to pursue a claim for injunctive or declaratory ...

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