United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT WHITNEY NEWTON'S MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
EVANS BARKER, JUDGE United States District Court
cause is before the Court on Defendant Whitney Newton's
Motion for Summary Judgment with regard to Plaintiff Lee
Spaulding's claims against her in her official capacity
as the Circuit Court Clerk for Clark Circuit Court No. 3
[Docket No.215]. On April 29, 2016, we granted Defendant
Newton's motion for summary judgment with regard to
Spaulding's claims against her in her individual
capacity, but noted in our Order that because neither party
had addressed Spaulding's claims against Newton in her
official capacity, our ruling was limited only to
Spaulding's claims against her in her individual
capacity. See Dkt. 164 at 3 n.3.
on January 16, 2017, Newton moved for summary judgment on
Spaulding's claims against her in her official capacity,
arguing, among other things, that as Circuit Court Clerk, she
is not a “person” subject to liability under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 and is in any event entitled to sovereign
immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. Dkt. 217 at 5. On
February 1, 2017, Plaintiffs requested an extension of time
to file their Responses to Defendants' several motions
for summary judgment [Docket Nos. 218, 224, 225, 230],
including Defendant Newton's motion [Docket No. 215].
Magistrate Judge Baker granted Plaintiffs' request on
February 16, 2017, allowing them until April 14, 2017 to file
their Responses. See Dkt. 265. On April 14, Plaintiffs filed
Responses to Docket Nos. 218, 224, 225, and 230, but
proffered no Response to Defendant Newton's Motion for
Summary Judgment at Docket No. 215. Indeed, since that time,
no Response or Reply has been filed in relation to
Newton's summary judgment motion. We GRANT
Newton's motion, but note that we are issuing a ruling on
the merits as well as on Spaulding's procedural
1983 does not authorize a suit for monetary damages against a
state or state agents acting in their official capacities.
See Will v. Mich. Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S.
58, 71 (1989) (“neither a State nor its officials
acting in their official capacities are ‘persons'
under § 1983”). In Indiana, circuit court clerks
qualify as state officials. See e.g., State ex rel.
McClure v. Marion Superior Court, Room No. 1, 158 N.E.2d
264, 269 (Ind. 1959) (“we have no alternative but to
hold that the clerk of the circuit court is not a county
officer, but rather a circuit officer”); Childers
v. City of Portage Ind., 2014 WL 1116887, at *6 (N.D.
Ind. Mar. 19, 2014) (holding that “any claims against
the Clerk in her official capacity for monetary damages may
not survive”); Parsons v. Bourff, 739 F.Supp.
1266, 1267-68 (S.D. Ind. 1989) (dismissing Section 1983
claims against clerk of court because clerk is a state
official). Thus, for Spaulding to successfully maintain an
official-capacity suit against Newton, he must, pursuant to
Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), seek
“prospective equitable relief for ongoing violations of
federal law....” Marie O. v. Edgar, 131 F.3d
610, 615 (7th Cir.1997).
court applying the Ex parte Young doctrine now
‘need only conduct a straightforward inquiry into
whether [the] complaint alleges an ongoing violation of
federal law and seeks relief properly characterized as
prospective.'” Indiana Prot. & Advocacy
Servs. v. Indiana Family & Soc. Servs. Admin., 603
F.3d 365, 371 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting Verizon Maryland
Inc. v. Pub. Servs. Comm'n of Maryland, 535 U.S.
635, 645 (2002)).
claims against Defendant Newton are laid out in the Amended
Complaint as follows:
Defendant “Unknown Clark County Circuit Court Clerk
Responsible for the Erroneous Entry Alleging that Mr.
Spaulding Failed to Appear on July 16, 2013, ” was, at
all relevant times, an employee of Clark County, Indiana and
employed as a Court Clerk. This unknown Defendant is sued in
an individual capacity for actions and inactions which
directly caused constitutional deprivations and in an
official capacity for intentional actions in implementing and
executing Clark County's unconstitutional policies,
decisions, customs and practices, as well as the
employee's unlawful inactions which were the result of
and represented “deliberate indifference” to the
constitutional rights of Plaintiffs.
Dkt. 17 ¶ 36. Spaulding's official-capacity
allegations reference only Newton's past behavior and
mirror the standards set out in Monell v. Dep't of
Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978), which hold political
subdivisions and local municipalities financially liable
under section 1983. As previously explained, in Indiana
“[t]he court system is separate from the other branches
of the [city] government, and the judges, clerk of court, and
prosecuting attorneys are not officers of the city
government.” Holland v. City of Gary, 2011 WL
6782101, at *3 (N.D. Ind. Dec. 27, 2011). Therefore,
Monell does not apply to the courts and their
because Spaulding's claims do not seek prospective relief
from ongoing violations, but instead seek monetary damages
for constitutional deprivations he alleges to have already
suffered, they cannot be maintained against the Circuit Court
Clerk in her official capacity. Given our prior Order that
disposed of Spaulding's claims against Newton in her
individual capacity, see dkt. 164, we hereby GRANT
her Motion for Summary Judgment in its entirety [Docket No.
215] by DISMISSING Spaulding's remaining
 This cause is comprised of claims by
sixteen Plaintiffs against nine Defendants. We deal here with
only those claims raised by Plaintiff Lee Spaulding against
Defendant Whitney Newton.
 The facts and procedural history as
they relate to Mr. Spaulding and his claims in this lawsuit
are set out in full in our April 2016 Order and ...