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Howard v. Indiana Department of Corrections

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

September 1, 2017

LANCE HOWARD, Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the Court on several pending motions filed by Plaintiff, Lance Howard (“Howard”), an Indiana inmate incarcerated in the New Castle Correctional Facility. Howard commenced this action on August 8, 2017, with a complaint against the Indiana Department of Correction. He also seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis, has requested the issuance of a subpoena, and moves for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order. The Court makes the following rulings.

         B. In Forma Pauperis Status

         Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, dkt. [9], is granted. The assessment of even an initial partial filing fee is not feasible at this time. Notwithstanding the foregoing ruling, 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. Screening of the Complaint

         B. Legal Standard

         Because plaintiff is a prisoner, the complaint is subject to the screening requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. This statute directs that the court shall dismiss a complaint or any claim within a complaint which “(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Id. To satisfy the notice-pleading standard of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” which is sufficient to provide the defendant with “fair notice” of the claim and its basis. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) and quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); see also Wade v. Hopper, 993 F.2d 1246, 1249 (7th Cir. 1993) (noting that the main purpose of Rule 8 is rooted in fair notice: a complaint “must be presented with intelligibility sufficient for a court or opposing party to understand whether a valid claim is alleged and if so what it is.”) (quotation omitted)).

         The complaint “must actually suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, by providing allegations that raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Windy City Metal Fabricators & Supply, Inc. v. CIT Tech. Fin. Servs., 536 F.3d 663, 668 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1084 (7th Cir. 2008)). The Court construes pro se pleadings liberally, and holds pro se pleadings to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Obriecht v. Raemisch, 517 F.3d 489, 491 n.2 (7th Cir. 2008).

         B. Plaintiff's Complaint

         Howard's complaint is more of a daily diary of what has happened to him from the date of his state sentencing proceeding in May 2017, his arrival at the Department of Correction at the Reception Diagnostic Center, his first assignment to the Plainfield Correctional Facility, and then an emergency transfer to the New Castle Correctional Facility, which is his current facility. The chronology of events lists numerous persons, but the named defendant in the complaint is the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC). The complaint begins with an assertion that the IDOC falsified a pre-sentence investigation by including an active Wisconsin warrant for a felony strangulation charge. That caused plaintiff's security classification to be set at Level 2 instead of Level 1. Plaintiff contends the warrant is not outstanding (or still active) and was for a misdemeanor. If it had not been falsified on his presentence investigation, he would have received a Level 1 security classification, and would not have been sent to Plainfield.

         Plaintiff believes he should not have been at Plainfield (which is a Level 2 facility). Plaintiff's complaint enumerates a litany of things, each very briefly, that happened to him while there: His cell door was opened without his permission; he lost a fingernail in a cell door and had to be sent to medical; medical staff would not send him to an emergency room or x-ray his finger; medical bandaged his finger before it could be photographed; a nurse falsified his medical record to show more Tylenol had been given to him than what the doctor ordered; staff were not responsive to his grievances; staff mishandled grievances; staff had him re-write a grievance; staff ignored his assertions that his security level assignment was an error; staff in the classification office did not respond to his notifying them of the classification error; a guard had a hot dog dangling from a string on the front of his pants; staff threatened him with a write-up if he maintained his grievance about the hot dog; and more.

         At some point while at Plainfield, plaintiff cut himself on the chest with a razor, and sometime thereafter cut his left arm. Staff treated it as a suicide attempt and kept him in observation and in restraints, and he was soon transferred to his present facility, the New Castle Correctional Facility. There, he was placed in a padded observation cell and continuously watched, sometimes by other inmates. He complains that in the observation cell, and while restrained, he was unable to wash his hands after relieving himself. The complaint continues with plaintiff's litany of wrongs committed against him while at the New Castle Correctional Facility.

         All of these events, and several other wrongs of a similar nature that plaintiff has suffered allegedly resulted from the erroneous security level classification. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages, a declaratory judgment, and injunctive relief.

         C. ...

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