United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
ENTRY SCREENING AND DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND ALLOWING
PLAINTIFF TO SHOW CAUSE
WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, JUDGE
Benjamin Adams commenced this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action on
August 2, 2017. He has since sought and received in forma
pauperis status and paid the initial partial filing fee.
As an Indiana prisoner, Adam's complaint is now subject
to the screening requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
1915A of Title 28, United States Code, 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).
sues C.A. Penfold, an Administrative Assistant at the
Plainfield Correctional Facility (PCF), J. Peltier, a
Disciplinary Hearing Officer at PCF, and Stanley Knight, the
Superintendent of PCF. Penfold and Peltier are sued in their
individual capacities, and Knight is sued in his official
capacity. Adams asserts claims of (1) the denial of equal
protection in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and (2)
denial of procedural due process in violation of the
Fourteenth Amendment. He seeks monetary damages and
asserts that in late 2016, PCF Investigator P. Prulhiere
conducted an investigation into packages that had been thrown
over a facility fence. As a part of that investigation, on
December 12, 2016, Adams, then incarcerated at PCF, was
charged in a prison disciplinary action with an A100 offense
under the prison's conduct code, which is the violation
of any state or federal law. The violation was dealing in a
synthetic drug, which is what Prulhiere found in the thrown
packages. The prison disciplinary action case number is
being informed of the charge against him, and reviewing a
video surveillance report, Adams requested four witnesses to
present evidence at his disciplinary hearing. He asserts that
at his December 29, 2016, disciplinary hearing, defendant
Peltier refused to hear any of Adams' witnesses
“and told [him] to appeal it.” Complaint, dkt. 1,
¶ 17. Adams complaints Peltier's actions denied him
due process of law.
Adams asserts that Prulhier's investigation was completed
on November 22, 2016, but he was not charged with an offense
following the investigation until December 12, 2016.
Defendant Penfold, who handles disciplinary appeals, has in
the past consistently dismissed disciplinary actions that
were not brought within seven days of the investigation's
completion. He cites numerous cases in which Penfold has
dismissed disciplinary actions for this reason, which Adams
asserts is required by prison policy. Penfold did not dismiss
Adams' disciplinary case, however, despite a twenty-one
day delay, and this is according to Adams a violation of his
right to equal protection of law.
his administrative appeals were denied, Adams filed a habeas
corpus action in this Court challenging the disciplinary
conviction and sanction. Adams v. Superintendent,
Case No. 1:17-cv-01534-WTL-TAB (S.D. Ind.). The habeas action
presents essentially the same claims presented in the instant
action. While the habeas action was pending, prison officials
revisited Adams' administrative appeal and vacated the
conviction and sanctions. Id., dkt. 13-2 (July 26,
2017 letter from appeal review officer to Adams stating that
sanctions have been vacated and case designated for
rehearing). In this action, filed seven days after the
administrative rehearing decision, Adams seeks injunctive
relief against defendant Knight to dismiss disciplinary
action IYC-16-11-0176 and expunge his trafficking conviction.
He also seeks injunctive relief to stop the rehearing because
PCF has not “complied with [an] order to vacate [the]
sanctions” in the case.
seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief for the
procedural irregularities he asserts occurred during his
prison disciplinary action. That action, IYC-16-11-0176, has
been vacated and is set for rehearing, and any procedurals
violation have been cured. But even so, such violations -
while they might warrant habeas corpus relief - are not
actionable civil rights claims.
is no due process violation present. A failure to follow
prison policy does not rise to the level of a constitutional
violation. Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 68
(1991) (“state-law violations provide no basis for
federal habeas relief”); Keller v. Donahue,
271 Fed.Appx. 531, 532 (7th Cir. 2008) (finding that
inmate's claim that prison failed to follow internal
policies had “no bearing on his right to due
process”). If a prison official ignores, mishandles, or
denies a prisoner's grievance, but did not cause or
otherwise participate in the underlying conduct, that does
not state a claim under section 1983. Owens v.
Hinsley, 635 F.3d 950, 953 (7th Cir. 2011).
is no equal protection violation present because Adams not
assert that he is a member of a protected class and does not
assert that the screening delay he alleges was because of
discrimination on the basis of that class. “A person
bringing an action under the Equal Protection Clause must
show intentional discrimination against him because of his
membership in a particular class, not merely that he was
treated unfairly as an individual.” Herro v. City
of Milwaukee, 44 F.3d 550, 552 (7th Cir. 1995) (internal
quotation omitted). Simply receiving different or unfair
treatment is not enough to raise an equal protection
violation. Huebschen v. Department of Health & Soc.
Servs., 716 F.2d 1167, ...