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Tripp v. Smith

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

November 22, 2017

TERRY TRIPP, Plaintiff,
BRIAN SMITH Warden Putnamville Correctional Facility, CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS Putnamville Correctional Facility, Defendants.


          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge United States District Court.

         I. Screening Standard

         On November 14, 2017, the plaintiff filed a second amended complaint, dkt. [22]. The second amended complaint is now the operative complaint in this action and is subject to the screening requirement of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for relief, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. In determining whether the complaint states a claim, the Court applies the same standard as when addressing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006). To survive dismissal,

[the] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Pro se complaints such as that filed by the plaintiff are construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Obriecht v. Raemisch, 517 F.3d 489, 491 n.2 (7th Cir. 2008).

         II. The Second Amended Complaint

         The plaintiff brings his claims against the defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Although the second amended complaint omits some factual allegations contained in the first amended complaint, the plaintiff alleges that Brian Smith, Warden of Putnamville, ordered prison staff to reassign the plaintiff to a job cleaning toilets in retaliation for filing grievances related to his exclusion from work based upon his use of the law library.

         The plaintiff also alleges that defendant Chris Williams ordered prison staff to search the plaintiffs cell in retaliation for filing grievances alleging that Williams "covered for staff misconduct" when Williams responded to inmate grievances. This cell search resulted in the confiscation of his prison litigation manual. He alternatively alleges that Sergeant Hughett ordered the cell search.

         The plaintiff alleges that Sergeant Hooker was biased against him when Sergeant Hooker presided over his disciplinary hearing and that Sergeant Hughett presided over hearings of fictitious conduct reports against him. The plaintiff alleges that Rob Carter, IDOC Commissioner and Brian Smith, Warden of Putnamville, were made aware of the plaintiff's concerns and ignored them.

         The second amended complaint includes additional allegations of misconduct against prison staff not named as defendants in the second amended complaint.

         III. Discussion of Claims

         Applying the screening standard to the factual allegations in the second amended complaint certain claims are dismissed while other claims shall proceed as submitted.

         First, the plaintiffs allegations against people not named as defendants in the amended complaint are dismissed. Myles v. United States, 416 F.3d 551, 551-52 (7th Cir. 2005) ("[T]o make someone a party the plaintiff must specify him in the caption and arrange for service of process.") (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(a) ("In the complaint the title of the action shall include the names of all the parties.")).

         Second, the claim against the Indiana Department of Correction Commissioner Rob Carter is dismissed because the alleged failure of the commissioner to respond to letters or complaints about the conditions of Tripp's confinement is not sufficient to bring him into the zone of liability under § 1983, because "[t]he general responsibility of a warden for supervising the operation of a prison is not sufficient to establish personal liability." Estate of Rosenberg v. Crandell,56 F.3d 35, 37 (8th Cir. 1995). Most importantly, Tripp's allegations do not suggest a plausible basis for concluding that the commissioner caused or participated in the alleged constitutional deprivation. See Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist,699 F.2d 864, 869 (7th Cir. 1983); Johnson v. Snyder,444 F.3d 579, 583-84 (7th Cir. 2006) (letters to Director insufficient to ...

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