United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
ENTRY GRANTING IN FORMA PAUPERIS STATUS, SCREENING
AND DISMISSING COMPLAINT, AND ALLOWING PLAINTIFF TO SHOW
William T. Lawrence, Judge
Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis
Matthew Fitzgerald's motion for leave to proceed in
forma pauperis, Dkt. No. 3, 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). A collection order may be issued
to collect the filing fee in installments.
Screening of the Complaint
Mr. Fitzgerald is a prisoner, his 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).
Court accepts, for purposes of screening, all well-plead
facts as true. The following facts are found in the
ten years ago Mr. Fitzgerald was an inmate at the Pendleton
Correctional Facility (also referred to as the Indiana State
Reformatory) when on January 24, 2008, he was given a work
assignment in sanitation. About two weeks later, on February
9, 2008, Mr. Fitzgerald was moved to a pre-segregation unit
on instructions from the Internal Affairs department of the
facility. On April 10, 2008, a disciplinary hearing board
found Mr. Fitzgerald guilty of rioting, a violation of the
Adult Disciplinary Code section A-103, and stripped him of
his work assignment. He was subsequently moved to a
disciplinary segregation unit where he spent 361 days.
Although his administrative appeals had been denied, Mr.
Fitzgerald's sanctions were eventually dismissed on
February 26, 2010, during the pendency of his federal habeas
years later, sometime in 2017, Mr. Fitzgerald “became
aware of his rights to freedom of wrongful confinement and
right to reimbursement of lost wages” and started
attempts to recover the wages lost when he was removed from
his sanitation job. He wrote to the current Warden of the
facility, defendant Dashaun Zatecky, seeking the lost wages,
but Zatecky never responded. Mr. Fitzgerald then commenced
this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting
numerous claims against Zatecky as well as Alan Finnan, the
Superintendent of the Pendleton Correctional Facility at the
time Mr. Fitzgerald lost his sanitation job.
Fitzgerald lists ten claims for relief, all occurring in 2008
or 2009, with one exception to be discussed below. Most of
the “claims” are actually assertions of fact. A
prayer for punitive damages is asserted that adds allegations
of severe emotional distress, hopelessness, depression,
anxiety, and anger. Mr. Fitzgerald seeks $36, 100 in punitive
damages for being wrongfully confined for 361 days, and
compensatory damages of $1, 200 for lost wages.
Fitzgerald's complaint is construed as brought pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim under Section
1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and
must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a
person acting under color of state law. West v.
Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). Suits under Section 1983
use the statute of limitations and tolling rules that states
employ for personal-injury claims. In Indiana, the applicable
statute of limitations period is two years. See Richards
v. Mitcheff, 696 F.3d 635, 637 (7th Cir. 2012); Ind.
Code § 34-11-2-4.
deciding whether any of the claims asserted by Mr. Fitzgerald
are viable federal civil rights claims - except one discussed
below - everything he pleads occurred in 2008 or 2009. That