United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
DEGUILIO, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
Hoglund, a prisoner without a lawyer, alleges his mail was
confiscated in violation of the First Amendment. “A
document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro
se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to
less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007) (quotation marks and citations omitted). Nevertheless,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court must review the
merits of a prisoner complaint and dismiss it if the action
is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a
defendant who is immune from such relief.
Hoglund alleges M. Metcalf refused to deliver mail on July
11, 2017, which he had received at the Indiana State Prison
from the Iowa Secretary of State. ECF 1 at 2. Defendant
Metcalf notified him on that date that the mail had been
withheld. Mr. Hoglund sought to retrieve the mail, but was
told it was prohibited because it “pertains to limited
power of attorney which you must have prior approval.”
ECF 1 at 2.
“have protected First Amendment interests in both
sending and receiving mail.” Rowe v. Shake,
196 F.3d 778, 782 (7th Cir. 1999). However, “a prison
can confiscate an inmate's mail if confiscation ‘is
reasonably related to legitimate penological
interests.'” Williams v. Hansen, 837 F.3d
809, 810 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting Turner v. Safley,
482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987)). For example, the Seventh Circuit has
upheld regulations authorizing prison officials to inspect
non-legal mail for contraband in the interest of prison
security. See Gaines v. Lane, 790 F.2d 1299, 1304
(7th Cir. 1986) (listing examples of prohibited topics,
including “threats of physical harm, blackmail,
extortion; plans to escape; [and] coded letters”).
Several other circuits have recognized prison efficiency as a
legitimate interest as well. See, e.g., Simpson
v. City of Cape Girardeau, Mo., 879 F.3d 273 (8th Cir.
2018) (upholding a postcard-only policy for non-legal outside
correspondence to inmates). However, in order to overcome a
First Amendment challenge, a prison must present “some
evidence to show that the restriction is justified.”
King v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 415 F.3d 634, 639
(7th Cir. 2005).
without evidence from the defendants, the court cannot say
the confiscation of mail from the Iowa Secretary of State on
July 11, 2017, was reasonably related to a legitimate
penological interest. Therefore the complaint states a claim
against M. Metcalf. However, it does not state a claim
against Mark Newkirk who is only alleged to have responded to
his grievance about the mail having been confiscated.
“[T]he inadequacies of the grievance procedure . . .
cannot form the basis for a constitutional claim.”
Kervin v. Barnes, 787 F.3d 833, 835 (7th Cir. 2015).
“Public employees are responsible for their own
misdeeds but not for anyone else's.” Burks v.
Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 595 (7th Cir. 2009). Therefore
Mark Newkirk and the claims against him will be dismissed.
the Complaint alleges the Indiana Department of Correction
has a policy of withholding prisoner mail related to
unauthorized limited powers of attorney. It also alleges
Defendant Robert E. Carter, Commissioner of the Department of
Corrections, is “legally responsible for the overall
operation of the department.” ECF 1 at 1. Based on
these allegations, Plaintiff may proceed against Robert E.
Carter in his official capacity for declaratory and
injunctive relief. See Marie O. v. Edgar, 131 F.3d
610 (7th Cir. 1997) (recognizing an exception to state
sovereign immunity in “suits against state officials
seeking prospective equitable relief for ongoing violations
of federal law”). However, he has not stated a claim
against Warden Ron Neal because the allegation is that it is
a department wide policy, not one created and limited to the
Indiana State Prison.
these reasons, the court:
(1) GRANTS Keith Hoglund leave to proceed against Robert E.
Carter, Jr., in his official capacity for declaratory and
injunctive relief for the Indiana Department of Correction
policy of withholding prisoner mail containing unauthorized
limited powers of attorney;
(2) GRANTS Keith Hoglund leave to proceed against M. Metcalf
in her individual capacity for compensatory and punitive
damages for withholding his mail on July 11, 2017, from the
Iowa Secretary of State;
(3) DISMISSES all other claims;
(4) DISMISSES Ron Neal and Mark Newkirk;
(5) DIRECTS the clerk and the United States Marshals Service
to issue and serve process on Robert E. Carter, Jr., and M.
Metcalf, at the Indiana Department of Correction with a copy
of this order and the complaint (ECF 1) as required by 28
U.S.C. § 1915(d); and
(6) ORDERS, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1997e(g)(2), that
Robert E. Carter, Jr., and M. Metcalf respond, as provided
for in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and N.D. Ind.
L.R. 10-1(b), only to the claims for which the plaintiff ...