from the Putnam Superior Court Trial Court Cause No.
67D01-1706-MI-30 The Honorable Charles D. Bridges, Judge
Appellant Pro Se Anthony W. Reed Greencastle, Indiana
Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Abigail R. Recker Deputy Attorney General
of the Case
Anthony Wayne Reed appeals the trial court's order
dismissing his complaint against Leann White and Darrin
Chaney. Reed presents a single issue for our review, namely,
whether the trial court erred when it dismissed his complaint
for a failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.
and Procedural History
On December 11, 2015, Reed, who was then incarcerated at the
Putnamville Correctional Facility ("PCF"), mailed
four handmade crosses to family members. However, on December
30, two envelopes containing three of the crosses were
returned to PCF for insufficient postage. Reed was notified
of the problem, but the crosses were not returned to him, and
he was not able to resend them to his family members. Reed
later learned that White, who worked in the PCF mail room,
had confiscated the crosses. White, in turn, gave the crosses
to Chaney, an internal affairs officer for the PCF Security
Threat Group ("STG").
After Reed filed an informal grievance with PCF on January
20, 2016, he was informed that "STG policy 02-03-105
prohibits the possession, making or display of any handmade
jewelry (rings, necklaces and bracelets) by [the] offender
population as these items can be used to show STG [sic]
affiliation by utilizing color and symbols."
Appellant's App. at 13. Reed responded by stating that
the colors used in making the crosses were "not in any
way connected with any (known) Gang-memberships."
Id. at 15. Reed then filed with the Indiana
Department of Correction ("IDOC") a Grievance
Appeal, which was denied.
On June 13, Reed filed a tort claim notice with IDOC, and on
October 26, Reed filed a complaint against White and Chaney
with the trial court. In his complaint, Reed alleged that the
reason given for White's confiscation of the crosses was
invalid, White did not follow IDOC policies governing the
seizure of items in the mail, and White and Chaney committed
"criminal conversion" when they took the crosses.
Id. at 20. The trial court dismissed Reed's
complaint, stating that he had failed to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted, "as the Defendants were
following IDOC policies and procedures." Appellant's
Br. at 12. This appeal ensued.
Indiana Code Section 34-58-1-2 provides that a trial court
shall screen complaints filed by an offender to
"determine if the claim may proceed." A claim may
not proceed if the court determines that the claim is not a
claim upon which relief may be granted. Id. We
review de novo a trial court's dismissal of an
offender's complaint under this statute. Guillen v.
R.D.C. Mail Clerk, 922 N.E.2d 121, 122 (Ind.Ct.App.
2010). Like the trial court, we look only to the well-pleaded
facts contained in the complaint. Id. The statute is
akin to a legislative interpretation of Indiana Trial Rule
12(B)(6),  a rule which has given judges in civil
cases the authority "to consider a case in its early
stages and, taking everything the plaintiff has alleged as
true, determine whether it can proceed." Id. at
122-23 (quoting Peterson v. Lambert, 885 N.E.2d 719,
720 (Ind.Ct.App. 2008)).
Indiana Code Chapter 34-13-3 governs tort claims against
governmental entities and employees. As relevant here,
Indiana Code Section 34-13-3-5(c) provides as follows:
A lawsuit filed against an employee personally must allege
that an act or omission of the employee that ...