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Monday v. Indiana Department of Corrections

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

August 23, 2018

DAVID EUGENE MONDAY, Plaintiff,
v.
INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, THE GEO GROUP INCORPORATED, HERITAGE TRAILS CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, DONALD EMERSON WARDEN, Defendants.

          ORDER SCREENING AND DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND ALLOWING PLAINTIFF TO SHOW CAUSE

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         Plaintiff David Eugene Monday (“Monday”) has paid the assessed initial partial filing fee. His complaint is now subject to screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         I. Screening Standard

         Because Monday is a prisoner in the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC), the 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).

         II. Plaintiff's Claims

         David Monday is imprisoned for domestic battery. The victim of the domestic battery is his wife. Defendants have denied him visitation with his wife because she is the victim of his crime. Monday contends that the denial of visitation violates IDOC policies that further restorative justice, victim reconciliation, and therapeutic supervised visits. He frames his claims in terms of (1) negligence because defendants placed him in a facility that did not offer services specific to his needs, and (2) discrimination because other inmates at the same facility were permitted visits with their “current case victim.” Dkt. 1, p. 4. Monday does not allege any protected class as a basis for this discrimination. Id.

         III. Analysis

         A. State Entity Defendants

         Monday seeks monetary damages. Therefore the Indiana Department of Correction and Heritage Trails Correctional Facility are not proper defendants in this action. When seeking monetary damages, only persons are suable entities under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. A suit against a state agency is treated as a suit against the state itself for Eleventh Amendment purposes, and the Eleventh Amendment immunizes an unconsenting state from suits for damages in federal court. See Smith v. Utah Valley Univ., 619 Fed.Appx. 559, 560 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98 (1984)). A physical facility such as a correctional facility is not a person capable of being sued. The complaint is therefore dismissed against the Indiana Department of Correction and Heritage Trails Correctional Facility.

         The remaining two defendants are The Geo Group Incorporated and Warden Donald Emerson.

         B. Claims Against Remaining Defendants

         1. Ground 1 - “Negligence”

         Much of Monday's complaint is based on a belief that IDOC failed to follow its own policies, procedures, or regulations. But the federal courts have limited jurisdiction and absent diversity of citizenship, which does not exist here, a lawsuit must be premised on the violation of a federal constitutional violation or federal statute. Monday cites 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and various other sections of The Civil Rights Act, but he does not incorporate any substantive civil rights statute into his first ground for relief. He instead contends the IDOC was negligent for placing him at a facility where the programs he needed, pursuant to IDOC policies, were unavailable.

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 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). Section 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights; instead it is a means for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred. Ledford v. Sullivan, 105 F.3d 354, 356 (7th Cir. 1997) (citing Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)). “[T]he first step in any [§ 1983] claim is to identify the specific constitutional right infringed.” Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994). The failure of prison officials to follow their own policies and rules, even state statutes, is not a federal constitutional claim. Rather, the violation of the policies and rules must ...


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