United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
RONALD J. PIERCE, Plaintiff,
RON NEAL, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
J. Pierce, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed this lawsuit
alleging that he was incorrectly found guilty of assault
after a disciplinary hearing at the Indiana State Prison.
“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).
However, 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.
22, 2018, Offender Williams slipped his handcuffs and
attacked Pierce. Pierce defended himself. He was charged with
assault and found guilty. He claims that he is innocent of
the charge because he acted in self-defense and he further
claims that he was denied due process during his prison
disciplinary hearing and subsequent appeal. He sues
Superintendent Ron Neal, C. Dustin (an internal
investigator), Jane Doe or John Doe (a correctional officer),
and J. Lyttle (an appeal review officer).
extent Pierce seeks damages for due process violations from
defendants, such claims are not yet ripe. In Edwards v.
Balisok, 520 U.S. 641 (1997), the United States Supreme
Court made clear that the principles of Heck also
apply to prison disciplinary cases.
In Heck, this Court held that a state prisoner's
claim for damages is not cognizable under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 if a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would
necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or
sentence, unless the prisoner can demonstrate that the
conviction or sentence has previously been invalidated.
Edwards, 520 U.S. at 643 (citation and quotation
Pierce admits that he was found guilty of assault, and he has
not alleged that the finding of guilt has since been
invalidated. Because a finding of liability on Pierce's
due process claims in this case would inherently undermine
the validity of his disciplinary hearing, it is futile to
pursue his claim at this time. He may not proceed with this
claim until that finding is overturned on administrative
appeal or in a habeas corpus proceeding. If Pierce is able to
have that case overturned, then he can refile his claims.
Until then, these claims are not yet ripe.
also alleges that Superintendent Neal failed to train his
officers adequately to respond promptly and safely to
security risk situations, resulting in constant violence at
Indiana State Prison. “An allegation of a
‘failure to train' is available only in limited
circumstances, ” and this is not such a case.
Cornfield v. Consolidated High School Dist. No. 230,
991 F.2d 1316, 1327 (7th Cir. 1993). A failure to train claim
requires that “the policymakers had acquiesced in a
pattern of constitutional violations, ” but
Pierce's complaint does not allege a pattern of
constitutional violations. “Prisons are dangerous
places.” McGill v. Duckworth, 944 F.2d 344,
345 (7th Cir. 1991), abrogated on other grounds by
Haley, 86 F.3d at 640 (7th Cir. 1996). The complaint
merely makes vague allegations that the training of officers
was inadequate. Thus, Pierce cannot proceed on this claim.
has also sued the unknown correctional officer that failed to
pursue Offender Williams when he slipped his cuffs on July
22, 2018, leading to the altercation between Pierce and
Williams. When an inmate is attacked by another inmate, the
Eighth Amendment is violated only if “deliberate
indifference by prison officials effectively condones the
attack by allowing it to happen.” Haley v.
Gross, 86 F.3d 630, 640 (7th Cir. 1996). The defendant
“must both be aware of facts from which the inference
could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm
exists, and he must also draw the inference.”
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994).
“[A] complaint that identifies a specific, credible,
and imminent risk of serious harm and identifies the
prospective assailant typically will support an inference
that the official to whom the complaint was communicated had
actual knowledge of the risk.” Gevas v.
McLaughlin, 798 F.3d 475, 481 (7th Cir. 2015). Pierce
alleges that Offender Williams was being housed in DCH
because he posed a threat to the security of others, himself,
or the institution. Yet, when Offender Williams broke loose
from the officer supervising him, the officer made no effort
to pursue Williams. Giving Pierce the benefit of the
inferences to which he is entitled at this stage, he has
stated a claim against the unknown correctional officer for
failure to protect him from Williams, resulting in
Pierce's attack on July 22, 2018. The case, however,
cannot proceed against an unnamed defendant. See Wudtke
v. Davel, 128 F.3d 1057, 1060 (7th Cir. 1997)("[I]t
is pointless to include lists of anonymous defendants in
federal court; this type of placeholder does not open the
door to relation back under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15, nor can it
otherwise help the plaintiff."). Therefore, the claim
will proceed against Warden Ron Neal only for the purposes of
conducting discovery to identify the unnamed officer that was
escorting Offender Williams when he broke free and had an
altercation with Pierce on July 22, 2018.
these reasons, the court
GRANTS Ronald J. Pierce leave to proceed against Warden Ron
Neal for the sole purpose of conducting discovery to identify
the unnamed officer that failed to protect Pierce when he
failed to take reasonable measures to ensure Pierce's
safety after Offender Williams broke free from his
restraints, leading to an altercation with Pierce on July 22,
208, in violation of the Eighth Amendment;
DIRECTS the clerk and the United States Marshals Service to
issue and serve process on Warden Ron Neal at the Indiana
Department of Correction with a copy of this order and the
complaint (ECF 2), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d);
WAIVES Warden Ron Neal's obligation to file an answer to
ORDERS Ron Neal to appear and respond to discovery for the
sole purpose of identifying the unknown officer who allegedly
failed to pursue Williams following his escape from
restraints on July 22, 2018, resulting in an altercation