United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
L. Miller, Jr. Judge.
Luva Cantero, Jr., a former prisoner, brought suit in state
court against the State of Indiana, a state ombudsman, and a
number of state prison officials alleging constitutional
violations, federal statutory claims, and state tort claims.
The defendants removed the case to federal court and moved
for judgment on the pleadings. For the following reasons, the
court grants the motion in part and denies it in part.
Luva Cantero, a Mexican national and Spanish speaker with a
limited proficiency in English, was imprisoned at the Indiana
Department of Corrections' Westville Correctional
Facility. He claims he was scheduled to be released from
prison in December 2015, but his release was delayed by a
year due to a disciplinary proceeding at Westville
Correctional Facility. Mr. Luva Cantero alleges he was
accused of a disciplinary offense, received no interpreter or
documentation of the accusations in Spanish, despite his
requests and Department of Corrections' policy. He claims
that because the disciplinary hearing was conducted in
English, he was effectively denied a hearing. Mr. Luva
Cantero says he was found to have committed the disciplinary
offense despite being innocent, and as punishment, his
prisoner classification level was reduced, he lost one year
of earned prison credit time, and he was sentenced to one
year of solitary confinement. Mr. Luva Cantero claims he
sought relief through the Indiana Department of
Administration Ombudsman Bureau, but the Director, Charlene
Burkett, allegedly rejected his appeal solely because he
didn't submit his complaint in English. Mr. Luva Cantero
filed suit, bringing Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment claims
against the individual defendants; Title VI claims against
Indiana and the individual defendants; § 1981 claims
against the individual defendants; and false imprisonment,
criminal confinement, abuse of process, and negligence claims
against the individual defendants and Indiana, under a
respondeat superior theory of liability.
Standard of Review
may move for judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings
are closed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). “To survive a motion
for judgment on the pleadings, a complaint must state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Milwaukee Police Ass'n v. Flynn, 863
F.3d 636, 640 (7th Cir. 2017) (quoting Wagner v. Teva
Pharm. USA, Inc., 840 F.3d 355, 357-358 (7th Cir.
2016)). The court construes the complaint in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party, accepts all well-pleaded
facts as true, and draws all reasonable inferences in the
plaintiff's favor. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009); Bell v. City of Chicago, 835 F.3d
736, 738 (7th Cir. 2016). A Rule 12(c) motion can be granted
“when it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff
cannot prove any facts to support a claim for relief and the
moving party demonstrates that there are no material issues
of fact to be resolved.” Moss v. Martin, 473
F.3d 694, 698 (7th Cir. 2007).
defendants base their motion for judgment on the pleadings on
three arguments: (1) judgment on the pleadings on all
claims against Indiana is appropriate because the Eleventh
Amendment provides the state immunity against this suit in
federal court; (2) judgment on the pleadings on all claims
against Ms. Burkett is warranted because she isn't
alleged to have participated in any constitutional violation
and is afforded statutory immunity; and (3) the state tort
claims against all defendants fail pursuant to the Indiana
Tort Claims Act.
Indiana's Eleventh Amendment Immunity Defense
Luva Cantero named Indiana as a defendant for his Title VI
claim and alleges it is liable under a respondeat
superior theory for the state law torts claims. Indiana
argues that it is entitled to judgment on the pleadings on
all claims brought against Indiana because the Eleventh
Amendment provides immunity from suits against a state in
Eleventh Amendment guarantees that ‘an unconsenting
State is immune from suits brought in federal courts by her
own citizens as well as by citizens of another State.'
” Bd. Of Regents of Univ. Of Wisconsin Sys. v.
Phoenix Int'l Software, Inc., 653 F.3d 448, 457 (7th
Cir. 2011) (quoting Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651,
662-663 (1974)). Eleventh Amendment immunity isn't
absolute; Congress can abrogate immunity in certain
circumstances and “a state may voluntarily waive its
sovereign immunity by consenting to federal jurisdiction
explicitly or by invoking that jurisdiction through its
behavior.” Id. at 457-458. While the parties
don't address waiver, it is dispositive.
Luva Cantero filed this case in LaPorte Superior Court. The
defendants, including Indiana, voluntarily removed the case
to federal court. “[A] state cannot use the Eleventh
Amendment as a get-out-of-court-free card when it voluntarily
submits to a federal tribunal for a judicial determination of
its rights.” Id. at 459 (citing Lapides v.
Bd. of Regents of Univ. Sys. of Georgia, 535 U.S. 613,
619 (2002)). Indiana waived its right to invoke Eleventh
Amendment immunity when it voluntarily consented to federal
court jurisdiction by joining in the removal of this case to
federal court. Id. at 461. See also Lapides v.
Bd. of Regents of Univ. Sys. of Georgia, 535 U.S. at
Claims against Ombudsman Burkett
defendants argue that Ms. Burkett is entitled to judgment on
the pleadings because Indiana state law provides her with
immunity for her good faith performance of her official
duties. See Ind. Code § 4-13-1.2-9
(“[t]he ombudsman is not civilly liable for the good
faith performance of official duties”). The defendants
assert that the complaint doesn't allege that Ms. Burkett
acted in bad faith because, according to the defendants, it
only alleges that she chose not to investigate Mr. Luva
Cantero's complaint. The defendants note that Ind. ...