United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
SHAUN L. STEELE, Plaintiff,
KATHY GRIFFIN, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SIMON JUDGE
L. Steele, a pro se prisoner, filed an amended
complaint against ten defendants. ECF 15. “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, I 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. “In order to
state a claim under § 1983 a plaintiff must allege: (1)
that defendants deprived him of a federal constitutional
right; and (2) that the defendants acted under color of state
law.” Savory v. Lyons, 469 F.3d 667, 670 (7th
to the allegations of the amended complaint, in 2010 Steele
began serving his State court sentence in No.
20D02-1007-FC-60. Pursuant to that sentence, his release date
was calculated to be June 29, 2017. Then, in 2016, Steele
filed a petition with the Elkhart County Court requesting to
be credited with 196 days. On July 21, 2016, Elkhart County
Judge Bowers issued an order granting that petition, which
credited Steele with 196 days and re-calculated his release
date as July 2, 2016. Essentially, this was an order for
immediate release. Nevertheless, Steele was not immediately
released from custody. On July 26, 2016, Jeniffer Farmer, a
classification officer at the Indiana Department of
Correction, contacted Judge Bowers “in order to get him
to remove the immediate release order so that the defendants
be allowed to be the ones to calculate the plaintiff's
release date.” ECF 15 at 4. Later that day, Judge
Bowers reissued his order. The order still credited Steele
with the 196 days but omitted the release date. The IDOC
calculated Steele's release date to be March 10, 2017.
Steele notified Miami Correctional Facility Superintendent
Kathy Griffin, Assistant Superintendent Sharon Hawk, Miami
Classification Officer Amy Clark, Miami Counselor Kimberly
Smith and Jeniffer Farmer that the IDOC's calculated
release date was wrong because it did not take into account
Judge Bowers' order. Nevertheless, they ignored him. On
March 10, 2017, Steele was released on probation, 231 days
later than previously ordered by Judge Bower. Steele seeks
money damages for the days he spent incarcerated past his
crux of Steele's complaint is that he was held beyond his
outdate. To prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim, Steele must
plead that he was held beyond his outdate without penological
justification, and that the prolonged detention was the
result of the defendants' “deliberate
indifference.” Campbell v. Peters, 256 F.3d
695, 700 (7th Cir. 2001). In other words, the detainment must
amount to calculated harassment unrelated to prison needs.
McGee v. Adams, 721 F.3d 474, 480-81 (7th Cir.
2013); Whitman v. Nesic, 368 F.3d 931, 934-35 (7th
Cir. 2004). This, he has done as to some of the defendants.
Steele explains that he was held beyond his outdate because
the IDOC failed to credit him with 196 days. According to the
complaint, Kathy Griffin, Sharon Hawk, Amy Clark, Kimberly
Smith and Jeniffer Farmer all knew Steel was being held
beyond his outdate but refused to do anything about it. ECF
15 at 4, 5. I recognize discovery may reveal that some or all
these individuals did not have anything to do with either
calculating Steele's outdate or holding Steele beyond it.
In fact, discovery may show that Steele was not even held
beyond his outdate. But, those questions are for another day.
Giving Steele the inferences to which he is entitled at this
point, he has plausibly alleged his prolonged detention was
the result of these defendants' deliberate indifference.
he alleges that all ten defendants retaliated against him for
having filed a lawsuit against IDOC employees in 2010. To
establish a claim of retaliation in violation of the First
Amendment, the plaintiff must allege: (1) he engaged in
activity protected by the First Amendment; (2) he suffered a
deprivation that would likely deter First Amendment activity
in the future; and (3) the defendants' action was
motivated by the protected activity. Gomez v.
Randle, 680 F.3d 859, 866 (7th Cir. 2012) (quotation
marks and citations omitted).
2010, Steele, with the assistance of counsel, filed a civil
rights lawsuit in federal court against five IDOC officials.
That case is Steele v. Donahue, No. 1:10-cv-556
(S.D. Ind. filed May 4, 2010). The case was litigated in the
Southern District of Indiana and was ultimately settled
between the parties. See ECF 64-68. None of the five
defendants in that case is a defendant in this case.
There's no question that Steele's filing of that
earlier lawsuit constitutes protected activity, satisfying
the first element of a First Amendment retaliation claim.
But, Steele has not plausibly alleged any facts demonstrating
that all ten defendants' actions toward him were
motivated by that lawsuit. The simple fact that Steele's
lawsuit predated his alleged mistreatment is not sufficient
to show the required nexus. Though Steele chronicles being
mistreated at various times, he does not allege anything to
link the mistreatment to retaliation. As such, it is entirely
unclear why Steele believes that all ten defendants were
somehow motivated by that lawsuit.
there does not seem to be anything about that prior lawsuit
that would have triggered any such retaliation. While it is
true that Steele filed a lawsuit, many prisoners file
lawsuits against IDOC employees. And, moreover, the named
defendants in this case are spread out between the Miami
Correctional Facility, IDOC Central Office, the Elkhart
County Sheriff Department and the Elkhart County Correctional
Complex. So, it is even more perplexing as to why Steele
believes that all these defendants were working together to
retaliate against him for bringing and ultimately settling a
lawsuit against five IDOC officials years ago. Without more,
it is not plausible to conclude that all the defendants'
alleged actions were motivated by retaliation. Steele must
provide details about how the defendants knew about the prior
lawsuit and why he believes the actions were retaliatory,
which he simply has not done.
Steele claims that IDOC employee Charmonique Green and
Elkhart County Correctional Complex employee Ms. Lauren
destroyed his personal property while he was incarcerated. To
address those allegations, Steele would have to pursue state
remedies. Though the Fourteenth Amendment provides that state
officials shall not “deprive any person of life,
liberty, or property, without due process of law”, a
state tort claims act that provides a method by which a
person can seek reimbursement for the negligent loss or
intentional deprivation of property meets the requirements of
the due process clause by providing due process of law.
Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 533 (1984)
(“For intentional, as for negligent deprivations of
property by state employees, the state's action is not
complete until and unless it provides or refuses to provide a
suitable post deprivation remedy.”). Indiana's tort
claims act (Indiana Code § 34-13-3-1 et seq.)
and other laws provide for state judicial review of property
losses caused by government employees, and provide an
adequate post-deprivation remedy to redress state
officials' accidental or intentional deprivation of a
person's property. See Wynn v. Southward, 251
F.3d 588, 593 (7th Cir. 2001) (“Wynn has an adequate
post-deprivation remedy in the Indiana Tort Claims Act, and
no more process was due.”). Thus, any property loss
claim will be dismissed without prejudice so that he can
pursue it in state court.
(1) Plaintiff Shaun L. Steele is GRANTED leave to proceed
against defendants Kathy Griffin, Sharon Hawk, Amy Clark,
Jeniffer Farmer and Kimberly Smith for keeping him
incarcerated beyond his release date from July 21, 2016
through March 10, 2017, in violation of the Eighth Amendment;
(2) any and all other claims contained in the complaint are
(3) Brad Rogers, Cpl. Doerring, John Perry, Ms. Lauren and
Charmonique Green are DISMISSED as defendants;
(4) the clerk and the United States Marshals Service are
DIRECTED to issue and serve process on Kathy Griffin, Sharon
Hawk, Amy Clark, Jeniffer Farmer and Kimberly Smith at the
Indiana Department of Correction with a copy of this order
and the amended complaint (ECF 15) as required by 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(d); and
(5) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(g)(2), Kathy Griffin,
Sharon Hawk, Amy Clark, Jeniffer Farmer and Kimberly Smith
are ORDERED to respond, as provided for in the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure and N.D. Ind. L.R. 10-1(b), only to the
claim for which the ...