United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
ORDER DISCUSSING INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY CLAIM AGAINST
William T. Lawrence, Senior Judge
case is about a single piece of correspondence that was
destroyed pursuant to an inadvertently misapplied Indiana
Department of Correction (IDOC) correspondence policy.
Littler filed a complaint in this action alleging that his
First Amendment rights were violated when, on March 16, 2015,
Jeanne Watkins confiscated and subsequently destroyed a
letter Mr. Littler received from his cousin, Aaron Young.
Young was serving probation in St. Joseph County, Indiana, at
the time he mailed the letter. Dkt. 94-1, ¶ 11. Ms.
Watkins confiscated the letter based on her application of
IDOC Policy 02-01-103 (Policy) which restricts IDOC inmates
from corresponding with certain individuals without prior
approval. The Policy states in relevant part:
offender must obtain prior approval from the IDOC to receive
or send correspondence to another person if the other person
• Held in a correctional facility (Federal, State, or
• On parole;
• Sentenced to a community corrections program;
• Held in a county jail;
• Released from an IDOC facility to county probation
• Participating in a Community Transition Program (CTP);
• Participating in a work release program.
Watkins confiscated the letter because it was her
understanding that Young was a restricted individual under
the portion of the Policy that restricts correspondence from
an individual on probation. Dkt. 94-1, ¶ 11; dkt. 94-2
at 4; dkt. 119. She now acknowledges this was a mistake since
the Policy does not apply to Young. After the letter was
confiscated, Mr. Littler filed a grievance. Upon the
exhaustion of the grievance process, Ms. Watkins destroyed
the letter. As a result, Mr. Littler filed this lawsuit.
October 9, 2018, the Court directed the parties to brief
whether Ms. Watkins can be sued in her individual capacity
for enforcing the mail policy and destroying the mail Mr.
Littler received from his cousin. Currently, the case is only
proceeding against Watkins in her official capacity. An
official capacity suit is presumed only where the plaintiff
challenges official policies or customs. Hill v.
Shelander, 924 F.2d 1370, 1373 (7th Cir. 1991).
Individual capacity suits may be presumed when a litigant
challenges the individual actions of ...