United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
A. BRADY UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment [ECF No. 58], filed by Terry Stoffel on
January 28, 2019. Plaintiffs Thomas Hale and Justin Walls
sued the Defendant in his official capacity as the Sheriff of
Huntington County, Indiana. The Plaintiffs allege that,
during their incarceration at the Huntington County Jail,
they were denied access to a law library, legal research
materials, and legal assistance in violation of their
Fourteenth Amendment rights. They are seeking damages.
Defendant argues that he is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law because no facts exist that would entitle either
Plaintiff to monetary relief. The Plaintiffs were represented
by counsel throughout their criminal cases, and they made
only generic requests to research constitutional rights.
Additionally, they suffered no injury.
reasons stated in this Opinion and Order, entry of summary
judgment in favor of the Defendant is warranted.
purposes of summary judgment “[a] party asserting that
a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the
assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of materials in
the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). These include
“depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations
(including those made for purposes of the motion only),
admissions, [and] interrogatory answers.” Id.
The Defendant, in support of his Motion, provides a Statement
of Material Facts [ECF No. 60], wherein he cites to the
Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint, the Defendant's
Answer, the Plaintiffs' responses to requests for
production of documents, Plaintiffs' deposition
testimony, declarations, and interrogatory answers.
Plaintiffs do not dispute the Defendant's properly
supported facts. Accordingly, the Court will include them in
its statement of facts to the extent they are relevant to
resolution of the summary judgment motion.
Plaintiffs' Brief in Opposition to Defendant
Sheriff's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 62]
contains a section labeled “Statement of Genuine
Issues.” This section contains five basic categories of
facts. First, the Plaintiffs start by reciting forty
paragraphs from the Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint.
(Pls.' Brief 2-5.) The Plaintiffs assert that it is
appropriate to cite these paragraphs from their First Amended
Complaint “both because it is designated as evidence by
Defendant Sheriff in his Motion . . . and, although Defendant
disclaims liability and argues Plaintiffs did not have
underlying civil legal claims to pursue, because Defendant
Sheriff in his Motion does not appear to dispute the accuracy
of Plaintiff's factual allegations concerning their lack
of access to civil legal assistance in the Huntington County
Jail.” (Id. at 2.)
Court will not include the complaint allegations in its
statement of facts. Doing so would not be helpful or
appropriate. Although the Defendant cited to the First
Amended Complaint, he only did so as one of the
sources that supports the dates the Plaintiffs were
incarcerated in the Huntington County Jail. For other
undisputed allegations that are contained in both the
pleadings and other materials in the record the Court need
only rely on the other materials.
second and third categories of facts do not differ from the
Defendant's version of facts. They are taken directly
from two sources: the Defendant's Statement of Material
Facts, and; the Defendant's Memorandum of Law in Support
of Motion for Summary Judgment, which summarizes and
condenses the facts set forth in the Defendant's
Statement of Material Facts. As stated above, those facts are
included to the extent they are relevant to resolving the
summary judgment motion For the fourth category, the
Plaintiffs submit additional evidence in the form of the
Declarations (titled as Affidavits) of Justin Walls and
Thomas Hale. The Court will include this testimony in the
statement of facts to the extent the Declarations are
“made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would
be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant or
declarant is competent to testify on the matters stated,
” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4), and do not contradict prior
deposition testimony, see, e.g., Koppline v.
Wis. Cent. Ltd., 914 F.3d 1099, 1103 (7th Cir. 2019)
(discounting affidavit testimony that contradicted
unambiguous deposition testimony).
the Plaintiffs designate and cite to the Defendant's
responses to Plaintiff's discovery requests. These facts
are appropriate to consider on summary judgment.
The Huntington County Jail
Huntington County Jail is a criminal facility. Jeff Kyle, as
the Jail Commander, is responsible for the maintenance of all
aspects of the Huntington County Jail. The Huntington County
Jail maintains a law library for use by inmates who are
representing themselves in their criminal cases. The law
library is maintained on a DVD/CD-Rom, which was prepared and
compiled by the Indiana Public Defender's Office.
Additionally, the Huntington County Jail maintains forms for
use by inmates seeking post-conviction relief in State Court.
Jail does not permit general access to the computer or
DVD/CDRom for purposes of adequately controlling and
monitoring the inmate population. An inmate must submit a
request in writing to use the computer and DVD/CD-Rom. If an
inmate is represented by an attorney, the inmate is not
permitted access to the DVD/CDRom but is directed to
communicate with counsel. When an inmate asks for information
to file a petition for post-conviction relief, the Huntington
County Jail provides the form for the inmate to complete by
Commissary and Grievances
was held in the Huntington County Jail between July 2016 and
November 2017. Upon his admission to the Huntington County
Jail, Walls received a copy of the Huntington County Jail
Rules and Procedures for Inmates. Walls familiarized himself
with the Huntington County Jail Rules which included
instructions concerning the use of the court system and law
library. The Huntington County Jail Rules also discussed the
grievance procedure and commissary ordering procedures.
Commissary allowed inmates to purchase hygiene products,
writing materials, candy, food, snacks and clothing.
new inmate, Walls was also provided a hygiene pack consisting
of a comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, and soap. He received this
same package of hygiene products every week that he did not
otherwise purchase items from commissary. (Walls Dep. 40- 41,
ECF No. 58-4.) However, during a seventy-day period of
discipline, Walls was not permitted access to non-standard
indigent commissary products. According to Walls, this meant
he had to “use state hygiene products that don't
work when [he] could use Suave Body Wash.” (Walls Dep.
41.) Walls also objected to the disciplinary restriction on
commissary because it meant he could not use normal
commissary ordering procedures to get toilet paper for $.50.
Instead, he was charged $1.00 for making the request through
his only other available option-completing a request slip and
giving it to a jail officer.
submitted grievances related to the commissary restriction.
Commander Kyle advised that commissary was a privilege. Walls
later filed a grievance complaining that lockdown punishment
imposed on the group, which resulted in loss of privileges,
was not appropriate when only certain inmates committed an
infraction. Walls also filed grievances complaining that he
was not being permitted access to the law library to research
his rights related to his divorce proceedings, child support,
and paternity. The Jail advised that its law library
contained criminal law to assist offenders who were acting
pro se in their criminal cases. In a separate grievance,
Walls referenced his access to the law library to research
the proper motion to complain to the courts about his
criminal sentence. The Jail responded that Walls was
represented by counsel in his underlying criminal case
(see Cause No. 111 below), for which he was already
sentenced, and that this attorney still represented him in a
second criminal matter (see Cause No. 163 below).
was sentenced in his underlying criminal case (Cause No. 111)
on September 6, 2016. On September 9, 2016, a felony case
(Cause No. 163) was opened in Huntington County Superior
Court against Walls for battery against a public safety
official. The incident that led to these charges is the same
incident for which Walls was suspended from purchasing
non-standard indigent materials from the commissary. Although
Walls had been represented by counsel throughout Cause No.
111, he requested a public defender's appointment for
Cause No. 163. The same public defender represented Walls
through the sentencing in Cause No. 163, and withdrew his
appearance on February 15, 2017.
December 22, 2016, Walls filed a Petition for Post-Conviction
Relief (Cause No.19) related to Cause No. 111. The Petition
was completed on a form that Commander Kyle provided to
Walls. On December 29, 2016, the court appointed Walls a
public defender for Cause No. 19; however, Walls declined
representation by public defender and notified the court of
the same via written correspondence on March 16, 2017.
Throughout his post-conviction proceedings, Walls filed
various letters and pro-se motions with the court. On
September 13, 2017, the court entered an administrative
event, which provided:
Correspondence received from the Defendant on 7/3/2017
regarding not having access to materials or an adequately
trained person in the law. The Court had appointed the
Petitioner a Public Defender in this cause on 12/29/16. On
3/16/17, the Petitioner informed the Court, by filing a
Notice to the Court, that he wished to proceed pro se in this
matter and waived his right to an attorney.
court denied Walls' Petition for Post-Conviction Relief
the same day. (Walls Dep., Ex. F.)
participated in civil cases during his incarceration. Walls
independently filed a Motion to Modify Support on September
19, 2016, in a paternity and child support action filed prior
to his incarceration that was pending in the DeKalb Circuit
Court. On September 28, 2016, Wall's wife, Lawanda, filed
a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Child(ren) in the
Allen Circuit Court. Although Walls was incarcerated
throughout the divorce proceedings, he filed various
pleadings including his appearance on October 5, 2016, and
multiple letters between October 13, 2016, and November 15,
2017. On October 13, 2016, Walls filed his own Petition for
Dissolution of Marriage with Child(ren) in the Allen Circuit
Court. The court consolidated the two matters. The court,
upon a request from Walls, ultimately ordered that the
parties submit to a paternity test that would take place
after Walls was released from the Huntington County Jail.
Requests for Access to Law Library
his incarceration, Walls submitted numerous inmate request
slips for access to the law library. On July 20, 2016, when
Walls was represented by counsel in Cause No. 111, he
submitted a request stating, “I need to go to the law
library.” (Walls Dep. 34, Ex. D.) Commander Kyle
reviewed the request and responded the same day by informing
Walls to contact his lawyer for any information he needed
about his case. Walls followed-up with another request the
same day, stating, “I need to go to the law library to
get info that don't pertain to this case.” (Walls
Dep. 35-36, Ex. D.) Commander Kyle responded, “The law
library is for the case you are incarcerated for. It's a
criminal law library and has nothing to do with civil matters
such [as] a divorce.” (Walls Dep. Ex. D.) Five days
later, Walls requested access to the law library to
“know my rights under the new law.” (Walls Dep.
36, Ex. D.) The request did not indicate what type of law, or
case, Walls was referencing. Commander Kyle again noted that
Walls was represented by a lawyer and could not use the
library for a different case.
September 19, 2016, Walls submitted a request for a printed
copy of “all of the constitutional rights.”
(Walls Dep. 38, Ex. D.) The request did not indicate what
constitutional rights were involved. Walls also submitted a
separate request for a print out of Indiana's guidelines
for inmate rights. Walls requested to go to the law library
but did not indicate the basis for his request. Commander
Kyle responded that he was not obligated to get this
information for Walls, and he advised Walls that somebody
could send him the materials. Walls's third request that
day simply stated, “I would like to go to the law
library.” (Ex. D.) Commander Kyle's response was
that Walls's case had been decided, so there was no need
for a law library.
next day, September 20, 2016, Walls requested access to the
law library concerning the “new law” and
requested the address for the ACLU. Commander Kyle instructed
Walls to contact his public defender. On September 26, 2016,
Walls submitted a request for access to the law library
“to make sure [his] attorney is properly representing
[him] according to new law.” (Walls Dep. 48-49, Ex. D.)
Walls was advised to write the court if Walls was having
issues with his attorney.
October 2, 2016, Walls submitted a request stating, “So
do I not have the right to the law library to understand what
is being said in my case?” (Walls Dep. 49, Ex. D.)
Commander Kyle responded, “If you have a lawyer,
it's the lawyer's ...