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Holt v. Indiana Department of Corrections

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

November 4, 2019

JAMES S.D. HOLT, Plaintiff,
v.
INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, PLAINFIELD CORRECTIONAL FACILITY IYC, Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND DIRECTING PLAINTIFF TO SHOW CAUSE OR FILE AN AMENDED COMPLAINT

          James Patrick Hanlon United States District Judge

         Indiana prison inmate James Sherman Dean Holt filed this action on July 29, 2019, asserting claims against defendants (1) the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) and (2) the Plainfield Correctional Facility (also known as the Indiana Youth Center (IYC)). Dkt. 1. The Court screens the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, and finding the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, dismisses the complaint and directs Mr. Holt to show cause or amend as set out below.

         I. Screening Standard

         Because Mr. Holt is a “prisoner” as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(c), this Court has an obligation under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) to screen his complaint before service on defendants. Pursuant to § 1915A(b), the Court must dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for relief, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. In determining whether the complaint states a claim, the Court applies the same standard as when addressing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Cesal v. Moats, 851 F.3d 714, 720 (7th Cir. 2017). To survive dismissal,

[the] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Pro se complaints such as that filed by Mr. Holt are construed liberally and held to “a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Cesal, 851 F.3d at 720.

         II. The Complaint

         Mr. Holt names the IDOC and the Plainfield Correctional Center (IYC) as defendants asserting that between May 8, 2019, and July 17, 2019, he was (1) deprived of recreation on four dates; (2) he was discriminated against and harassed by being denied all food, hygiene, and commissary orders for nine weeks beginning May 15, 2019; and (3) his safety was placed at risk when he was placed in a cell with an offender who was in an organization from which Mr. Holt had sought protection. Dkt. 1, p. 2. Mr. Holt indicates in his complaint he is suing under state law. He seeks money damages, an order telling the IYC to abide by their own policies, and an order stopping future harassment and discrimination.

         III. Analysis

         A. Federal Constitutional Claims

         The Court first screens the complaint, giving it a liberal interpretation, to determine whether a federal constitutional claim brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is sufficiently stated. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (“the first step in any [1983] claim is to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed”). In doing so, the Court considers the named defendants and the accusations against them.

         1. Suable Defendants

         A prison facility is not a suable entity, as it is a building and not a person. Civil rights claims brought under § 1983 may be pursued only against persons, and the IYC is not a person but a building. White v. Knight, 710 Fed.Appx. 260, 262 (7th Cir. 2018) (“a building is not a person capable of being sued under § 1983.”).

         Lawsuits against the IDOC, a state agency, are the functional equivalent of a suit against the State of Indiana. “The Eleventh Amendment grants states immunity from private suits in federal court without their consent. . . . An agency of the state enjoys this same immunity.” Nuñez v. Indiana Dep't of Child Servs., 817 F.3d 1042, 1044 (7th Cir. 2016). All claims for money damages against the state are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Id. The injunctive relief sought - an order telling the IYC to follow its policies and to stop discrimination and harassment - is not an appropriate remedy, as compliance with state policies is not a federal constitutional issue, Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 481-82 (1995) (prison policies, regulations, or guidelines do not constitute federal law; instead, they are ‚Äúprimarily designed to ...


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