United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
RONALD J. PIERCE, Plaintiff,
RON NEAL, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
R. Leichty Judge
J. Pierce, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed an amended
complaint alleging that he was attacked when two officers
failed to protect him from an inmate that had escaped his
staff escort; and, following the attack, he was incorrectly
found guilty of assault. “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). Still,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court 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.
22, 2018, Offender Williams was being escorted by
Correctional Officer R. Delgado and Correctional Officer
Rogens when he slipped his handcuffs and attacked Mr. Pierce.
Mr. Pierce alleges that Offender Williams was able to attack
him because these officers failed to pursue Offender Williams
when he slipped his cuffs. When an inmate is attacked by
another inmate, the Eighth Amendment is violated only if
“deliberate indifference by prison officials
effectively condones the attack by allowing it to
happen.” Haley v. Gross, 86 F.3d 630, 640 (7th
Cir. 1996). The defendant “must both be aware of facts
from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial
risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the
inference.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825,
837 (1994). A “complaint that identifies a specific,
credible, and imminent risk of serious harm and identifies
the prospective assailant typically will support an inference
that the official to whom the complaint was communicated had
actual knowledge of the risk.” Gevas v.
McLaughlin, 798 F.3d 475, 481 (7th Cir. 2015). Mr.
Pierce alleges that Offender Williams was being housed in DCH
because he posed a threat to the security of others, himself,
or the institution. Yet, when Offender Williams broke loose,
these officers made no effort to pursue Offender Williams.
Giving Mr. Pierce the benefit of the inferences to which he
is entitled at this stage, he has stated a claim against
Correctional Officer R. Delgado and Correction Officer Rogens
for failure to protect him from Offender Williams, resulting
in Mr. Pierce being attacked on July 22, 2018.
was attacked, Mr. Pierce defended himself. Following the
attack, Mr. Pierce was charged with assault and found guilty.
Mr. Pierce claims that he is innocent of the charge because
he acted in self-defense. He further claims that he was
denied due process during his prison disciplinary hearing and
subsequent appeal. To the extent Mr. Pierce seeks damages for
due process violations from defendants, such claims are not
yet ripe. In Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641
(1997), the United States Supreme Court made clear that the
principles of Heck also apply to prison disciplinary
In Heck, this Court held that a state prisoner's
claim for damages is not cognizable under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 if a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would
necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or
sentence, unless the prisoner can demonstrate that the
conviction or sentence has previously been invalidated.
Edwards, 520 U.S. at 643 (citation and quotation
Mr. Pierce admits that he was found guilty of assault, and he
has not alleged that the finding of guilt has since been
invalidated. Because a finding of liability on Mr.
Pierce's due process claims in this case would inherently
undermine the validity of his disciplinary hearing, it is
futile to pursue his claim at this time. If the finding that
he is guilty of assault is overturned on administrative
appeal or in a habeas corpus proceeding, he can then pursue
this claim. Until then, this claim is not ripe.
Mr. Pierce has named Superintendent Ron Neal as a defendant.
Mr. Pierce was previously granted leave to proceed against
Superintendent Neal for the purpose of conducting discovery
to determine the identity of the officers that were escorting
Offender Williams on July 22, 2019. That discovery is now
complete. In his amended complaint, Mr. Pierce names
Superintendent Neal as a defendant because, although he was
not aware of the incident or present during the incident, Mr.
Pierce asserts that Superintendent Neal should be held
accountable as the employer of the other defendants. There is
no general respondeat superior liability under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, so Superintendent Neal is not liable
merely because he was in charge of the prison.
“[P]ublic employees are responsible for their own
misdeeds but not for anyone else's.” Burks v.
Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 596 (7th Cir. 2009). Thus, Mr.
Pierce cannot proceed against Superintendent Neal.
these reasons, the court
GRANTS Ronald J. Pierce leave to proceed against Correctional
Officer R. Delgado and Correction Officer Rogens for failing
to take reasonable measures to ensure Mr. Pierce's safety
after Offender Williams broke free from his restraints,
leading to an altercation with Mr. Pierce on July 22, 2018,
in violation of the Eighth Amendment;
DISMISSES all other claims;
DISMISSES Superintendent Ron Neal;
DIRECTS the clerk to request Waiver of Service from (and if
necessary the United States Marshals Service to serve process
on) Correctional Officer R. Delgado and Correction Officer
Rogens at the Indiana Department of Correction with a copy of
this order and the amended complaint (ECF 24), pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(d);
ORDERS the Indiana Department of Correction to provide the
United States Marshal Service with the full name, date of
birth, social security number, last employment date, work
location, and last known home address of any ...