Carter v. Indiana State of et al
OPINION AND ORDER: GRANTS James Carter leave to proceed against the Huntington County Sheriff in his official capacity for injunctive relief to obtain medical treatment; DISMISSES all other claims; DISMISSES State of Indiana, Huntington County Distri ct Attorney, Huntington County, and Huntington County Jail; DIRECTS the Clerk to transmit the summons and USM-285 forms for the Huntington County Sheriff to the USMS along with a copy of the Complaint 1 , the motion 2 and this Order; DIRECTS the U SMS, pursuant to 28:1915(d), to effect service of process on the Huntington County Sheriff by 9/14/2015; ORDERS, pursuant to 42:1997e(g)(2), that the Huntington County Sheriff respond, as provided for in the Fed R Civ P and N.D. Ind. L.R. 10-1(b), on ly to the claim for which the Pla has been granted leave to proceed in this screening order; and ORDERS the Huntington County Sheriff to serve on Pla and file under seal a report, by 9/28/2015, describing Carter's medical condition and what treatment he has been provided since he arrived at the jail this year, along with copies of his pertinent medical records. Signed by Judge Theresa L Springmann on 9/9/2015. (lhc)(cc: Pla and USMS).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
FORT WAYNE DIVISION
HUNTINGTON COUNTY SHERIFF,
CAUSE NO. 1:15-CV-246 TLS
OPINION AND ORDER
James Carter, a pro se prisoner housed in the Huntington County Jail, filed a Complaint
[ECF No. 1] and a Motion for Emergency Injunction [ECF No. 2] on September 3, 2015. “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) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
Nevertheless, this court must review the complaint and dismiss it if the action is frivolous or
malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune
from such relief. “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state
a claim to 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, 672 (2009) (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of the cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. at 678. To survive
dismissal, the plaintiff “must do better than putting a few words on paper that, in the hands of an
imaginative reader, might suggest that something has happened to her that might be redressed by
the law.” Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 403 (7th Cir. 2010).
In the Complaint, Carter raises two claims. He alleges that he is being denied access to “a
law library and the ability to communicate with the courts necessary to defend himself in
criminal cases.” (ECF No. 1 at 3.) However, there is no “abstract, freestanding right to a law
library [and] an inmate cannot establish relevant actual injury simply by establishing that his
prison’s law library or legal assistance program is subpar in some theoretical sense.” Lewis v.
Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351 (1996). Therefore, the mere inadequacy of the Huntington County Jail
Law Library does not state a claim. Though he states that he needs access to the law library
because he “is representing himself in two criminal cases,” (ECF No. 1 at 3), he has not alleged
that he has suffered any actual injury in either case as a result. Therefore, he has not stated a
claim based on being denied access to the law library.
Neither has he stated a claim for denial of access to the courts. As the Seventh Circuit has
explained, “[t]he right of access to the courts protects prisoners from being shut out of court; it
does not exist to enable the prisoner to litigate effectively once in court.” Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d
647, 657 (7th Cir. 2007) (en banc) (internal quotation marks, citations, and ellipsis omitted).
Though Carter did not provide the cause numbers of either of his State criminal proceedings, the
official docket sheets for his two pending criminal cases are available online. See Odyssey Case
Management System, (Sept. 4, 2015), http://mycase.in.gov/default.aspx. In State v. Carter,
35D01-0405-FD-134, he was charged with Obstruction of Justice and Invasion of Privacy. In
State v. Carter, 35D01-1508-F6-184, he was charged with Perjury. In these cases, he has
appeared in court on May 18, 2015; May 26, 2015; June 2, 2015; June 30, 2015; August 4, 2015;
August 14, 2015; September 1, 2015; and September 2, 2015. He has also filed correspondence
on July 17, 2015; a motion to dismiss on August 17, 2015; a motion for release on August 17,
2015; and a motion to recuse on August 31, 2015. Moreover, he has court appearances scheduled
on September 15, 2015; September 29, 2015; October 6, 2015; and November 5, 2015. In
addition, he wrote to this court. Clearly he has not and is not being denied access to the courts.
Though the Complaint can be read to allege that his access to the courts has been delayed
on occasion, that does not state a claim. By comparison, the allegations in Nitz v. Hall, 473 Fed.
Appx. 513 (7th Cir. 2012), were much more far ranging, and yet Nitz did not state a claim. He
alleged that prison officials confiscated:
at least four DVDs depicting video surveillance related to his criminal cases.
According to the complaint, Nitz informed prison employees that he needed the
DVDs to proceed in the pending litigation, but the employees took the DVDs as
contraband and refused to provide accurate “shakedown slips” inventorying the
number of DVDs taken. As a result of the employees’ actions, Nitz says, his
petition for review of his state criminal conviction was denied; his civil case in
Nitz v. Harvey was dismissed; summary judgment was granted for two defendants
in Nitz v. Doe; and his social security disability appeal was denied. He further
alleged that prison employees intentionally “messed up” legal copies by copying
only one side of two-sided documents and refused to provide him with the
original materials; that prison grievance officers “refused to investigate”
grievances he had filed against prison library staff; and that his former parole
officer thwarted his success in his criminal and civil cases by neither testifying on
his behalf nor providing exculpatory evidence.
Id. at 514 (citations omitted).
He alleged that the prison prevented him from effectively litigating actions that
were pending, but the right of access protects prisoners from “being shut out of
court,” Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 415 (2002); it does not exist to
“enable the prisoners . . . to litigate effectively once in court,” Lewis, 518 U.S. at
354 (emphasis in original).
Id. at 515 (emphasis in original, parallel and string citation omitted). Though these allegations do
not state a civil claim for monetary damages, Carter can present them to the State criminal court
if he believes that he is being denied his constitutional right to defend himself. If he is convicted
after having been denied his constitutional rights to defend himself, he can raise these issues on
appeal. Ultimately, after he has presented them to the Indiana Supreme Court, he could file a
federal habeas corpus petition challenging those convictions. However, the claims here do not
state a claim and will be dismissed.
In his other claim, Carter alleges that he is “in agonizing pain,” (ECF No. 1 at 3), and has
been denied “medical treatment for one or more serious illnesses,” (ECF No. 1 at 2). In his
Motion for Emergency Injunction, he further explains that he has pancreatitis1 and severe
depression. He “fears he may have a brain tumor or other disease that is not being treated.” (ECF
No. 2 at 1.) He states that these illnesses, if untreated, may cause his death or suicide at some
time in the future. It appears that Carter is a pretrial detainee and that his claims arise under the
Fourteenth Amendment. “In evaluating the constitutionality of conditions or restrictions of
pretrial detention . . . the proper inquiry is whether those conditions amount to punishment of the
detainee.” Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). “[I]n the absence of an expressed intent to
punish, a pretrial detainee can nevertheless prevail by showing that the actions are not ‘rationally
related to a legitimate nonpunitive governmental purpose’ or that the actions ‘appear excessive in
relation to that purpose.’” Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S. Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015) (quoting Bell,
“Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. It happens when digestive enzymes start digesting
the pancreas itself. Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic. Either form is serious and can lead to complications.”
MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (Sept. 4, 2015),
441 U.S. at 561). However, when judging what is rationally related or what is excessive, “prison
administrators [are] accorded wide-ranging deference in the adoption and execution of policies
and practices that in their judgment are needed to preserve internal order and discipline and to
maintain institutional security.” Bell, 441 U.S. at 547. Here, Carter’s allegation that he has been
denied any medical treatment for serious medical needs plausibly alleges that the denial of
medical treatment is excessive and not rationally related to a legitimate nonpunitive
Carter seeks both monetary damages and injunctive relief from five defendants: State of
Indiana, Huntington County District Attorney, Huntington County, Huntington County Sheriff,
and Huntington County Jail. However, only one of these is an appropriate defendant in this case.
The State of Indiana has immunity from suit in federal court pursuant to the Eleventh
Amendment.2 The Huntington County District Attorney is not a proper defendant because even if
Carter personally notified the Prosecuting Attorney, merely writing to a public official is not a
basis for liability.
[The] view that everyone who knows about a prisoner’s problem must pay
damages implies that he could write letters to the Governor of Wisconsin and 999
other public officials, demand that every one of those 1,000 officials drop
everything he or she is doing in order to investigate a single prisoner’s claims, and
then collect damages from all 1,000 recipients if the letter-writing campaign does
There are three exceptions to Eleventh Amendment immunity: (1) suits against state officials
seeking prospective equitable relief for ongoing violations of federal law are not barred by the Eleventh
Amendment; (2) individuals may sue a state directly if Congress has abrogated the state’s immunity from
suit; and (3) individuals may sue the state if the state waived its sovereign immunity and consented to suit
in federal court. MCI Telecomm. Corp. v. Ill. Commerce Comm’n, 183 F.3d 558, 563 (7th Cir. 1999). None
of these exceptions to Eleventh Amendment immunity apply in this case. First, though a state official can
be sued for injuntive relief, the state itself cannot. Id. Second, State immunity was not abrogated by the
enactment of Section 1983. Joseph v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Wis. Sys., 432 F.3d 746, 748 (7th Cir. 2005).
Third, Indiana has not consented to this lawsuit.
not lead to better medical care. That can’t be right. The Governor, and for that
matter the Superintendent of Prisons and the Warden of each prison, is entitled to
relegate to the prison’s medical staff the provision of good medical care.
Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 595 (7th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). Neither is Huntington
County a proper defendant. Though lawsuits against municipalities can be based on a policy,
practice, or custom, Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), the
county government “is not responsible for administering the manner of an inmate’s
incarceration.” Weatherholt v. Spencer Cnty., 639 N.E.2d 354, 356 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994). Finally,
the Huntington County Jail is not a suable entity. See Smith v. Knox Cnty. Jail, 666 F.3d 1037,
1040 (7th Cir. 2012) (noting that the jail is a building, which could not be sued) Therefore, these
four defendants must be dismissed. However, “it is the sheriff who is charged with a statutory
duty to administer the jail in a manner which preserves the safety of inmates.” Weatherholt, 639
N.E.2d at 356; see also Ind. Code § 36–2–13–5(a)(7). Therefore, Carter will be granted leave to
proceed against the Huntington County Sheriff in an individual capacity for monetary damages
and in an official capacity for injunctive relief.
The injunctive relief sought by Carter is to either be taken to the hospital or released from
the jail. However, release is not a possible remedy in this case because “habeas corpus is the
exclusive remedy for a state prisoner who challenges the fact or duration of his confinement and
seeks immediate or speedier release.” Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 481 (1994). As for being
taken to the hospital, the constitution requires that inmates receive adequate medical care, but it
does not specify where that care is administered. Prisoners are “not entitled to demand specific
care[, nor are they] entitled to the best care possible.” Forbes v. Edgar, 112 F.3d 262, 267 (7th
The PLRA circumscribes the scope of the court’s authority to enter an injunction
in the corrections context. Where prison conditions are found to violate federal
rights, remedial injunctive relief must be narrowly drawn, extend no further than
necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right, and use the least intrusive
means necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right. This section of the
PLRA enforces a point repeatedly made by the Supreme Court in cases
challenging prison conditions: Prison officials have broad administrative and
discretionary authority over the institutions they manage.
Westefer v. Neal, 682 F.3d 679, 683 (7th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks, brackets, and
Finally, Carter seeks an emergency injunction. “[A] preliminary injunction is an
extraordinary and drastic remedy, one that should not be granted unless the movant, by a clear
showing, carries the burden of persuasion.” Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997)
(emphasis omitted). To obtain preliminary injunctive relief, the moving party must demonstrate
that he or she has a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits, lacks an adequate remedy at
law, and will suffer irreparable harm if immediate relief is not granted. Girl Scouts of Manitou
Council, Inc. v. Girl Scouts of U.S., Inc., 549 F.3d 1079, 1086 (7th Cir. 2008). Obtaining a
temporary restraining order without prior notice to the adverse party requires the movant to
satisfy an even higher standard, by showing “that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or
damage will result to the movant before the adverse party can be heard in opposition.” Fed. R.
Civ. P. 65(b)(1)(A). Here, Carter has not met this burden. Though he states that he is in
agonizing pain and might die without immediate medical attention, he signed the Complaint and
the motion on August 25, 2015. Since then he has personally appeared in the Huntington
Superior Court twice: September 1, 2015, and September 2, 2015. The Court concludes that if his
condition were as grave as could be imagined merely by reading his filings, it would have been
obvious to the Huntington Superior Court because Carter would not have been able to function
during those hearings. Therefore, the emergency motion will be denied. Nevertheless, because of
the seriousness of the allegations, the Huntington County Sheriff will be ordered to file a report
about Carter’s medical condition and what treatment he has received since he arrived at the jail
earlier this year.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court:
(1) GRANTS James Carter leave to proceed against the Huntington County Sheriff in his
individual capacity for compensatory and punitive damages for denying him medical treatment in
violation of the Fourteenth Amendment;
(2) GRANTS James Carter leave to proceed against the Huntington County Sheriff in his
official capacity for injunctive relief to obtain medical treatment;
(3) DISMISSES all other claims;
(4) DISMISSES State of Indiana, Huntington County District Attorney, Huntington
County, and Huntington County Jail;
(5) DIRECTS the Clerk to transmit the summons and USM-285 forms for the
Huntington County Sheriff to the United States Marshals Service along with a copy of the
Complaint (ECF No. 1), the motion (ECF No. 2) and this Order;
(6) DIRECTS the United States Marshals Service, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d), to
effect service of process on the Huntington County Sheriff by September 14, 2015;
(7) ORDERS, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(g)(2), that the Huntington County Sheriff
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 Plaintiff has been granted leave to proceed in this screening order; and
(8) ORDERS the Huntington County Sheriff to serve on James Carter and file under seal
a report, by September 28, 2015, describing Carter’s medical condition and what treatment he
has been provided since he arrived at the jail this year, along with copies of his pertinent medical
SO ORDERED on September 9, 2015.
s/ Theresa L. Springmann
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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