Cornell v. Miami Correctional Facility et al
OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Signed by Chief Judge Philip P Simon on 9/20/2016. (cc: Pla)(lns)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
MIAMI CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
and STATE OF INDIANA,
Cause No. 3:16-cv-542
OPINION AND ORDER
Matthew Cornell, a pro se prisoner, filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking money damages against the Miami Correctional Facility and
the State of Indiana. (DE 1.) He was housed at Miami in June 2010, when he attempted
suicide and was taken by ambulance to Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana. (Id.
at 2.) Upon his return to Miami, he was charged and found guilty in a disciplinary case
and ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution for the ambulance. (Id. at 3.) Since then, all
available funds in Cornell’s trust account have been garnished. Cornell alleges that his
Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment has been violated
because he has been unable to buy hygiene and other items from the commissary.
Because the complaint fails to state a plausible claim and seeks relief against an immune
defendant, I must dismiss it pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
District courts are required to review prisoner complaints and dismiss actions
that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or
seek monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A(a), (b). The standard under section 1915A is the same as the standard under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th
Cir. 2006). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must state a claim
for relief that is plausible on its face. Bissessur v. Ind. Univ. Bd. of Trs., 581 F.3d 599, 602–3
(7th Cir. 2009). “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.” Id. at 603. In determining whether Cornell’s complaint states a
claim, I must construe his complaint liberally and hold it “to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers” no matter how “inartfully pleaded[.]”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). To state claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff
must allege: “(1) that defendants deprived him of a federal constitutional right; and (2)
that the defendants acted under color of state law.” Savory v. Lyons, 469 F.3d 667, 670
(7th Cir. 2006).
The complaint must be dismissed for a number of reasons. To begin with, there is
no proper defendant. Miami Correctional Facility is not a person or a policymaking unit
of government that can be sued pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Sow v. Fortville Police
Dep’t, 636 F.3d 293, 300 (7th Cir. 2011). In addition, a claim for money damages cannot
be maintained against the State of Indiana, which has Eleventh Amendment immunity.
See Kashani v. Purdue University, 813 F.2d. 843, 845 (7th Cir. 1987).
Even if Cornell had named a proper defendant, this claim would be time-barred.
“[A] plaintiff can plead himself out of court if he alleges facts that show he isn’t entitled
to a judgment[.]” Early v. Bankers Life & Cas. Co., 959 F.2d 75, 79 (7th Cir. 1992) (citations
omitted). Here, Indiana’s two-year statute of limitations applies. See Snodderly v.
R.U.F.F. Drug Enforcement Task Force, 239 F.3d 892, 894 (7th Cir. 2001). The two-year
period began to run in 2010, when the prison disciplinary hearing took place and the
restitution was ordered. See Sellars v. Perry, 80 F.3d 243, 245 (7th Cir. 1996) (“A Section
1983 claim accrues when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury that is
the basis of his action.”). Cornell had two years from that date in 2010 to file suit but
didn’t—until six years later. For this reason, it is barred by the statute of limitations.
There are still other problems with the complaint. Cornell’s allegation that the
garnishment of his prison trust account has rendered him unable to buy hygiene and
other items from the commissary does not constitute a plausible constitutional claim.
The Eighth Amendment only prohibits conditions of confinement that deny inmates
“the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities.” Townsend v. Fuchs, 522 F.3d 765, 773
(7th Cir. 2008). “[T]he Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons,” and
conditions that may seem “restrictive” or “even harsh” are “part of the penalty that
criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society.” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S.
337, 347–49 (1981). Having a prison trust account garnished to pay an undisputed debt
is not a harsh condition that could be considered a denial of the minimal civilized
measure of life’s necessities. See Holden v. Knight, No. 3:15-cv-432, 2016 WL 696088, at *2
(N.D. Ind. Feb. 22, 2016); also Meineke v. Finnan, 2014 WL 3586546, *3 (S.D. Ind. July 21,
Nor does the fact that Cornell has been unable to purchase hygiene items from
the commissary change that conclusion, unless Cornell asked for and was denied basic
hygenic materials (like soap). See Gillis v. Litscher, 468 F.3d 488, 493 (7th Cir. 2006). He
has not alleged that, and it is not plausible to infer such allegations from the complaint.
Accordingly, the complaint does not state a plausible Eighth Amendment claim.
As a final note, to the extent Cornell intended to allege that Miami wrongly took
his money, that issue first must be addressed through a state tort claims action. The
Fourteenth Amendment guards against deprivations of life, liberty, and property by
state officials without due process of law, but such a deprivation is not complete and
therefore not actionable “until and unless [the state] refuses to provide a suitable post
deprivation remedy.”Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 533 (1984). Indiana state law
provides for judicial review of property losses caused by government employees and an
adequate post-deprivation remedy to redress state officials’ deprivation of a person’s
property. See Ind. Code. §§ 34-13-3-1–25, et seq. (2016); Wynn v. Southward, 251 F.3d 588,
593 (7th Cir. 2001). Accordingly, Cornell does not have a plausible constitutional claim
for the money garnished from his account.
Ordinarily, it is necessary to allow a plaintiff to file an amended complaint after a
sua sponte dismissal, but that is not true where the amendment would be futile. See
Luevano v. Wal-Mart, 722 F.3d 1014 (7th Cir. 2013); Hukic v. Aurora Loan Servs., 588 F.3d
420, 432 (7th Cir. 2009). Such is the case here. No conceivable amendment or
combination of amendments could overcome the numerous bars to suit presented here.
For these reasons, this case is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
ENTERED: September 20, 2016.
s/ Philip P. Simon
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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