Novak v. LaPorte County Sheriff Dept
OPINION AND ORDER: Clerk DIRECTED to place this case number on a blank Prisoner Complaint form and forward it to Plaintiff Tyler Joseph Novak. Plaintiff GRANTED until 4/17/2017 to file an Amended Complaint. Plaintiff CAUTIONED if he does not respond by the deadline, this case will be dismissed.Signed by Judge Rudy Lozano on 3/21/17. (cc: Tyler Joseph Novak with copy of Order and Complaint form). (cer)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
TYLER JOSEPH NOVAK,
LAPORTE COUNTY SHERIFF
CAUSE NO. 3:17-CV-172 RL
OPINION AND ORDER
Tyler Joseph Novak, a pro se prisoner, filed a complaint
against the LaPorte County Sheriff Department. (DE 1.) Pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915A, a court must review 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 from such relief. Courts apply
the same standard under Section 1915A as when deciding a motion
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Lagerstrom v.
Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006). To survive a motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must state a claim for
relief that is plausible on its face. Bissessur v. Indiana Univ.
Bd. of Trs., 581 F.3d 599, 602-03 (7th Cir. 2009). “A claim has
facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 603.
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).
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).
Novak is an inmate at the LaPorte County Jail and complains
that on December 16, 2016, his legal mail was opened. Novak sues
the LaPorte County Sheriff Department for money damages.
Though Novak sues for his legal mail being opened by a LaPorte
personally responsible for opening his mail, as a defendant.
Instead, he names only the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department as
a defendant. The Sheriff Department cannot be held liable simply
because it employed the officer involved in this incident. Chavez
v. Illinois State Police, 251 F.3d 612, 651 (7th Cir. 2001). This
entity may be held liable for an unconstitutional official policy
or custom that caused Novak’s injury, see Monell v. Dep’t of Soc.
Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), but it can not be
plausibly inferred from the complaint that the Sheriff’s Department
had an official policy to violate the constitutional rights of its
inmates. Instead, Novak describes a scenario where one officer
allegedly opened his mail. Because he has not alleged a plausible
basis for holding the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department liable,
it will be dismissed as a defendant.
As explained, this complaint does not state a claim against
the named defendant. Because Novak may be able to state a claim
against the individual responsible for opening his legal mail, he
will be permitted to file an amended complaint. See Luevano v.
Wal-Mart, 722 F.3d 1014 (7th Cir. 2013). In the amended complaint,
he should explain in his own words what happened, when it happened,
where it happened, and who was involved. He should also explain why
his mail was opened. He may attach any documentation he has in his
possession or can obtain related to his claims.
For these reasons, the Court:
(1) DIRECTS the clerk to place this cause number on a blank
Prisoner Complaint form and send it to Tyler Joseph Novak;
(2) GRANTS Tyler Joseph Novak to and including April 17, 2017,
to file an amended complaint; and
(3) CAUTIONS Tyler Joseph Novak that if he does not respond by
the deadline, this case will be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915A because the current amended complaint does not state a claim
for which relief can be granted.
DATED: March 21, 2017
/s/RUDY LOZANO, Judge
United States District Court
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