Johnson v. Decker et al
OPINION AND ORDER: DIRECTS the clerk to place this cause number on a blank Prisoner Complaint (INND Rev. 8/16) and send it to Thomas B. Johnson; and GRANTS him until 3/30/2018, to file an amended complaint. Signed by Judge Robert L Miller, Jr on 2/8/2018. (Copy mailed to pro se party)(lhc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
THOMAS B. JOHNSON,
TIMOTHY P. BECKER, JULIE
LAWSON, and STEVEN
) Cause No. 3:18-CV-026-RLM-MGG
OPINION AND ORDER
Thomas B. Johnson, a prisoner without a lawyer, alleges a conspiracy to
deprive him of his civil rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). “A document
filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully
§by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quotation marks and
citations omitted). Nevertheless, 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 from such relief.
Mr. Johnson claims the defendants, who are all employees of St. Joseph
County Jail, conspired to deprive prisoners of their civil rights. He brings three
claims. First, he claims the state policy of housing state prisoners at county jails
deprives prisoners of their right to reform under Art. I, sec. 18 of the Indiana
Constitution. Second, he claims the defendants practice segregation in housing
at the St. Joseph County Jail. Third, he alleges that Section 12 of the Thirteenth
Amendment violates the rights of African Americans.
Mr. Johnson’s first claim implicates a state constitutional right, and so
falls outside the reach of Section 1985(3). See Miles v. Armstrong, 207 F.2d 284,
286 (7th Cir. 1953) (holding that § 1985(3) applies only to deprivation of federal
rights). His third claim, a broad allegation that the Thirteenth Amendment itself
violates the rights of African Americans, is based on language from a proposed
version of the Thirteenth Amendment, which wasn’t passed by the Senate. See
S. Journal, 38th Con., 1st Sess. 311–13 (1864).
The second claim, that “defendants are at all times practicing segregation”
by housing African-American offenders in a higher-security pod than white
offenders with similar crimes, could generously be construed to state an Equal
Protection claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Johnson v. California, 543 U.S. 499
(2005) (holding that a policy of racial segregation in state prisons must be
evaluated under a strict scrutiny standard). But it’s not necessary to discuss
whether the facts alleged are sufficient to state a claim under Section 1983,
because Mr. Johnson expressly brings this Complaint “pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1985(3), and ‘not’ 42 U.S.C § 1983.” ECF 1 at 1. Thus, the court will evaluate
the claim only under Section 1985(3).
This claim must be dismissed under the intra-corporate conspiracy
doctrine. Under that doctrine, a “conspiracy cannot exist solely between
members of the same entity.” Payton v. Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Med. Ctr.,
184 F.3d 623, 632 (7th Cir. 1999). The complaint alleges all three defendants
are employees of the St. Joseph County Jail. The defendants can’t be sued under
Section 1985. See id.; see also Beese v. Todd, 35 Fed. Appx. 241 (7th Cir. 2002).
Mr. Johnson’s complaint doesn’t state a claim for relief. Nevertheless,
because so many questions remain unanswered, he will be permitted to file an
amended complaint if he has additional factual information to provide. See
Luevano v. Wal-Mart, 722 F.3d 1014 (7th Cir. 2013). Any amended complaint
needs to set forth every claim that Mr. Johnson is trying to bring in this case. He
needs to provide all the relevant facts and fully explain what each defendant did
and the harm resulting from each defendant’s actions. He needs to address the
questions raised in this order.
For these reasons, the court:
(1) DIRECTS the clerk to place this cause number on a blank Prisoner
Complaint (INND Rev. 8/16) and send it to Thomas B. Johnson; and
(2) GRANTS Thomas B. Johnson until March 30, 2018, to file an amended
If Mr. Johnson doesn’t respond by the deadline, this case will be dismissed
without further notice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915A because the current
complaint does not state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
SO ORDERED on February 8, 2018
/s/ Robert L. Miller, Jr.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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