LITTLER et al v. LEMMON et al
Entry Denying Motion for Summary Judgment and Directing Further Proceedings - Therefore, the defendant's motion for summary judgment, Dkt. No. 92 , is DENIED. The clerk is instructed to update the docket to reflect that the defendant 39;s name is Jeanne Watkins. This action shall now proceed to bench trial or settlement. The magistrate judge is requested to set a settlement conference. The clerk is instructed to include a copy of the motion for assistance recruiting counsel along with this Entry (SEE ENTRY). Signed by Judge William T. Lawrence on 2/14/2018. Copy to Plaintiff via US Mail. (Attachments: # 1 copy of the motion for assistance recruiting counsel) (DW)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
TERRE HAUTE DIVISION
) Case No. 2:16-cv-0175-WTL-MPB
Entry Denying Motion for Summary Judgment
and Directing Further Proceedings
Plaintiff Phillip Littler, (“Mr. Litter”), an Indiana prisoner currently incarcerated at the
Westville Correctional Facility, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for an alleged
constitutional deprivation that occurred while he was incarcerated at the Wabash Valley
Correctional Facility (“Wabash Valley”). He alleges that Jeanne Watkins, in her official capacity,
is violating his First Amendment rights to correspond through the mail with his cousin who is on
As background, Mr. Littler filed this action and named as defendants Jeanne Watkins,
Richard Brown, and Bruce Lemmon in their official capacities. He sought injunctive relief and
damages for pain and suffering. At screening, the Court dismissed the claims against Brown and
Lemmon because there were no allegations of personal participation. The Court permitted a First
Amendment claim against defendant Watkins in her official capacity based on the allegations that
she confiscated and destroyed his mail pursuant to an IDOC policy. Dkt. No. 4. An official capacity
claim was presumed because Mr. Littler only challenged the application of the IDOC mail policy.
Mr. Littler filed a motion to reconsider the dismissal of Brown and Lemmon in their official
capacities and the Court granted the motion, permitting an official capacity claim against Brown
and Lemmon for injunctive relief. Dkt. No. 11. Mr. Littler filed a second motion to reconsider and
the Court again granted that motion, this time permitting him to proceed against Brown and
Lemmon in their individual capacities. Dkt. No. 22. Next, Mr. Littler filed a motion to amend
seeking to add a substantive due process claim which the Court denied on July 25, 2016. Dkt. Nos.
24, 25. Mr. Littler persisted by filing a motion to reconsider the Court’s denial of the motion to
amend. Dkt. No. 32. The Court denied the motion to reconsider the motion to amend to add a
substantive due process claim finding that the specific constitutional right that was infringed by
the conduct alleged was the First Amendment right of inmates to send and receive mail. The Court
also determined that Mr. Littler received all of the process he was due. Dkt. No. 36.
Upon further consideration and pursuant to the authority under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, on
September 20, 2017, the Court dismissed Brown and Lemmon as defendants. See Dkt. No. 110.
Given the ongoing amendments to the complaint by the plaintiff, the Court mistakenly concluded
in that Entry that the official capacity claim against Brown and Lemmon had previously been
dismissed. As a result, only the individual capacity claims were specifically addressed and
dismissed. The Court held that Mr. Littler could not proceed against Brown and Lemmon in their
individual capacities because he was challenging the Policy as applied to him by defendant
Although not specifically addressed in the Entry of September 20, 2017, there was no error
in dismissing Brown and Lemmon in their official capacity. An official capacity claim is really
against the IDOC and the State of Indiana. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-67 (1985).
Thus, any claim against them in their official capacity is duplicative to the claim against Watkins.
In conclusion, the claim which remains in this action is a First Amendment claim against
defendant Watkins in her official capacity. Mr. Littler’s claim against defendant Watkins in her
official capacity for injunctive relief offers all the vindication he needs to challenge the mail policy.
The defendant moved for summary judgment. The motion is fully briefed. Mr. Littler’s
sur-reply is 47 pages long. Local Rule 7-1 limits the page number of reply briefs to 20 pages. The
Court has read the first 20 pages of his sur-reply. For the following reasons, the motion for
summary judgment, Dkt. No. 92, is denied.
II. Undisputed Facts
The Court notes that Mr. Littler has not complied with Local Rule 56-1(b), which provides
that a response to a motion for summary judgment “must include a section labeled ‘Statement of
Material Facts in Dispute’ that identifies the potentially determinative facts and factual disputes
that the party contends demonstrate a dispute of fact precluding summary judgment.” Mr. Littler
does not identify any factual disputes that he supports with evidence.
Construed in the manner most favorable to Mr. Littler, the following facts are undisputed
for purposes of summary judgment:
Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”) Policy 02-01-103 (“Policy”) establishes a
procedure for offenders to maintain contact with individuals in the community through
correspondence, printed materials, and packages in a way that ensures the safety and security of
the individuals and IDOC facilities. This Policy restricts offender correspondence. Dkt. No. 94-2,
p. 4. It states in relevant part:
An offender must obtain prior approval from the IDOC to receive or send correspondence
to another person if the other person is:
Held in a correctional facility (Federal, State, or local);
Sentenced to a community corrections program:
Held in a county jail;
Released from an IDOC facility to county probation supervision;
Participating in a Community Transition Program (CTP); or
Participating in a work release program.
Dkt. No. 94-2, p. 4.
The IDOC does not censor, copy, withhold, or disclose mail to inmates unless staff has
reasonable grounds to believe that the correspondence is from an individual that satisfies the above
criteria. Dkt. No. 94-2, p. 9. It is the offender’s responsibility to obtain permission to engage in
correspondence with a restricted individual by establishing that such correspondence is in the best
interest of the offender, the restricted individual, and the facility. Dkt. No. 94-2, p. 4. Wabash
Valley’s Policy further states: “Correspondence that is determined to be unauthorized offender to
offender correspondence shall be destroyed, no other disposition is allowed.” Dkt. No. 94-3, p. 26.
As such, Wabash Valley’s mail room confiscates unauthorized offender-to-offender
correspondence. The offender has the option of approving the destruction of the correspondence
or filing a grievance. Dkt. No. 94-1, ¶ 7.
Defendant Watkins is the mailroom supervisor at Wabash Valley. Dkt. No. 94-1. ¶ 1. On
March 16, 2015, the Wabash Valley mailroom received a letter addressed to Mr. Littler from Aaron
Young, 319 ½ Lincoln Way, La Porte, Indiana. Dkt. No. 94-1, ¶ 10. Mr. Littler claims that Aaron
Young is his cousin. Dkt. No. 1. The letter states the writer, Aaron Young, was serving probation
in St. Joseph County, Indiana, at the time the letter was written and mailed to Mr. Littler. Dkt. No.
94-1, ¶ 11.
Mr. Littler did not obtain permission prior to receiving mail from his cousin, Mr. Young.
At the time the letter arrived at Wabash Valley, Mr. Littler was in disciplinary segregation and did
not have permission to receive any restricted mail. Dkt. No. 94-1, ¶ 12. Individuals in disciplinary
segregation are not permitted to receive mail from other offenders.
The letter from Mr. Young was confiscated and IDOC officials notified Mr. Littler of the
confiscation. Dkt. No. 94-4. Mr. Littler filed a grievance, so the mailroom kept the letter pending
exhaustion of the grievance process. Dkt. No. 94-1, ¶¶ 13, 14.
Mr. Littler’s grievance appeal was denied on September 2, 2015, and defendant Watkins
destroyed the letter from Mr. Young. Dkt. No. 94-1, ¶ 16.
III. Summary Judgment Standard
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate “if
the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the admissible
evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed and all reasonable inferences must
be drawn in the non-movant’s favor. Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th
Cir. 2007); Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (“We view the record in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party’s favor.”).
However, “[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its
pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a
genuine issue of material fact that requires trial.” Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490. Finally, the nonmoving party bears the burden of specifically identifying the relevant evidence of record, and “the
court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary
judgment.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001).
Defendant Watkins asserts she is entitled to summary judgment because Mr. Littler’s mail
was confiscated and destroyed pursuant to IDOC policy and the IDOC Policy does not violate the
First Amendment. Mr. Littler contends that the Policy is unconstitutional as applied to him because
his cousin was never incarcerated at the IDOC and therefore his mail to Mr. Littler does not qualify
as a restricted under the IDOC Policy.
Although “prisoners have protected First Amendment interests in both sending and
receiving mail,” Rowe v. Shake, 196 F.3d 778, 782 (7th Cir. 1999), a prison can confiscate an
inmate’s mail if confiscation is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests.” Turner v.
Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987). But the prison must present “some evidence to show that the
restriction is justified.” King v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 415 F.3d 634, 639 (7th Cir. 2005).
Such an interest can be shown through evidence from IDOC officials. While the Court can
certainly imagine why the IDOC would want to restrict mail between inmates, the defendant has
failed to present any evidence at all discussing why restricting mail between an inmate and an
individual on probation is logically related to the legitimate security concerns of the IDOC.
Because the defendant has failed to introduce any evidence showing why a restriction on Mr.
Littler’s First Amendment rights to correspond with Mr. Young is logically related to a legitimate
security interest, they have failed to show that the decision to confiscate and destroy Mr. Littler’s
mail is constitutional.
The Seventh Circuit has held that constitutionality of a rule prohibiting correspondence
between inmates at different institutions “cannot be doubted.” Farrell v. Peters, 951 F.2d 862 (7th
Cir. 1992) (citing Gometz v. Henman, 807 F.2d 113 (7th Cir. 1986)). The plaintiff in Farrell, an
Illinois state prisoner, sued prison officials who prohibited him from corresponding with his
“common law” wife, an inmate at another Illinois institution. The denial was based on a prison
rule which provided that “‘permission for committed persons to correspond between intra-state
and inter-state correctional facilities shall require the approval of the Chief Administrative Officers
of both facilities and shall be based on safety and security concerns.’” Id. at 863. In finding that
the prison rule and the denial of the request to communicate did not violate the plaintiff's First
Amendment rights, the Seventh Circuit explained:
The potential dangers from correspondence among inmates in this age of prison
gangs-some nationwide in extent, United States v. Silverstein, 732 F.2d 1338 (7th
Cir. 1984)-are obvious. The plaintiff argues as a backup that the rule was applied
arbitrarily to him and his “common law” wife, but he gives no particulars as to why
it might have been arbitrary and since the two were criminal confederates in
pimping and prostitution before they were imprisoned for those offenses the
arbitrariness of the defendants’ actions hardly leaps out at us.
The IDOC policy at issue in this case is similar to the Illinois rule in Farrell. The IDOC rule
states that an offender must obtain prior approval from the IDOC to correspond with another
person if the other person is considered a restricted individual under the Policy. The Policy also
states: “the offender must establish that the exchange of correspondence is in the best interests of
both the confined person and the facilities involved.”
In response, Mr. Littler attacks the application of the policy as to him because he argues his
circumstances are outside the Policy. More specifically, he argues that because his cousin only
stated he was on probation, and that there was no evidence he was ever incarcerated in the IDOC,
he did not fit within the Policy for purposes of restricting correspondence from him. And as such,
the IDOC did not possess a legitimate interest in restricting Mr. Litter’s rights under the First
Amendment in receiving mail from his cousin.1
To the extent Mr. Littler argues the confiscation and destruction of Mr. Young’s mail violated Mr. Young’s
rights, dkt. 113, p. 6, as a non-attorney, Mr. Littler is not permitted to assert the rights of another individual.
Based on the evidence submitted, it is unclear whether Mr. Littler’s mail was properly
confiscated pursuant to the IDOC Policy. The relevant portion of the Policy states: “An offender
must obtain prior approval from the IDOC to receive or send correspondence to another person if
the other person is released from an IDOC facility to county probation supervision.” Dkt. No. 942, p. 4.
This Policy is only applicable to an individual that was released from IDOC to county
probation supervision. The undisputed evidence is that Mr. Young’s letter stated he was on
probation. There is no evidence that Mr. Young was released from an IDOC facility to county
probation. As such, there is a material question of fact as to whether the IDOC Policy applied to
Mr. Young for purposes of confiscating his correspondence to Mr. Littler.
In reply, the defendant states in a footnote that she believes Mr. Young was serving a 365day sentence in the St. Joseph County Work Release Program at the time he sent the letter to Mr.
Littler. Therefore, she argues, Mr. Young was a restricted individual under the portion of the Policy
that restricts correspondence from an individual “participating in a work release program.” Dkt.
No. 94-2, p. 4; Dkt. No. 119. A footnote does not constitute evidence, and there is no evidence in
the record that the Policy applied to Mr. Young.
In addition the focus on the Policy is misplaced when the issue is whether Mr. Littler should
be allowed to receive his cousin’s letters.
The defendant also argues she is entitled to qualified immunity. The Court agrees.
Defendant Watkins applied the Policy to correspondence Mr. Littler received in which the writer
stated he was on probation. She reasonably determined the Policy, which was previously declared
constitutional, see Long v. Knight, 2016 WL 6610855 (S.D. Ind. 2016), applied to the
Gometz v. Henman, 807 F.2d 113, 115 (7th Cir. 1986). Mr. Littler has no right to act on Mr. Young’s behalf.
The Court dismissed this claim in the May 25, 2016, screening entry.
correspondence.2 However, Mr. Littler is not seeking money damages in this action. Dkt. No. 21.
The defense of qualified immunity is only available for civil damages and does not cover the claim
for injunctive relief asserted in this case. Levenstein v. Salafsky, 414 F.3d 767, 772 (7th Cir. 2005).
For these reasons, the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, Dkt. No. 92, is denied.
When a prison restriction impinges on inmates’ constitutional rights, the regulation is valid
if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests. Here, the defendant failed to point to
any evidence that the Policy restricting Mr. Littler’s mail from Mr. Young was related to a
legitimate penological interest. Therefore, the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, Dkt.
No. 92, is DENIED.
The clerk is instructed to update the docket to reflect that the defendant’s name is Jeanne
This action shall now proceed to bench trial or settlement. The magistrate judge is
requested to set a settlement conference.
If Mr. Littler is interested in having counsel appointment on his behalf to assist him during
a settlement conference, he shall file a motion for assistance with the recruitment of counsel. The
clerk is instructed to include a copy of the motion for assistance recruiting counsel along with
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
While this Policy was found to be constitutional in Long v. Knight, the defendants in that case introduced
evidence supporting how the Policy helped ensure the security of the facility. The defendants in this action
failed to introduce any such evidence, other than the Policy itself, which does not address the purpose
behind it. Long, 2016 WL 6610855 at 3.
WESTVILLE - CF
WESTVILLE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
5501 South 1100 West
WESTVILLE, IN 46391
Electronically Registered Counsel
Magistrate Judge Brookman
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