HOFFMAN et al v. JACOBI et al
ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AT DOCKET NOS. 218, 221, 225, & 230. 218 Henry Ford's Motion for Summary Judgment and 221 Clark County Board of Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment are GRANTED in full. [2 25] Susan Knoebel and Jeremy Snelling's Motion for Summary Judgment and 230 Josh Seybold's Motion for Summary Judgment are GRANTED in part to the extent they relate to claims against them in their official capacity. See Order for details. Signed by Judge Sarah Evans Barker on 7/6/2017. (LBT)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
NEW ALBANY DIVISION
ORDER ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
AT DOCKET NOS. 218, 221, 225, & 230.
This cause is before the Court on motions for summary judgment filed by
Defendants Clark County Board of Commissioners [Docket No. 221], Clark County
Chief Probation Officer Henry Ford [Docket No. 218], Clark County Drug Treatment
Court Case Manager Josh Seybold [Docket No. 230], Director of the Clark County Drug
Treatment Court Program Susan Knoebel [Docket No. 225], and Clark Circuit Court 2
Bailiff Jeremy Snelling [Docket No. 225]. For the reasons explained below, Defendants’
motions reflected at Docket Nos. 218 and 221 are GRANTED in full, and Defendants’
motions reflected at Docket Nos. 225 and 230 are GRANTED in part.
The procedural history of this litigation is protracted and convoluted, eventually
involving twenty-one Plaintiffs and nine Defendants, and spanning more than three years
and 280 docket entries. For purposes of this entry, we have distilled the facts to those
relevant to the sole issue addressed by this order, to wit, determining the real party in
interest with regard to Plaintiffs’ official-capacity claims.
This suit was initiated on February 18, 2014, by eight named Plaintiffs suing on
behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, against the following Defendants:
Judge Jerome F. Jacobi, the presiding judge of Clark Circuit Court 2 and the Clark
County Drug Treatment Court,
Susan Knoebel, the Director of the Drug Treatment Court Program,
Jeremy Snelling, the Courtroom Bailiff for Clark Circuit Court 2 and the Drug
Henry Ford, the Chief Probation Officer of Clark County,
Danny Rodden, the Clark County Sherriff,
Danielle Grissett, the Clark County Work Release Director,
Stephen Mason, the Executive Director of Clark County Community Corrections,
The Clark County Board of Commissioners, and
Certain “unknown” Circuit Court employees (later represented by Whitney
Dkt. 1 ¶¶ 18–26.
On April 8, 2014, before any Defendant had answered the Complaint, Plaintiffs
filed an Amended Complaint adding eight new named Plaintiffs and one new Defendant,
Josh Seybold, a Case Manager for the Clark County Drug Treatment Court. Dkt. 17 ¶ 34.
The remaining claims against Defendant Whitney Newton have been addressed in an Order entered
simultaneously with this ruling.
Plaintiffs alleged in their Amended Complaint that, in operating the Clark County
Drug Treatment Court Program, Defendants knowingly deprived multiple probationers
and Drug Court participants of their rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth
Amendments of the United States Constitution. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 2–4. Specifically:
Various Plaintiffs who were participants in the Clark County Drug Treatment
Court have alleged that they suffered periods of detention without having
received a hearing, notice, counsel, judicial consideration of bond, or the
opportunity to hear the evidence against them or cross-examine witnesses,
all in violation of their rights to due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendments. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 145–154.
Plaintiff Jesse Hash has alleged that he was incarcerated for 60 days as a
pretrial detainee by order of officials of Clark Circuit Court No. 2 without
having been brought before a judicial officer, without being given a probable
cause hearing, without judicial consideration of bail or the appointment of
counsel, and without notice of the charges against him, in violation of his due
process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Id. ¶¶ 155–161.
Plaintiff James Bennett, a convict serving a portion of his sentence on a workrelease program, has alleged that he was re-arrested and held for 74 days
without ever having been told any reason for his detention, in violation of his
due process rights to a hearing, counsel, confrontation, and crossexamination. Id. ¶¶ 162–171.
Four Plaintiffs alleged that they were arrested by Clark County officials who
lacked lawful arrest powers, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Id. ¶¶
On March 3, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint, adding five new
Plaintiffs. See Dkt. 171. All five new Plaintiffs have alleged that, as participants in the
Clark County Drug Treatment Court Program, they were deprived of their rights to due
process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Id. ¶¶ 131–150. One new Plaintiff
has also alleged that she was unlawfully arrested by Clark County officials who lacked
lawful arrest powers, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Id. ¶ 143.
On September 2, 2014, Plaintiffs sought Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 certification of the
A. All persons who were participants in Clark County
Indiana’s Drug Treatment Court Program and who were
incarcerated for more than 72 hours without hearing and/or
other due process of law from February 18, 2012 to the date of
the order granting class certification.
B. All persons who are or will be subject to the jurisdiction of
Clark County Indiana’s Drug Treatment Court Program as a
Drug Court participant and who therefore faces or will face the
possibility of being alleged or determined to be in violation of
the rules, terms, and or policies of probation of Drug Court.
Dkt. 58 at 2.
Plaintiffs sought monetary relief for subclass A and injunctive and declaratory
relief for subclass B. Id. Having been informed that, as of June 25, 2015, the operations
of the Clark County Drug Treatment Court Program had officially ended, dkt. 124, we
denied class certification, finding that need for injunctive or declaratory relief had
become moot and determining that “[a]ny individual damages claims in this case will be
at best difficult and perhaps impossible or inappropriate to resolve on a class-wide basis.”
Dkt. 127. We also dismissed the official-capacity claims brought against Judge Jerome
Jacobi as moot, given that the Clark County Drug Treatment Court had officially ended
operations in June 2015 and because Judge Jacobi had entered into an agreement with the
Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualification confirming that he was no longer serving
in any judicial capacity and that he would not seek nor accept judicial office at any time
in the future. Dkt. 158.
Since that time, we have issued separate orders assessing the legal sufficiency of
the claims of Plaintiffs Lee Spaulding, dkt. 164, James Bennett, dkt. 266, and Jesse Hash,
dkt. 267, each of whom alleged constitutional deprivations arising from factual
circumstances that were distinct and different from those of all other Plaintiffs in this
Currently pending before us are separate motions for summary judgment filed by
the Clark County Board of Commissioners [Docket No. 221], Clark County Chief
Probation Officer Henry Ford [Docket No. 218], Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden
[Docket No. 224], Clark County Drug Treatment Court Case Manager Josh Seybold
[Docket No. 230], Director of the Clark County Drug Treatment Court Program Susan
Knoebel [Docket No. 225], and Clark Circuit Court 2 Bailiff Jeremy Snelling [Docket
No. 225]. Although each of these motions embraces issues unique to the particular
named Defendant, all of them also involve a common question: can the State of Indiana
or Clark County be held accountable for the alleged constitutional deprivations allegedly
caused by the Clark County Drug Treatment Court and its staff?
Plaintiffs have named Defendants Danny Rodden, Henry Ford, Josh Seybold,
Susan Knoebel, and Jeremy Snelling in both their individual and official capacities. In
addition, they have named the Clark County Board of Commissioners as an officialcapacity Defendant. As previously noted in the course of this litigation, individualcapacity claims “seek to impose individual liability upon a government officer for actions
taken under color of state law,” Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25 (1991), whereas officialcapacity claims seek to impose liability on the governmental entity for whom the officer
works, Brandom v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471 (1985).
This distinction between individual-capacity and official-capacity liability for
Plaintiffs’ harm involves differences with regard to causation as well. In this order, we
address only the official-capacity claims leveled against Defendants Clark County Board
of Commissioners, Henry Ford, Susan Knoebel, Jeremy Snelling, and Josh Seybold, as
challenged in their motions for summary judgment found at Docket Nos. 218, 221, 225,
This order does not address or otherwise resolve Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden’s motion for
summary judgment [Docket No. 224], which will be addressed in a separate entry. As explained
previously in this litigation, see dkt. 267, naming the Sheriff in his official capacity is the same as
bringing a suit against the Sheriff’s Department, which is an independent arm of local government subject
to suit for damages under Indiana law. See Burton v. Lacy, 2008 WL 18755, at *2 (S.D. Ind. 2008).
Summary judgment should be granted “if the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A “material fact” is one that “might affect the
outcome of the suit.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A
dispute is genuine only if a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party. Id. The
court views the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and all
reasonable inferences are drawn in the non-movant's favor. Ault v. Speicher, 634 F.3d
942, 945 (7th Cir. 2011).
Plaintiffs’ due process claims against Defendants Clark County Board of
Commissioners, Henry Ford, Susan Knoebel, Jeremy Snelling, and Josh Seybold arise
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 imposes liability on any “person” who, while
acting under color of state law, violates an individual’s federally protected rights. In
advancing such a claim, a plaintiff may sue a defendant in either his individual or official
capacity. Here, Plaintiffs have brought both official-capacity claims as well as
individual-capacity claims, but was we have previously mentioned, we are addressing
here only the official-capacity claims.
The Supreme Court recognized in Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985),
that a suit against an officer in his official capacity “generally represent[s] only another
way of pleading an action against [the] entity of which [the] officer is an agent.”
Accordingly, we must determine in the case before us for whom the named Defendants
were acting as agents with regard to the specific conduct underlying Plaintiffs’ claims.
Plaintiffs assert that “[t]he official[-]capacity claims against Defendants Clark
County Board of Commissioners, Henry Ford, Susan Knoebel, Jeremy Snelling, and Josh
Seybold all represent claims against Clark County. Clark County is liable to Plaintiffs for
the County’s widespread policies, customs, and deliberate acts that proximately caused
their constitutional deprivations.” Dkt. 271 at 2.
Plaintiffs’ contention that Clark County, as opposed to the State of Indiana, acted
as the principal in relation to these Defendants’ actions is not surprising, given that,
pursuant to the Supreme Court’s decision in Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Serv., 436 U.S. 658
(1985), local governments such as Clark County are considered “persons” under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, and therefore may be sued for damages, whereas the Supreme Court has
also held that a state “is not a person within the meaning of § 1983,” Will v. Michigan
Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 64 (1989), and therefore may only be sued for
prospective injunctive relief under Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908). See Mt.
Healthy Bd. of Ed. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 280 (1977) (“[T]he bar of the Eleventh
Amendment to suit in Federal courts extends to States and state officials in appropriate
circumstance…but does not extend to counties and similar municipal corporations.”).
However, as explained above, Plaintiffs’ requests for declaratory and injunctive
relief became moot when the Clark County Drug Treatment Court officially ended its
operations in June 2015. Plaintiffs may maintain these official-capacity suits seeking
monetary relief only if Defendants were agents of the County, as opposed to the State.
We conclude, after careful review, that Defendants Susan Knoebel, Jeremy
Snelling, and Josh Seybold, as employees of the Clark County Drug Treatment Court
acting in their official capacities, were agents of the State of Indiana, not Clark County.
Well-ensconced legal precedent establishes Indiana’s court system as an arm of the State
separate from other branches of city and county government such that judges, clerks of
court, prosecuting attorneys, and their staffs are not considered officers or agents of the
city or county government. See State ex rel. Pitman v. Tucker, 46 Ind. 355 (1874); State
ex rel. Gibson v. Friedley, 34 N.E. 872, 874 (Ind. 1893); State v. Patterson, 181 Ind. 660,
105 N.E. 228 (Ind. 1914); State ex rel. McClure v. Marion Superior Court, 158 N.E.2d
264 (Ind. 1959); Pruitt v. Kimbrough, 536 F. Supp. 764, 766 (N.D. Ind.), aff'd 705 F.2d
462 (7th Cir. 1982); Parsons v. Bourff, 739 F. Supp. 1266 (S.D. Ind. 1989); Sakelaris v.
Danikolas, 2007 WL 1832119, at *1 (N.D. Ind. June 22, 2007); Holland v. City of Gary,
2011 WL 6782101, at *3–4 (N.D. Ind. Dec. 27, 2011), aff'd, 533 F. App'x 661 (7th Cir.
2013); Lewis v. Zoeller, 2013 WL 2318564, at *3 (S.D. Ind. May 28, 2013). Accordingly,
the Seventh Circuit has consistently held that local governments are not liable under §
1983 for the acts of judges, clerks of court, prosecuting attorneys, or their staff, because
they are not final policymakers for those localities. Woods v. City of Michigan City, Ind.,
940 F.2d 275, 279 (7th Cir. 1991).
This legal principle extends to the Clark County Drug Treatment Court and its
staff. As provided in the Indiana Code, drug treatment courts are “problem solving
court(s)” which may be established by “a city or county court” to provide designated
services to “individuals over whom the court that established the problem solving court
has jurisdiction.” Ind. Code § 33-23-16-11, 12. Problem solving courts are overseen at
the state level by the Board of Directors for the Indiana Judicial Conference, which is
vested with authority to create and certify problem solving courts, ensure their
compliance with the rules adopted under the Indiana Code, and revoke such certification
upon a finding that a court is not acting in compliance with state and federal regulations.
Id. § 33-23-16-17. By statute, it is the establishing court, not the local county or city, that
is granted authority to “take steps necessary to carry out the functions of the problem
solving court, including the following: (1) Hiring employees as needed to perform the
required functions of the problem solving court. (2) Establishing policies and procedures
for the problem solving court. (3) Adopting local court rules as necessary for the problem
solving court.” Id. § 33-23-16-21.
Defendants Knoebel, Snelling, and Seybold were all hired by Judge Jacobi in his
capacity as Presiding Judge of the Clark County Drug Treatment Court to carry out the
functions of the problem solving court. Plaintiffs have offered no persuasive argument
that would take them outside the general rule. Plaintiffs have pinned their contention
only to the fact that each of these Defendants received his or her salary from the Clark
County treasury and each of them “considered” his or her employer to be Clark County.
Dkt. 271 at 3. This arguments falls well short of the mark. As explained in several
recent decisions, “‘Indiana law has long required that county government directly finance
the operation of the state trial court system,’ including ‘the entire salaries of support court
personnel. Despite this system of funding, it is without question that Indiana’s circuit,
superior and county courts are exclusively units of the judicial branch of the state’s
constitutional system and as such are not units of county government.’” Holland v. City
of Gary, 2011 WL 6782101, at *3–4 (N.D. Ind. Dec. 27, 2011), aff'd, 533 F. App'x 661
(7th Cir. 2013) (quoting J.A.W. v. State, 650 N.E.2d 1142, 1150–1151 (Ind. Ct. App.
1995)).3 Accordingly, Defendants Susan Knoebel, Jeremy Snelling, and Josh Seybold
are entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ claims against them in their officialcapacity, because those claims are effectively claims against the State, for which only
prospective injunctive relief is available, but which remedy has been rendered moot in
The same principles apply to Defendant Henry Ford, Clark County’s Chief
Probation Officer. See Moriarity v. Superior Court of Marion Cty., 2007 WL 1106135,
at *2 (S.D. Ind. Apr. 11, 2007) (“Because the probation office ‘is an arm of the court, it
like the court itself is a state entity and therefore not a person under § 1983.’”) (quoting
J.A.W., 650 N.E.2d at1150–51 (Ind. Ct. App. 1995)). That said, we note that the lack of
Plaintiffs’ citations to Knoebel v. Clark Cty. Superior Court No. 1, 901 N.E.2d 529 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009)
and Vavasseur v. Indiana, 2009 WL 2512419 (S.D. Ind. Aug. 17, 2009) do no more than confirm the fact
that, while probation officers and other court personnel serve at the pleasure of the state’s superior and
circuit courts, Indiana law requires that the funds for their salaries are to be paid out of the county
evidence establishing a connection between Defendant Ford and the Drug Treatment
Court or its participants, much less evidence establishing that he exercised any
policymaking authority over the Drug Court or its program, dooms the claims against
him. Thus, even if Ford were considered a County employee, he would not be subject to
suit in this action. See Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 483–84 (1988)
(“municipal liability under § 1983 attaches where, and only where, a deliberate choice to
follow a course of action is made ... by the official ... responsible for establishing final
This leaves for analysis the official-capacity claims brought against the Clark
County Board of Commissioners. Plaintiffs maintain that the Commissioners were
vested with final policymaking authority over the Drug Treatment Court, its program, and
its agents. “Whether an official had final policymaking authority is a question of state
law.” City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 123 (1988) (citing Pembaur, 475
U.S. at 483). And state law “will always direct a court to some official or body that has
the responsibility for making law or setting policy in a given area of a local government’s
business.” Id. at 125.
The Indiana Code provides such guidance here, making clear that the Clark Circuit
Court, a component of the judicial branch of the State that exists independently from
Clark County government, was granted the statutory authority to hire employees,
establish policies and procedures, and adopt local court rules as necessary to carry out the
functions of the Drug Treatment Court. Ind. Code § 33-23-16-21. Moreover, it was the
Board of Directors for the Indiana Judicial Conference, not the Board of Commissioners
for Clark County, in whom authority was vested to certify, inspect, and revoke
certification of the Clark County Drug Treatment Court. Id. § 33-23-16-17.
Accordingly, given the absence of any evidence in the record to show that
Defendants Henry Ford or the Clark County Board of Commissioners possessed any
policymaking authority over the Clark County Drug Treatment Court or its agents and
participants, these Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on all claims against
them in this action. 4 See Holland v. City of Gary, 533 F. App'x 661, 662 (7th Cir. 2013)
(affirming the district court’s decision that “[t]he Board of Commissioners was entitled to
summary judgment because it neither controlled the County Sheriff nor was responsible
for conditions at Lake County Jail and therefore could not be liable for any deprivation of
Holland's rights resulting from his detention.”).
For the reasons detailed above, the motions for summary judgment filed by Clark
County Board of Commissioners [Docket No. 221] and Henry Ford [Docket No. 218],
are GRANTED in full. The motions for summary judgment filed by Josh Seybold
[Docket No. 230], Susan Knoebel [Docket No. 225], and Jeremy Snelling [Docket No.
We note that Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint contains allegations against Defendant Ford in
both his individual and official capacity. However, in responding to Ford’s motion for summary
judgment, dkt. 218, Plaintiffs abandoned any individual-capacity claims against him, relying only on his
alleged supervisory role over Defendant Knoebel in her capacity as a probation officer in their attempt to
establish municipal liability under Monell. See Dkt. 271.
225] are GRANTED in part to the extent they relate to claims against them in their
IT IS SO ORDERED.
SARAH EVANS BARKER, JUDGE
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
Jonathan Paul Nagy
INDIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL
James Michael Bolus, Jr.
JAMES M. BOLUS, JR. P.S.C.
R. Jeffrey Lowe
KIGHTLINGER & GRAY, LLP-New Albany
Whitney Elizabeth Wood
KIGHTLINGER & GRAY, LLP-New Albany
Elizabeth A. Knight
KNIGHT HOPPE KURNIK & KNIGHT LTD (Schererville)
Joseph W. Smith
KNIGHT HOPPE KURNIK & KNIGHT LTD (Schererville)
Brian P. Butler
LAW OFFICE OF BRIAN BUTLER
Michael A. Augustus
MICHAEL A. AUGUSTUS, PSC
David A. Arthur
OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
SOERGEL LAW OFFICE PLLC
James S. Stephenson
STEPHENSON MOROW & SEMLER
Rosemary L. Borek
STEPHENSON MOROW & SEMLER
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