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7th Circuit affirms inmate has no property interest in fund

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the decision in the Northern District of Indiana that an inmate has no property interest in prison recreation funds.

Inmate Sammie Booker-El filed a pro se suit against prison officials claiming they were misappropriating money from the inmates’ recreation fund. The money from this fund comes from sources outside of the state budget and officials can use the money to purchase recreational items or for a purpose not already covered under existing state appropriations. Booker-El’s suit claims that he has been denied his property interest in the fund without due process of the law.

The District Court ruled that because neither the Constitution nor United States laws mandated that state penal facilities maintain an inmates’ recreation fund or dictate how money in such funds be spent, Booker-El could only state a claim if Indiana law provided the inmates with a property interest in the fund. The District judged examined Indiana Code 4-24-6-6 and concluded that the statute did not give inmates a property interest in the fund. The case was dismissed.

The Indiana statute in question requires only that if prison officials decide to spend money from the fund, it must be spent for the direct benefit of prisoners. The statute doesn’t impose any obligation for officials to spend the money within a given period of time, and the statute also gives officials discretion to transfer a recreation fund from one institution to another without consulting any inmates, wrote Judge Michael Kanne.

“Therefore, prison officials were free to transfer the entirety of the inmates’ recreation fund at the Indiana State Prison to another institution at any time without notice. Given this discretion, Booker-El has no legitimate expectation to any benefit derived from the inmates’ recreation fund, and thus no protected property interest,” he wrote in Sammie L. Booker-El v. Superintendent, Indiana State Prison and all agents, No. 10-1490.

Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, of the Southern District of Indiana, sat by designation on this case.

 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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