ILNews

Court of Appeals again denies prisoner's suit

Rebecca Berfanger
January 1, 2007
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Yet another one of Westville prisoner Eric Smith's lawsuits has made its way to the Court of Appeals.

In an opinion released today, Eric Smith v. Indiana Department of Correction, et al., 46A03-0607-CV-327, the Court of Appeals affirms the trial court's decision of case 46D03-0410-CT-365.

Pro se, Smith filed the complaint against the Department of Correction and numerous individual employees regarding the grant of the Department of Corrections motion for judgment on the pleadings, the denial of Smith's request for appointment of counsel, the denial of his request to amend his complaint, and the denial of his motion to compel discovery.

According to the online Indiana Appellate Court docket, Smith has filed at least 22 suits making their way to appeals over the years. That doesn't include a Supreme Court decision appointing a special judge to consider one claim, and three criminal post-conviction decisions from appellate judges. The docket lists seven of Smith's cases for 2007.

Smith entered the state's prison system after being convicted of arson in 2001. He was found guilty of starting a fire in an apartment complex that left 12 families homeless and resulted in $2 million in damages. He was sentenced to 20 years.

The issues Smith introduced in this most recent case to make it to the Court of Appeals regarded an incident on June 18, 2004 - the same day he was incarcerated in the Maximum Control Facility in Westville - in which other prisoners attempted to flood the prison after they did not receive lunch.

When Smith saw feces and toilet paper in water that flooded into his cell, he kicked on the cell door to get the attention of prison officers. The officers told him they had been instructed to get Smith's tennis shoes, but he refused.

One of the guards had the cell extraction team come for Smith, and when he still refused, he was sprayed with mace and "mace pellets" that "caused his skin to break, bleed and bruise," according to the opinion.

On Oct. 28, 2004, Smith filed a complaint against the DOC alleging negligence and requested appointment of counsel. On Nov. 10, 2004, the trial court denied his request, finding it was unlikely that he would prevail on his claims.

The 19-page opinion continues to document further complaints and motions Smith has filed in trial court. The opinion also considers Smith's claim that the prison guards should not be shielded by the Indiana Tort Claims Act because Smith claimed the cell extraction team was not properly authorized, and therefore the officers were acting outside of the scope of their employment.

However, the Court of Appeals denied this claim, stating that "enforcing discipline and maintaining prison security is clearly within the prison officers' scope of employment. As such, Smith cannot prevail on his claim against the prison officers individually."

Indiana Lawyer reported about Smith's cases in the July 26-Aug. 8, 2006, edition.
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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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