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COA affirms man not falsely arrested, imprisoned

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The Indiana Court of Appeals declined to address whether a pro se prisoner is “incapacitated” for purposes of the Indiana Tort Claims Act in a man’s appeal of his suit involving false arrest and false imprisonment.

Bruce Fox filed a suit against several entities, including West Central Community Corrections, for false arrest, false imprisonment, and violation of rights under the state and federal constitutions. In 1997, Fox was arrested for child molestation and possession of marijuana. He pleaded guilty to the drug charge and was sentenced to probation. He violated his probation and was committed to the WCCC to administer 269 days of home detention, which he began in February 1998. In March of that year, he was found guilty of the child molesting charges and committed to the Indiana Department of Correction.

When he was released in 2004, Fox was sent to the WCCC pursuant to a hold on his record. Fox believed his home detention sentence had run and he completed his required imprisonment. No one at the WCCC could answer why Fox was in their custody and he was eventually transferred to jail. He was finally released Nov. 4, 2004. He filed his tort claims notice May 3, 2005, which was 180 days from his release. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of WCCC after concluding the notice was filed beyond the 180-day period required under the Indiana Tort Claims Act.

In Bruce R. Fox v. Dennis Rice and West Central Community Corrections, No. 54A01-1003-PL-97, Fox argued that the 180-day period didn’t begin to toll on July 15, 2004, the date he allegedly was unlawfully imprisoned, but should start when he was released Nov. 4. The Court of Appeals rejected Fox’s arguments. The doctrine of continuing wrong doesn’t prevent the statute of limitations from beginning to run when a plaintiff learns of facts that would lead to the discovery of the cause of action, even if the relationship with the tortfeasor continues, wrote Judge Margret Robb. The application of this doctrine is prohibited because Fox suspected a mistake and the repeated comments that the WCCC didn’t know why he was there should have led to Fox discovering his claims.     

Fox argued that he was “incapacitated” under the ITCA because he was without realistic access to civil attorneys to discuss his potential civil claims.

“Lack of ‘realistic access’ to an attorney is insufficient to render Fox incapacitated,” wrote Judge Robb. She noted that the appellate court didn’t directly address the issue of whether a pro se prisoner is “incapacitated” in McGill v. Ind. Dept. of Correction, 636 N.E.2d 199, 204 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994). “However, for us to address this issue and conclude in the affirmative would create the problematic incentive for prisoners to forego legal counsel. Further, and more importantly, we lack authority to legislate that pro se prisoners are per se ‘incapacitated’; this is a question for the General Assembly.”

The appellate judges also affirmed summary judgment in favor of WCCC on Fox’s false imprisonment claim because his federal claim didn’t contain a genuine issue of material fact.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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