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Prisoner litigant's case deemed frivolous

December 24, 2008

One of Indiana's most well-known pro se prisoner litigants continues to be a subject for the state's appellate courts.

In a memorandum decision today in Eric D. Smith v. William K. Wilson, et al., No 46A03-0808-CV-432, the court focused on whether LaPorte Superior Judge Paul Baldoni properly concluded that Smith's civil complaint against some Department of Correct employees was subject to summary dismissal under Indiana's "Frivolous Claim Law" for pro se prisoner litigants.

Smith alleged the DOC employees had wrongfully confiscated mail order items he'd bought, violated his freedom of religion rights by not delivering a Wiccan pentagram necklace he'd ordered, and that prison officials were retaliating against him for frequently filing lawsuits and successfully overturning the state's "Three Strikes Law" aimed at curtailing pro se prisoner litigation.

Convicted of arson in 2001, Smith is serving a 20-year sentence at the Westville Correctional Facility and has filed dozens of suits through the years. One of those, Eric D. Smith v. Indiana Department of Correction, et al., No. 49S02-0804-CV-166, resulted in the Indiana Supreme Court finding the four-year-old state statute unconstitutional because it effectively closed the door on some prisoners and their ability to file legitimate claims.

But this case was reviewed under the similar Frivolous Claim Law, and the appellate judges agreed that it was properly dismissed. The panel rejected Smith's claims in this suit because prison officials allowed him to receive part of an order, and that it would be illogical to believe those officials would have permitted him to receive part of it if they intended to retaliate against him.

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