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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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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