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Inmate loses 3 appeals

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Eric D. Smith, the New Castle inmate with the propensity for filing pro se suits, lost three appeals today with the Indiana Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of a mailroom worker and the final reviewing authority officer for offender grievances in Eric D. Smith v. Jill Matthews and Linda Vannatta, No. 33A04-0903-CV-155. Smith alleged his constitutional rights were violated when books he requested on anarchy were confiscated and destroyed before he got them. Jill Matthews, the mailroom worker, placed them in a box for review by prison officials. Another official made the decision to destroy them. Linda Vannatta affirmed the confiscation, and Smith alleged she was deliberately indifferent to his claims. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Matthews and granted Vannatta's motion for judgment on the pleadings.

"Even if Smith's First Amendment rights were violated - and we do not mean to imply that they were - Matthews could not be liable for such a violation, because she had no authority to determine the materials were prohibited or to order their destruction," wrote Judge Margret Robb.

Smith's due process claim against Vannatta doesn't have merit because the United States' Constitution doesn't require a jail have grievance procedures and doesn't protect state-created inmate grievance procedures. Even if Smith's allegations are true, he failed to state a claim for which 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 provides a remedy, wrote the judge. Smith has an administrative remedy for wrongful deprivation of property in Indiana Code Section 34-13-3-7.

Smith also lost in his appeal of a 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 complaint alleging Eighth and 14th amendment violations following the use of tear gas by the Department of Correction in the unit where he was housed after some inmates started a fire. He claimed it caused him pain and suffering. The Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of his complaint pursuant to I.C. Section 35-58-1-2 in Smith v. Stanley Knight, et al., No. 48A02-0902-CV-124. His complaint had no arguable basis in law or fact, wrote Judge Carr Darden.

The appellate court also affirmed the dismissal of Smith's complaint against the DOC commissioner and employees of the GEO Group, Inc., which operates and manages the New Castle Facility, in Smith v. J. David Donahue, et al., No. 33A01-0812-CV-607. In this complaint, Smith alleged violations of his First and 14th amendment rights when he was denied adequate use of the law library, assistance from a legal assistant, and that he had been prevented from posting mail and was treated differently than other inmates.

In April 2008, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled the state's 2004 "Three Strikes Law" violated the Indiana Constitution's Open Courts Clause based on an appeal by Smith of one of his suits against the Department of Correction.

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  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

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