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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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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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