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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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