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Inmate’s suit alleging 8th Amendment violation allowed to continue

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A federal judge was incorrect in dismissing an inmate’s lawsuit alleging Eighth Amendment violations by prison staff who ignored his abdominal pain for months until the inmate was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

Danny Richards began complaining in January 2008 about pain and blood in his stool; prison physicians said he was fine. In October 2008, Richards was sent to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. At that point, there was nothing doctors could do but remove his colon and construct an ileo-anal pouch.

Richards sued prison medical staff in December 2010, citing their indifference to his serious medical condition. The District Court dismissed the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) following a motion by the defendants, ruling the lawsuit untimely.

This was wrong, the 7th Circuit ruled, because Indiana requires the judiciary to toll the time limits for incapacitated persons. Richards claimed that he did not file the suit within the applicable statute of limitations because the three surgeries he had disabled him for extended periods of times, that when he was out of the hospital he was in constant pain and unable to walk, and only filed the suit when he had the energy to do so.

These allegations may not be true, but they are plausible, and no more is required of a pleading, Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote. A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) tests whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted; his complaint does that so it can’t properly be dismissed under that rule, Easterbrook continued.

The suit also couldn’t have been dismissed under Rule 12(c), he pointed out. The federal judge rejected Richards’ plead of incapacity, only saying his reasons for delay are “unpersuasive.” But a judge can’t reject a complaint’s plausible allegations by calling them unpersuasive, Easterbrook said. Only a trier of fact can do that, after a trial.

This case has not reached the point where Richards’ allegations of physical incapacity are put to the test. Once he has an opportunity to produce evidence material to the tolling question, its sufficiency under Indiana law can be tested by a motion for summary judgment, the court held. Easterbrook also wrote that before proceeding further, the District Court should consider carefully “whether to assist Richards in finding a lawyer who can muster the facts and, if necessary, secure medical experts.”

 

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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