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Prisoner adequately stated First Amendment claim against DOC employees

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The Indiana Court of Appeals quickly affirmed the dismissal of most of a prisoner’s claims regarding violations under Indiana statute or the state and federal constitutions, but found her First Amendment retaliation claims against several Department of Correction employees should not have been dismissed by the trial court.

Natalie Medley brought her lawsuit against the DOC employees – some who worked at the Rockville Correctional facility and some who reviewed her grievances.

Medley’s visitation privileges were first modified to no-contact for six months after she was found to have violated prison rules by fleeing or resisting prison staff. The no-contact order was extended for another year after she was caught in the bathroom hugging another inmate in an allegedly sexual manner. The restrictions were imposed by a DOC rule – referred to a “three-strikes rule” –  that would permanently restrict certain visitation after the third offense of either fleeing from staff or engaging in sexual conduct.

After filing her grievances, Medley was transferred for several months to the Indiana Women’s Prison before returning to Rockville. Her visitation restrictions have since expired. Medley then brought her civil rights complaint, alleging violations of Indiana law and the state and federal constitutions, as well as that she was retaliated against for filing her grievances.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of all of Medley’s claims related to alleged violations of the Indiana Code and the Indiana Constitution. The trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction regarding the claims arising under I.C. 11-11-5-4 and 11-11-3-9.

The judges also affirmed the dismissal of Medley’s Due Process and Equal Protection claims under the United States Constitution, as well as her claim that the “three strikes” policy infringes upon her First Amendment “right of association.” She failed to state a claim that the policy, as applied to hers and others found to have committed sex-related offense, violates Article 1, Section 23 of the Indiana Constitution.

But they did allow her suit to continue regarding her claims of retaliation against the DOC employees at the Rockville facility.

“We conclude that if prison officials in fact decided to exercise their discretion so as to punish Medley more harshly by revoking her contact visitation privileges and to transfer her to IWP in retaliation for her protected activity and they would not have done so if she had not engaged in that activity, it would be sufficient to state a First Amendment retaliation claim,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote in Natalie Medley v. Bruce Lemmon, Julie Stout, Pam Ferguson, Stacey Milner, Sherry White, L.A. Vannatta, Mike Pavese, Virginia McCullough, 61A01-1209-PL-420.
 

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  1. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  2. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  3. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

  4. My dear Smith, I was beginning to fear, from your absense, that some Obrien of the Nanny State had you in Room 101. So glad to see you back and speaking truth to power, old chum.

  5. here is one from Reason magazine. these are not my words, but they are legitimate concerns. http://reason.com/blog/2010/03/03/fearmongering-at-the-splc quote: "The Southern Poverty Law Center, which would paint a box of Wheaties as an extremist threat if it thought that would help it raise funds, has issued a new "intelligence report" announcing that "an astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009, with the totals going from 149 groups (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) -- a 244% jump." To illustrate how dangerous these groups are, the Center cites some recent arrests of right-wing figures for planning or carrying out violent attacks. But it doesn't demonstrate that any of the arrestees were a part of the Patriot milieu, and indeed it includes some cases involving racist skinheads, who are another movement entirely. As far as the SPLC is concerned, though, skinheads and Birchers and Glenn Beck fans are all tied together in one big ball of scary. The group delights in finding tenuous ties between the tendencies it tracks, then describing its discoveries in as ominous a tone as possible." --- I wonder if all the republicans that belong to the ISBA would like to know who and why this outfit was called upon to receive such accolades. I remember when they were off calling Trent Lott a bigot too. Preposterous that this man was brought to an overwhelmingly republican state to speak. This is a nakedly partisan institution and it was a seriously bad choice.

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