ILNews

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. 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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