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Split court reverses dismissal of complaint against probation officers

December 22, 2015

The Indiana Supreme Court decided 3-2 Tuesday to reverse the dismissal of a man’s claims arising out of his incarceration for a probation violation that allegedly occurred after his term of probation had expired.

In a per curiam decision, Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justices Steven David and Robert Rucker voted to grant transfer to Randy Thornton’s appeal. He argued to the Supreme Court that his claim against four probation officers under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 was improperly dismissed.

The trial court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, arguing Thornton failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because his claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The Court of Appeals affirmed, but sua sponte determined that Thornton failed to state a claim against the defendants, even assuming his claims were timely filed.

“Among other things, Thornton’s complaint alleged the Defendants, Marion County probation officials, took actions which constituted “unconstitutional deprivations of liberty and violations of due process,’” the opinion states. “Thornton’s complaint stated a claim for relief under § 1983.”

In granting transfer and reversing, the justices expressed no opinion on the merits of Thornton’s claim. They summarily affirmed the COA decision in all other respects.

Justices Brent Dickson and Mark Massa dissented without opinion. The case is Randy L. Thornton v. State of Indiana, Ind. Dept. of Corr., Marion Co., Indiana, City of Indianapolis, Matthew Pietrzak, Stephanie Buttz, Eric Lee, and Dianna Johnson, 49S02-1512-PL-709.
 

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