Prisoner’s puzzling pro se appeal again leads to dismissal

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Deficiencies in a pro se prisoner’s appellate filings have once again prevented the Indiana Court of Appeals from considering the man’s argument against an unfavorable trial court judgment.

In Kevin L. Martin v. Richard Brown, et al., 19A-PL-550, Wabash Valley Correctional Facility inmate Kevin Martin filed a pro se complaint against warden Richard Brown, law library supervisor B. Hinton, caseworker J. Meek and mailroom supervisor Makenzy Gilbert. Martin alleged violations of 42 U.S.C. §1983 and his First and 14th Amendment rights stemming from an incident involving the delivery of his legal mail.

The complaint was initially filed in November 2018, and in February 2019 the defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing the inmate had not stated a claim for which relief could be granted. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion and dismissed the complaint with prejudice, writing Martin “has not plead (sic) any actual harm related to his claim of First Amendment denial of access to the Courts, nor has he plead (sic) any facts in support of his claim of a due process violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld that judgment Wednesday. Writing for the unanimous appellate panel, Judge Melissa May initially noted that Martin has filed multiple pro se appeals, and his failure to follow the Indiana Appellate Rules has led to either the dismissal or his appeal or an affirmation of the trial court’s dismissal of his complaint.

“We are unable to consider Martin’s current appeal for similar reasons,” May wrote Wednesday.

The appellate judge said Martin’s “most egregious” violations of the Rules of Appellate Procedure came via his violations of Rules 46 and 50. Pointing specifically to Rule 46(A)(8)(a)-(b), the panel said “it is extremely difficult, as it evidently was at the trial court level, to ascertain Martin’s argument and, thus, we are unable to address it.”

“In addition,” May said, “Martin’s failure to include a ‘Statement of Case’ or a ‘Statement of Facts’ as required by Indiana Appellate Rules 46(A)(5) and (6), respectively, has impeded our ability to discern the circumstances underlying his complaint against Defendants.”

Turning to Appellate Rule 50(A)(2), May said Martin’s appendix was missing the chronological case summary, appealed order, a copy of his complaint and all the documents he filed at the trial court. “While failure to file an adequate appendix does not necessarily result in waiver of an issue,” May wrote, “… Martin’s failure to provide a complete an accurate appendix from which we are able to discern the trial court proceedings hindered our review of his appeal.”

In a footnote, May acknowledged that in the recent decision in Kevin Martin v. Hon. Hugh Hunt, et al., 18A-CT-2595, the court acknowledged changes to Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 2.2 that allow judges to “(c)onstrue pleadings to facilitate the consideration of issues raised” in cases involving pro se litigants. But, as in Martin’s previous case, his current violations of appellate rules “substantially impedes” the COA’s review of his case.

“We are unable to address Martin’s arguments regarding the trial court’s grant of Defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings and dismissal of Martin’s complaint with prejudice because he has failed to comply with several Rules of Appellate Procedure,” May wrote. “Accordingly, we affirm the decision of the trial court.”

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