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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ind. Decisions - "Lawsuit against Tippecanoe County sheriff to proceed"

Olson v. Brown, a 7th Circuit opinion issued Feb. 4, 2010 (see ILB summary here) , is the subject of a story today in the Lafayette Journal Courier, reported by Sophia Voravong, and headed "Lawsuit against sheriff to proceed." Some quotes:

A former Tippecanoe County Jail inmate who claimed staff repeatedly violated his civil rights can proceed with a lawsuit against Sheriff Tracy Brown, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The complaint, filed by Jeffrey M. Olson, was dismissed in June by U.S. District Court Judge Allen Sharp after Olson was transferred to the Indiana Department of Correction.

Sharp's ruling was reversed Feb. 4 by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. That's partly because Olson, 40, had sought class certification -- meaning other inmates could join the complaint -- before the lawsuit was dismissed.

" ... (I)n this case the constant existence of a class of persons suffering the deprivation is certain," Circuit Judge Joel Flaum wrote.

"The attorney representing the named respondents is a public defender, and we can safely assume that he has other clients with a continuing live interest in this case."

Olson's attorney is Gavin Rose with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

When the lawsuit was filed in January 2009, Olson was serving a 10-year prison sentence for fraud on a financial institution and being a habitual offender at the Tippecanoe County Jail.

He was transferred from the jail to a Department of Correction facility about two weeks later.

The lawsuit outlined several complaints, including allegations that Olson's legal work for an unrelated civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Kentucky was taken and placed in storage.

Olson also alleged improper handling of and delayed response to complaints under the jail's grievance policy. The policy allows inmates to submit complaints without needing legal action. Jail staff has 15 days to respond to a grievance.

Rose said Olson will be allowed to stay on the lawsuit.

"It was important for us to continue pursuing this because Mr. Olson brought it to our attention that other inmates had identical issues," Rose said. " ... Opening of legal mail outside the presence of inmates is a violation of the First Amendment.

"It's important for us to continue with this lawsuit, if it is true."

Lafayette attorney Doug Masson is representing Brown, the Tippecanoe County sheriff. He said he is considering whether to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

If that is denied, the issue will go back to U.S. District Court.

"There are two things that are pending: their motion to have the class certified, which is up to the District Court, and the motion to dismiss, which Judge Sharp ruled moot," Masson said.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 13, 2010 06:29 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions