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Monday, April 25, 2016

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decided two Indiana cases late today, one a reversal

In Angel Houston v. C.G. Security Services, Inc. (SD Ind., Lawrence), an 8-page opinion, Judge Flaum writes:

This appeal arises out of a lawsuit brought by plaintiff‐appellee Angel Houston, who sustained injuries from a fall during a New Year’s Eve party at a Hyatt hotel in Indianapolis. Defendant‐appellant C.G. Security Services, Inc. (“C.G.”) provided security personnel for the party. During litigation, Houston filed several motions for sanctions against C.G. The district court referred the matter to a magistrate judge, who issued a report and recommendation regarding sanctions against C.G. for discovery violations. The district court adopted the magistrate judge’s report and recommendation to impose sanctions.

C.G. appeals. Specifically, C.G. claims that the district court abused its discretion by adopting the report and recommendation, as well as by awarding Houston’s counsel attorney’s fees. We conclude that there was no abuse of discretion and affirm the judgment of the district court.

In Brian Herron v. Douglas Meyer (SD Ind., Magnus-Stinson), a prisoner appeal, Judge Easterbrook writes:

In this Bivens suit, Brian Herron, a disabled federal prisoner, accuses guard Douglas Meyer of transferring him to a cell that the guard knew was likely to cause him injury. Meyer did this, Herron alleges, because he disliked the fact that Herron had filed grievances and had refused to share a cell with an inmate who he thought endangered him. Herron maintains that Meyer violated the First and Eighth Amendments. The district court dismissed the First Amendment theory and held that the guard is entitled to qualified immunity on the Eighth Amendment theory. 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20865 (S.D. Ind. Feb. 20, 2014) at *7–9 (First Amendment); 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28263 (S.D. Ind. Mar. 9, 2015) (Eighth Amendment). * * *

If Meyer set out to punish Herron for his grievances, then a price has been attached to speech. The district court thought otherwise in part because Herron had not attached his grievances to the complaint, but that was not necessary; a complaint narrates a claim and need not supply the proof. That comes later. Pratt v. Tarr, 464 F.3d 730, 732–33 (7th Cir. 2006). And if, as we doubt, an amendment to the complaint was required, the district court should have allowed it rather than dismissing the claim. See, e.g., Runnion v. Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago, 786 F.3d 510, 519–23 (7th Cir. 2015).

Whether a penalty has been attached to protected speech is potentially more difficult. Many decisions assume that essentially everything a prisoner says in the grievance sys tem—if not everything a prisoner says to a guard—is pro tected by the First Amendment. See, e.g., DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607, 618 (7th Cir. 2000); Pearson v. Welborn, 471 F.3d 732, 741 (7th Cir. 2006). These decisions do not discuss a par allel line of cases about grievances that public workers make about the conditions of their employment. That line of cases attempts to distinguish statements on topics of public im portance (protected) from personal gripes (unprotected) and statements that disrupt the workplace (also unprotected). Compare Connick v. Myers, 461 U.S. 138 (1983), with Rankin v. McPherson, 483 U.S. 378 (1987); see Pickering v. Board of Ed ucation, 391 U.S. 563 (1968). The decisions in the prison-­‐‑ grievance line do not explain why the First Amendment of-­‐‑ fers greater protection to prisoners than to public employees. We do not get into that here, because the subject has not been addressed in the briefs. It is enough to flag the subject as worth attention, either in some future litigation or in this case if, contrary to our expectations, the First Amendment theory turns out to matter.

The judgment of the district court is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 25, 2016 07:41 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions