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Case Name Vermillion v. Levenhagen PC-IN-0025
Docket / Court 1:15-cv-00605-RLY-TAB ( S.D. Ind. )
Additional Docket(s) 3:11-cv-00280  [ 11-280 ]  Northern District of IN (U.S.)
State/Territory Indiana
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Solitary confinement
Attorney Organization MacArthur Justice Center
Case Summary
On July 12, 2011, the plaintiff, an inmate subjected to long-term solitary confinement, filed an initial pro se complaint against various officials at the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) in the District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. He sought relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983, 42 U ... read more >
On July 12, 2011, the plaintiff, an inmate subjected to long-term solitary confinement, filed an initial pro se complaint against various officials at the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) in the District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. He sought relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983, 42 U.S.C. 1985 (2,3), and 42 U.S.C. 1986 for violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights forbidding cruel and unusual punishment and violating his substantive due process rights. The plaintiff sought declaratory judgment, compensatory damages, and punitive damages.

Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen struck the plaintiff's initial complaint on October 21, 2011 (2011 WL 13365780) because it brought a single suit against separate claims that occurred in different IDOC facilities. The plaintiff filed an amended complaint in response on November 16, but Judge Van Bokkelen struck this complaint on similar grounds on February 2, 2012.

The plaintiff's second amended complaint, which Judge Van Bokkelen eventually allowed in part, was filed on March 7, 2012. This complaint alleged that staff at the Michigan City, Indiana State Prison unlawfully moved him to an isolation unit at that prison after the plaintiff refused to answer questions regarding an escape of inmates with whom the plaintiff socialized regularly. The plaintiff alleged that he did not participate in the escape, and that this punitive conduct violated his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. He next wrote that, because of this non-cooperation, the staff conspired to transfer him to the Westville Control Unit (WCU), a Supermax isolation facility, where he stayed for over 900 days and continued to be held. He described difficult conditions in the WCU, including extreme cold, lack of access to religious services and outside contact, and unlawful searches of his mail; this tied into state law tort claims for taking his possessions while in prison. He alleged that WCU staff refused to reconsider his detention at the facility, despite 30-day review plans.

In a May 8, 2012 order (2012 WL 13189032), Judge Van Bokkelen issued an order on the new complaint, saying that it still involved multiple defendants across multiple prisons. He dismissed conspiracy claims against the defendants involved in his transfer, saying that he did not sufficiently plead facts surrounding their motivations and could only speculate on the existence of a conspiracy. However, he allowed claims to proceed against Michigan City prison staff that arranged the transfer to the WCU without allowing the plaintiff to defend himself, saying that this may be a violation of his due process rights.

Discovery on the remaining claim began. On October 7, 2013, the defendants moved for summary judgment on the claim, asserting an affirmative defense that the plaintiff did not exhaust all administrative avenues available to him before going to the court system. Judge Van Bokkelen approved this motion on March 19, 2014 (2014 WL 1116888), stating that, even though the plaintiff never received written notice of his transfer, he had an opportunity to contest the transfer within ten days of arriving at the new facility. Judge Van Bokkelen dismissed the case.

The plaintiff appealed the judgment on June 16, 2014. On March 5, 2015, a Seventh Circuit panel composed of Chief Judge Diane Wood and Judges Ilana Rovner and Diane Sykes vacated the District Court's judgment and remanded it for further review (604 Fed.Appx. 508). They wrote that the IDOC's manual stipulates that the inmate must file an appeal only after receiving a classification decision, which he never received. The Seventh Circuit added that more defendants could be added to his complaint, saying that the plaintiff plausibly described a conspiracy after he invoked his Fifth Amendment right to end questioning. The Circuit panel noted that the District Court improperly dismissed the state law tort claims as well. The panel recommended that this case move to the Southern District of Indiana, since the plaintiff is now housed in a facility there. The case was transferred the following day.

The plaintiff, now represented by pro bono counsel from private law firms and the Macarthur Justice Center, filed a final amended complaint on May 8, 2015. This complaint reiterated the allegations that the plaintiff was unfairly incarcerated in a separate lockdown facility after refusing to answer questions regarding the break-out, transferred to the WCU after inadequate process, and continued to be held there and denied access to basic necessities after insufficient review.

Discovery began on this complaint in the Southern District, and the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on January 26, 2018. On May 22, 2018, Judge Richard Young, now presiding over this case, granted the motion in part and denied it in part. Judge Young dismissed the conspiracy claim to separate the plaintiff before transfer to the WCU, saying that the decision to separate him was based not on his willingness to answer questions, but to separate him pending an internal affairs investigation into the jailbreak situation, which was a reasonable separation. He also granted the motion regarding mail, saying that prisons have the right to inspect mail to ensure it doesn't contain contraband. He partially removed due process claims for his expedited transfer to WCU, removing certain defendants that played less of a role in the transfer, but maintaining the claim in regards to other defendants. The Judge completely upheld the cruel and unusual punishment claim for detention in WCU, saying that the plaintiff's continued detention there was not justified by continued disciplinary infractions.

After this motion was filed, the parties transitioned to settlement negotiations. On October 18, 2019, the parties came to a settlement agreement. The judge dismissed the case at this point, and no other docket activity is present. The terms of the settlement agreement were not in the docket, but press reports detailed that the state agreed to pay $425,000 to the plaintiff, $100,000 for each year he was in solitary confinement.

Ellen Aldin - 05/28/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Administrative segregation
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Disciplinary procedures
Disciplinary segregation
Mail
Sanitation / living conditions
Totality of conditions
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
State law
Defendant(s) Indiana Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Prisoner in Indiana correctional system subjected to long-term solitary confinement
Indexed Lawyer Organizations MacArthur Justice Center
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Damages
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Filed 07/12/2011
Case Closing Year 2019
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Docket(s)
1:15-cv-00605-RLY-TAB (S.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0025-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/21/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Opinion and Order [ECF# 8] (2011 WL 13365780) (N.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0025-0018.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 10/21/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order [ECF# 13] (N.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0025-0019.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/02/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Prisoner Complaint [ECF# 14]
PC-IN-0025-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/07/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Prisoner Complaint [ECF# 14]
PC-IN-0025-0020.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/07/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 17] (2012 WL 13189032) (N.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0025-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/08/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 33] (2012 WL 13189033) (N.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0025-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 11/05/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order [ECF# 63] (2014 WL 1116888) (N.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0025-0008.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/19/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 43] (604 Fed.Appx. 508)
PC-IN-0025-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/05/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiff's Third Amended Prisoner's Civil Rights Complaint Under Title 42 U.S.C. & 1983 [ECF# 96]
PC-IN-0025-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/08/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiff's Third Amended Prisoner's Civil Rights Complaint [ECF# 96]
PC-IN-0025-0023.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/08/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Entry Discussing Third Amended Complaint and Directing Further Proceedings [ECF# 97] (S.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0025-0024.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/22/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Entry Discussing Partial Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF# 214] (2018 WL 2321112) (S.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0025-0010.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/22/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Expert Report of Dan Pacholke
PC-IN-0025-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/31/2019
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Entry Denying Motion for Leave to File Fourth Amended Complaint [ECF# 294] (2019 WL 7561168) (S.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0025-0013.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/26/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Oral and Videotaped Deposition of Dr. Robert Morgan
PC-IN-0025-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/21/2019
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Brief in Support of Plaintiff's Motion to Exclude Expert Witness Robert Morgan from Testifying [ECF# 312]
PC-IN-0025-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/21/2019
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Exhibit 1 Dr. Morgan Report; Exhibit 10 Morgan et al., "Quantitative Syntheses of the Effects of Administrative Segregation on Inmates' Well-Being" [ECF# 312-1;312-10]
PC-IN-0025-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/21/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Exhibit 11 Craig Haney, "The Psychological Effects of Solitary Confinement"; Exhibit 20 Zinger et al., "The Psychological Effects of 60 Days in Administrative Segregation" [ECF# 312-11;312-20]
PC-IN-0025-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/21/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Exhibit 21 Walters et al, "Effect of Solitary Confinement on Prisoners"; Exhibit 25 Heigel et al., "Self-Reported Physical Health of Inmates" [ECF# 312-21;312-25]
PC-IN-0025-0017.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/21/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Motion to Exclude the Testimony of Plaintiff's Expert Witnesses [ECF# 313]
PC-IN-0025-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/21/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Release and Settlement Agreement
PC-IN-0025-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/15/2019
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Joint Stipulation of Dismissal with Prejudice [ECF# 340]
PC-IN-0025-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/18/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Indiana Will Pay Inmate $100K For Each Year He Spent In Solitary, Lawyers Say
PC-IN-0025-0025.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/10/2019
show all people docs
Judges Baker, Tim A. (S.D. Ind.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-IN-0025-9000
Rovner, Ilana Kara Diamond (N.D. Ill., Seventh Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0025-0004
Sykes, Diane S. (Seventh Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0025-0004
Van Bokkelen, Joseph S. (N.D. Ind.) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0025-0006 | PC-IN-0025-0007 | PC-IN-0025-0008 | PC-IN-0025-0018 | PC-IN-0025-0019
Wood, Diane Pamela (Seventh Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0025-0004
Young, Richard L. (S.D. Ind.) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0025-0010 | PC-IN-0025-0013 | PC-IN-0025-0024 | PC-IN-0025-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bowman, Locke E. III (Illinois) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0025-0013 | PC-IN-0025-9000
Filler, Maggie E (Illinois) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0025-0002 | PC-IN-0025-0003 | PC-IN-0025-0005 | PC-IN-0025-0013 | PC-IN-0025-0014 | PC-IN-0025-9000
Johnson, Melinda K (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0025-0013 | PC-IN-0025-9000
Morical, Alice McKenzie (Indiana) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0025-0013 | PC-IN-0025-9000
Underwood, Matthew B (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0025-0013 | PC-IN-0025-9000
Wagner, Christopher D (Indiana) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0025-0013 | PC-IN-0025-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Dickmeyer, David C (Indiana) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0025-0003 | PC-IN-0025-0005 | PC-IN-0025-0010 | PC-IN-0025-0012 | PC-IN-0025-0013 | PC-IN-0025-0014 | PC-IN-0025-9000
Guillory, Ryan J (Indiana) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0025-0003 | PC-IN-0025-0013 | PC-IN-0025-9000
Hancock, Marley Genele (Indiana) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0025-9000
Hill, Curtis T. Jr. (Indiana) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0025-0012 | PC-IN-0025-0014
Jones, Benjamin Myron Lane (Indiana) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0025-0010 | PC-IN-0025-0013
Nagy, Jonathan Paul (Indiana) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0025-0013 | PC-IN-0025-9000
Wells, Destiny Reve Scott (Indiana) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0025-0013 | PC-IN-0025-9000

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