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Case Name Isby-Israel v. Wynn PC-IN-0026
Docket / Court 2:12-cv-00116-JMS-MJD ( S.D. Ind. )
State/Territory Indiana
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Solitary confinement
Case Summary
On May 15, 2020, the plaintiffs, inmates at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, filed a complaint pro se in the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, claiming that their indefinite solitary detention in the Secure Housing Unit (SHU) violated their rights. They sued the Indiana ... read more >
On May 15, 2020, the plaintiffs, inmates at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, filed a complaint pro se in the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, claiming that their indefinite solitary detention in the Secure Housing Unit (SHU) violated their rights. They sued the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC), which runs the facility, under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. 2201. They sought declaratory judgment, a permanent injunction, a temporary restraining order, damages, and costs.

Specifically, they alleged that the defendants placed them in the SHU for over five years without committing an identifiable infraction, and stayed in the facility for indefinite periods. As a result, they claimed that they were denied access to the facility's exercise yard and law library, had their mail searched, and were denied in-person visitation with their families. In addition, they alleged that the guards at the facility hindered their ability to make this claim by forcing them into a burdensome grievance process that they claimed they worked within. They alleged that this led to intense emotional distress. They claimed that this treatment violated the Constitution's Eighth Amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment and the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection and substantive and procedural due process clause. In addition, the defendants invoked the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), saying that their treatment violated the basic rights laid out in these treaties.

The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on July 5. They added a First Amendment violation due to the guards' refusal to let the plaintiffs discuss their case or make their claims in court and a Sixth Amendment violation blocking access to legal counsel and the courts. After receipt of this amended complaint, Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson issued an order dismissing parts of the complaint without prejudice on September 10, 2012 (2012 WL 3966363, S.D.Ind.). She dismissed the claims relating to the grievance process, saying that the inmates' access to the process fulfilled the requirements for due process, and the international law claims, since treaty law alone does not create a cause of action in the United States. She also removed the extra plaintiffs from the suit. She allowed the Eighth Amendment and substantive due process claims related to indefinite detention to continue. The plaintiff submitted a statement of revised complaints reflecting the Judge's statement on September 24; this was treated as the complaint going forward.

The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's due process claims on September 23, 2014. After discovery, the plaintiff's disciplinary history showed a pattern of violent behavior and non-cooperation with prison staff, which Judge Magnus-Stinson showed to be sufficient to justify his stay in SHU in an entry granting summary judgment on the issue on June 24, 2014 (2014 WL 2866197, S.D.Ind.). Discovery also demonstrated that the facility regularly conducted administrative reviews every 30 days and reviews where the plaintiff could state his case every 90 days. Judge Magnus-Stinson said that this was more than the due process clause requires of inmates. The defendants did not seek summary judgment on the Eighth Amendment claim, and asked the plaintiff to show cause that the claim had not been abandoned, which he did on August 11, 2014.

The defendants never filed another summary judgment motion, and a bench trial on the Eighth Amendment issue occurred in July 2015. The plaintiff was now represented by counsel. On September 25, 2015 (2015 WL 5672702, S.D.Ind.), Judge Magnus-Stinson ruled in the defendants' favor, saying that, while she was concerned about the length of time the plaintiff was in solitary confinement, which now totaled over eight years, he has regularly been given avenues to get out of solitary confinement and chose not to take them. In addition, she ruled that the lighting, access to food and clothing, and communication with outside counsel did not violate the Eighth Amendment. The plaintiff moved to appeal on October 15, 2015.

On February 6, 2017, the defendants in the original trial moved to dismiss the appeal, noting that one of the plaintiff's separate appeals surrounding a refusal to provide him with Kosher meals was dismissed on February 3 and the facts in that case were nearly identical to this one. For the appeal, the plaintiff retained private counsel. In an opinion dated May 10, 2017 (856 F.3d 508, 7th Cir.), an appeals panel composed of Judges Diane Wood, Joel Flaum, and William Conley upheld the District Court's decision on the Eighth Amendment claim, reiterating Judge Magnus-Stinson's reasoning. However, the panel reversed and remanded Judge Magnus-Stinson's grant of summary judgment on the due process claim, noting that for a stay this long in the SHU, more process may be needed than brief statements on the outcomes of 30-day reviews.

Upon remand, a bench hearing with Judge Magnus-Stinson was set for September 24, 2018. On December 19, 2018, Judge Magnus-Stinson released an opinion ruling that the defendants violated the plaintiff's due process rights because the periodic reviews of his continued detention in SHU were "perfunctory" and continued to punish him for acts years ago instead of providing new offenses each time. She also noted a discrepancy in previous statements from the defendants; initially, during summary judgment motions, she was told that 30-day reviews are sufficient due process, but, during this hearing, the defendants claimed that the real reviews were the 90-day ones, which, theoretically, would allow the 30-day reviews to be surface-level. Judge Magnus-Stinson granted $314,000 in compensatory damages and a total of $22,500 in punitive damages spread across multiple defendant-employees in the IDOC.

In addition, she granted the plaintiff's claim of injunctive relief and directed the defendants to draw up a plan for the plaintiff's release from SHU; when created, the plaintiff would have 14 days to contest it. On January 4, 2019, the defendants provided the plan, which would move the plaintiff to a general population cell immediately but mandated that the plaintiff participate in a SHU release program for permanent integration into general population. The plaintiff filed a motion contesting this plan two weeks later, saying that the program could extend indefinitely based on assessments of his behavior, and he hoped a more expeditious SHU release plan could be found. On March 4, 2019, Judge Magnus-Stinson approved the defendant's plan, since it immediately moved him out of SHU, the point of the initial injunction.

This closed the case in District Court. However, the defendants appealed the final decision to circuit court on April 2, 2019. All proceedings in the case were stayed on March 20, 2020, with the circuit court asking for an update on the status of mediation by May 20, 2020. No update has been filed, likely due to COVID concerns; the case is ongoing.

Ellen Aldin - 05/22/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Assistance of counsel (6th Amendment)
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Administrative segregation
Assault/abuse by staff
Bathing and hygiene
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Disciplinary procedures
Disciplinary segregation
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Law library access
Mail
Recreation / Exercise
Sanitation / living conditions
Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)
Visiting
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) Indiana Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Inmate at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility held in a long-term solitary confinement unit.
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filed 05/15/2012
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
S.D. Ind.
02/11/2020
2:12-cv-00116-JMS-MJD
PC-IN-0026-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
S.D. Ind.
05/15/2012
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-IN-0026-0009.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Ind.
09/10/2012
Entry Granting Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Directing Further Proceedings (2012 WL 3966363)
PC-IN-0026-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: Westlaw
S.D. Ind.
09/24/2012
Plaintiff's Statement of Remaining Claims [ECF# 16]
PC-IN-0026-0010.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Ind.
06/24/2014
Entry Granting Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Directing Further Proceedings [ECF# 65] (2014 WL 2866197)
PC-IN-0026-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: Westlaw
S.D. Ind.
09/25/2015
Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law [ECF# 135] (2015 WL 5672702)
PC-IN-0026-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: Westlaw
U.S. Court of Appeals
05/10/2017
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 856 F.3d 508] (856 F.3d 508)
PC-IN-0026-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
S.D. Ind.
12/19/2018
Findings and Order [ECF# 274]
PC-IN-0026-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Ind.
01/04/2019
Submission of Proposed Plan for Removal from Restrictive Status Housing [ECF# 279]
PC-IN-0026-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Ind.
03/04/2019
Entry Approving Proposed Plan for Injunctive Relief and Retaining Jurisdiction Over Action [ECF# 293]
PC-IN-0026-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Ind.
03/04/2019
Final Judgment Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 58 [ECF# 294]
PC-IN-0026-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Dinsmore, Mark. J. (S.D. Ind.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-IN-0026-9000
Flaum, Joel Martin (N.D. Ill., Seventh Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0026-0008
Magnus-Stinson, Jane Elizabeth (S.D. Ind.) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0026-0001 | PC-IN-0026-0003 | PC-IN-0026-0004 | PC-IN-0026-0005 | PC-IN-0026-0006 | PC-IN-0026-0007 | PC-IN-0026-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Arthur, David A. (Indiana) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0026-0002 | PC-IN-0026-9000
Hill, Curtis T. Jr. (Indiana) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0026-0002
Other Lawyers Kelley, Daniel R. (Indiana) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0026-9000
Kile-Maxwell, Emily A. (Indiana) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0026-9000
Rauch, Jason (Indiana) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0026-9000

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