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Martin v. Sheriff Richard Tyson

decided*fn*: May 9, 1988.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. No. 84 C 719--Allen Sharp, Chief Judge.

Flaum and Easterbrook, Circuit Judges, and Pell, Jr., Senior Circuit Judge. Pell, Senior Circuit Judge, dissenting.

Author: Per Curiam

Michael L. Martin filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Sheriff Richard Tyson, various Commissioners of Marshall County, Indiana, and prison employees, as individuals and in their official capacities, for violating his constitutional rights while Martin was a pretrial detainee. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, and this appeal followed.


In 1982 Martin was arrested for arson and held in the Marshall County jail for 21 days, until released on bond. In September 1983 Martin was arrested in Houston, Texas, for interstate flight to avoid prosecution. Martin was returned to the Marshall County jail, where he remained until he escaped on November 25, 1983.*fn1 On September 19, 1984, Martin was arrested in Ohio for non-support and was held in an Ohio jail until October 18, 1984, when he was returned to the Marshall County facility. Martin remained in the Marshall County jail until February 11, 1985. This suit is based on the conditions of Martin's confinement in the Marshall County jail between October 18, 1984, and February 11, 1985.


A. Allegation Nine

Martin's original complaint contained ten allegations and named only the Commissioners of Marshall County and Sheriff Tyson as defendants. On March 7, 1986, Martin was given leave to amend his complaint. His amended pleading added the remaining defendants and restated the allegations of his original complaint. Martin did not mention Allegation Nine of his original complaint in the amended complaint. Allegation Nine was that Martin had been denied access to newspapers during his confinement. The district court interpreted Martin's omission of Allegation Nine as a decision on his part not to pursue this claim, which the court then dismissed.

The language of Martin's amended complaint suggests that Allegation Nine was incorporated by reference. Martin asked the court to

allow the following wording [in the amended complaint] in addition to the wording already contained in the complaint.

Given the obligation to accord a liberal reading to pro se pleadings, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 30 L. Ed. 2d 652, 92 S. Ct. 594 (1972), we find that Martin's Allegation Nine survived the amendment of the complaint. The district court should consider this claim on the merits.

We have previously found the arbitrary denial of access to published materials violates an inmate's first amendment rights. Sizemore v. Williford, 829 F.2d 608, 610 (7th Cir. 1987); Kincaid v. Rusk, 670 F.2d 737, 744-45 (7th Cir. 1982). See also Mann v. Smith, 796 F.2d 79, 82 (5th Cir. 1986). Sheriff Tyson's affidavit confirms that newspaper delivery to the Marshall County jail inmates was prohibited, although Tyson stated that newspapers could be received on a subscription basis.*fn2 Martin argues that this portrayal of the facts is inaccurate, and that the ban on newspapers was absolute. Since the district court has not addressed the merits of this allegation, we must remand the issue.

B. Defendants Overmyer, Schultz, and Baker

The district court dismissed the claims against defendants Overmyer, Schultz, and Baker, then Commissioners of Marshall County. The court held that the Commissioners had no personal involvement with Martin, which precluded liability under § 1983. Rascon v. Hardiman, 803 F.2d 269, 273 (7th Cir. 1986), citing Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist, 699 F.2d 864, 869 (7th Cir. 1983). Martin cites several Indiana statutes establishing the administrative standards for state prisons. He argues that the Commissioners were statutorily required to comply with certain policies. This is irrelevant, since a violation of state law does not create liability under § 1983. Gramenos v. Jewel Companies, Inc., 797 F.2d 432, 434-35 (7th Cir. 1986).

Martin also sues the Commissioners in their official capacities, which makes this a claim against the governmental unit. Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611, 98 S. Ct. 2018 n.55 (1978). Although the doctrine of respondeat superior is inapplicable to § 1983 actions, Monell, 436 U.S. at 694, a county may be held liable for its official policies. Under Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535, 60 L. Ed. 2d 447, 99 S. Ct. 1861 (1979), a policy that "amounts to punishment of the detainee" is unlawful. There is no evidence, however, that the Marshall County jail's policies were designed to deprive pretrial detainees of their due process rights. The district court therefore properly granted summary judgment on this claim.

C. Defendants Tyson, Criswell, Glant, Hesler, and Woodward

Defendants Tyson (Sheriff of Marshall County), Criswell (a police officer), Glant, Hesler, and Woodward (three employees of the jail), may have been directly involved with Martin's confinement. The rights of pretrial detainees are protected under the Due Process Clause of the fourteenth amendment, which prohibits punishment of persons who have not been convicted of a crime. Bell, ...

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