Joseph A. Taylor v. Sgt. Rinehart ( 2012 )

  • Pursuant to Ind.Appellate Rule 65(D),
    this Memorandum Decision shall not be
    regarded as precedent or cited before
    any court except for the purpose of                            FILED
    establishing the defense of res judicata,                    Jun 29 2012, 9:03 am
    collateral estoppel, or the law of the case.
                                                                      of the supreme court,
                                                                      court of appeals and
                                                                             tax court
    Pendleton, Indiana
                                   IN THE
                         COURT OF APPEALS OF INDIANA
    JOSEPH A. TAYLOR,                                 )
           Appellant-Plaintiff,                       )
                   vs.                                )      No. 48A02-1110-PL-993
    SGT. RINEHART,                                    )
           Appellee-Defendant.                        )
                             The Honorable Rudolph R. Pyle III, Judge
                                 Cause No. 48C01-1110-PL-104
                                             June 29, 2012
    NAJAM, Judge
                                       STATEMENT OF THE CASE1
            Joseph Taylor, an inmate at the Pendleton Correction Facility (“the prison”),
    appeals the trial court’s dismissal of his complaint pursuant to the screening procedure of
    Indiana Code Section 34-58-1-2. Taylor raises a single issue for our review, which we
    restate as whether the trial court erred when it dismissed his complaint. We affirm.
                                FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
            On October 17, 2011, Taylor filed his complaint against “Sgt. Rinehart.” 2
    Appellant’s App. at 4. In relevant part, Taylor alleged that the prison’s disciplinary
    procedures denied him certain statutory and constitutional rights.                     The trial court
    dismissed Taylor’s complaint pursuant to the screening procedure of Indiana Code
    Section 34-58-1-2 and Zimmerman v. State, 
    750 N.E.2d 337
     (Ind. 2001). This appeal
                                      DISCUSSION AND DECISION
            Indiana Trial Rule 12(B)(6) subjects to dismissal complaints that “fail[] to state a
    claim up which relief can be granted.” It was on this basis that the trial court dismissed
    Taylor’s complaint and, on appeal, Taylor recites our standard of review under Rule
    12(B)(6). But this is not a Rule 12(B)(6) appeal. Rather, Taylor’s complaint calls into
    question the jurisdiction of Indiana’s courts to hear the subject matter of his claims.
    Blanck v. Ind. Dep’t of Corr., 
    829 N.E.2d 505
    , 508 (Ind. 2005). “Resolution of the
                The trial court dismissed Taylor’s complaint pursuant to the screening procedure of Indiana
    Code Section 34-58-1-2. Because the court dismissed Taylor’s complaint, there were no respondents and,
    as a result, no appellees. This fact is underscored by the Attorney General’s filing of its notice of non-
                Sergeant Rinehart’s full name is not disclosed.
    subject matter jurisdiction issue involves determining whether the claim advanced falls
    within the general scope of authority conferred upon the court by constitution or statute.”
    Id. Where, as here, the facts are not in dispute, we review whether the trial court has
    subject matter jurisdiction de novo. See Bellows v. Bd. of Comm’rs of Cnty. of Elkhart,
    926 N.E.2d 96
    , 111 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010).
           In Zimmerman, relied upon by the trial court, our supreme court reaffirmed
    established Indiana law that there is no right to judicial review of prison disciplinary
    actions in an Indiana court. 750 N.E.2d at 338. Specifically, the court stated:
           In Hasty [v. Broglin, 
    531 N.E.2d 200
     (Ind. 1988)], this Court declared:
                  Neither Indiana statutes nor common law rules establish
                  Hasty’s right to judicial review of prison disciplinary action.
                  Absent statutory authorization, Indiana courts have declined
                  to review a decision of a penal institution to take away an
                  inmate’s good-time credit for a prison infraction. Riner [v.
                  Raines], 274 Ind. [113], 115, 409 N.E.2d [575], 577 [(1980)].
                  The current system of administrative review by policy makers
                  and executive officers within the correction department
                  establishes a fair procedure to resolve disputes, one adequate
                  under due process.
           Hasty, 531 N.E.2d at 201. In Riner, we expressly held that there is “no
           constitutionally protected right to judicial review of the decisions of fact-
           finding and appellate tribunals presently conducting disciplinary
           proceedings within the prison system.” 274 Ind. at 118-19, 409 N.E.2d at
                   In the eleven years since Hasty, the Indiana General Assembly has
           not enacted any statutory authorization providing for the judicial review of
           a disciplinary decision of a penal institution. Regardless of the procedural
           vehicle employed—whether mandate to compel compliance with statute or
           direct judicial review of a prison disciplinary decision—Zimmerman is
           seeking judicial intervention in the disciplinary actions of the Department
           of Correction. We decline to retreat from the principles and policies
           reflected in Hasty and Riner. The relief sought is not available in Indiana
    Id. (some alterations original).
           In Blanck, our supreme court went further, declaring that Indiana’s courts are
    without subject matter jurisdiction to review an offender’s complaint if that complaint is
    based on Indiana Code Section 11-11-5-5, among other statutes. 829 N.E.2d at 509-10.
    Indiana Code Section 11-11-5-5(a) provides in relevant part:
           Before imposing any disciplinary action, the department shall afford the
           person charged with misconduct a hearing to determine his guilt or
           innocence and, if guilty, the appropriate action. The charged person may
           waive his right to a hearing. . . . In connection with the hearing, the person
           is entitled to:
           (1) have not less than twenty-four (24) hours advance written notice of the
           date, time, and place of the hearing, and of the alleged misconduct, and the
           rule the misconduct is alleged to have violated;
           (8) have a written statement of the findings of fact, the evidence relied
           upon, and the reasons for the action taken;
           Any finding of guilt must be supported by a preponderance of the evidence
           presented at the hearing.
    In concluding that Section 11-11-5-5 does not confer subject matter jurisdiction on
    Indiana’s courts, our supreme court held that:
           While each of these statutes imposes certain duties on the DOC and, we
           assume, confers substantive rights on inmates, none of them contains any
           provision suggesting that inmates have a right to enforce any such rights in
           court. . . .
                 We further conclude that whatever doubt the statutes may leave as to
           whether inmate discipline decisions are subject to judicial review is
          resolved in the negative because of the long period of legislative
          acquiescence to our decisions to that effect. As noted above, these
          decisions date back to Riner and Adams [v. Duckworth, 
    274 Ind. 503
    412 N.E.2d 789
     (1980)] in 1980. . . .
                 We hold that none of the prison discipline statutes cited confer
          subject matter jurisdiction over claims challenging judicial review of prison
          disciplinary decisions.
    Blanck, 829 N.E.2d 509-10.
          In his complaint, Taylor alleged that the following errors occurred during the
    course of the prison’s disciplinary process: he was not provided with timely written
    notice of the alleged misconduct or of the rule the misconduct was alleged to have
    violated; he was not provided with a written statement of the findings of fact, the
    evidence relied upon, and the reasons for the action taken; and the prison’s determination
    was not supported by a preponderance of the evidence. Appellant’s App. at 12-15.
    Taylor’s allegations mirror and expressly rely on Indiana Code Section 11-11-5-5(a). As
    stated in Blanck, Indiana’s courts are without subject matter jurisdiction to review such
    claims. 829 N.E.2d 509-10.
          Nonetheless, in support of his appeal Taylor cites and relies on Smith v. Sgt.
    910 N.E.2d 260
     (Ind. Ct. App. 2009). In Smith, an inmate claimed that he
    had been denied his due process rights when he was excluded from his disciplinary
    hearing and when the hearing was conducted by a single member instead of three, in
    violation of the rules of the Department of Correction. We held that his complaint stated
    a claim upon which relief could be granted. Smith, 910 N.E.2d at 262.
          Smith is inapposite here.      Smith addresses only Rule 12(B)(6) and federal
    constitutional law. It does not discuss our subject matter jurisdiction, Indiana Code 11-
    11-5-5 or Rule 12(B)(1). Accordingly, we decline Taylor’s invitation to follow Smith
    and ignore Blanck. We hold that the trial court was without subject matter jurisdiction
    over Taylor’s complaint and affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the complaint.
    RILEY, J., and DARDEN, J., concur.