Crawford v. Indiana Dept. of Correction

Decision Date15 August 1996
Docket NumberNo. 3:96-cv-125RP.,3:96-cv-125RP.
Citation937 F. Supp. 785
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Indiana

John W. Emry, Jr., Franklin, IN, for plaintiff.

Martha J. Arvin, Office of Indiana Attorney General, Indianapolis, IN, for defendant.


PIERCE, United States Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, Ricky Crawford, brings this civil action for damages against defendant, the Indiana Department of Correction ("DOC"), alleging violations of his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, as amended. This case is now before the court on the parties' cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings. For the reasons that follow, Mr. Crawford's motion is denied and the DOC's motion is granted.

Applicable Standard

A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is subject to the same standards as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b). GATX Leasing Corp. v. National Union Fire Ins. Co., 64 F.3d 1112, 1114 (7th Cir.1995); Craigs, Inc. v. General Elec. Capital Corp., 12 F.3d 686, 688 (7th Cir. 1993); Thomason v. Nachtrieb, 888 F.2d 1202, 1204 (7th Cir.1989). The court must take the complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff when challenged by a motion to dismiss. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974); Gomez v. Illinois State Board of Education, 811 F.2d 1030 (7th Cir. 1987).

A motion to dismiss will not be granted unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957); Henson v. CSC Credit Servs., 29 F.3d 280, 284 (7th Cir.1994); Harris v. City of Auburn, 27 F.3d 1284, 1285 (7th Cir.1994); Gomez, 811 F.2d 1030 (7th Cir. 1987). Even under the notice pleading of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must include allegations respecting all material elements of all claims asserted. Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 466 (7th Cir.1991); Strauss v. City of Chicago, 760 F.2d 765, 768 (7th Cir.1985); Sutliff, Inc. v. Donovan Companies, 727 F.2d 648, 654 (7th Cir.1984). Bare legal conclusions attached to narrated facts will not suffice. Strauss, 760 F.2d at 768; Sutliff, 727 F.2d at 654.

The Pleadings

At all times relevant, Mr. Crawford was a prisoner in the custody of the DOC and confined at the Westville Correctional Center ("WCC") in Westville, Indiana. (Compl. ¶ IV; Answer ¶ 1.) The DOC is responsible for the operation of the WCC (Answer ¶ 1); it is a public entity and receives federal funds. (Compl. ¶ VI.A.6; Answer ¶ 8.) Because Mr. Crawford was legally blind with deteriorating sight in one eye, he was housed as a permanent patient in the self-care unit at the WCC from December 22, 1994, until his release from the DOC on December 27, 1995. (Compl. ¶ VI.A.2.) Mr. Crawford alleges that during the time he was confined at the WCC he was "denied access with or without reasonable accommodations to the programs, services, facilities, activities, and benefits which were routinely available to the general population of offenders." (Compl. ¶ VI.A.3.)


Mr. Crawford moves for judgment on the pleadings, contending that the DOC is not entitled to assert the defense of qualified immunity and that the federal disability laws apply to state prisons. The DOC moves for judgment on the grounds that neither the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the "ADA") nor the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (the "Rehabilitation Act") applied to Mr. Crawford during his incarceration.1 Because the court concludes that neither the ADA nor the Rehabilitation Act are applicable to state prisoners, the court need not decide whether the DOC is entitled to qualified immunity.2

In Bryant v. Madigan, 84 F.3d 246, 248-49 (7th Cir.1996), the Seventh Circuit found that a prisoner's complaint alleging that corrections officials failed to attend to the medical needs of disabled prisoners failed to state a claim under the ADA. Although the court did not find it necessary to decide the more fundamental question of whether the ADA is applicable to prisoners in general, it did express strong doubt. Noting that the circuits were divided on the issue, the court observed that persons leave some rights behind upon incarceration and that application of the ADA to prisoners presented "formidable practical objections to burdening prisons with having to comply with the onerous requirements of the Act." Id. at 248. The court questioned whether "prisoners should be considered `qualified individuals' within the meaning of the Act" and whether Congress "intended disabled prisoners to be mainstreamed into an already highly restricted prison society." Id. at 248.

The Fourth Circuit's decision in Torcasio v. Murray, 57 F.3d 1340 (4th Cir.1995), cert. denied sub nom. Torcasio v. Angelone, ___ U.S. ___, 116 S.Ct. 772, 133 L.Ed.2d 724 (1996), provides additional guidance for today's decision. In that case, the court held that it was not clearly established during the spring of 1993 through the spring of 1994, the time of the alleged violations, that the Rehabilitation Act and ADA applied to prisoners. The court thus concluded that the defendant prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity with respect to those claims. In reaching its decision, the Fourth Circuit considered the broad language in Title II of the ADA defining "public entities," 42 U.S.C. § 12131(1) ("public entities" includes "any State or local government" and "any department, agency, ... or other instrumentality of a State or States or local government") and Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794(a) (preventing discrimination against disabled individuals "under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance), and 29 U.S.C. § 794(b)(1)(A) (defining "program or activity" to include "all of the operations of ... a department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a State or of a local government"), but was not persuaded that the language "even when viewed in isolation from the arguably narrowing test found elsewhere in the acts, brings state prisons `squarely' within the reach of these acts." Torcasio, 57 F.3d at 1344. The court's decision was guided by consideration of federal-state relations. Id. at 1344-46. Following well-established rules of statutory construction, the court explained:

If Congress intends to alter the "usual constitutional balance between the States and the Federal Government," it must make its intention to do so "unmistakably clear in the language of the statute." Congress should make its intention "clear and manifest" if it intends to pre-empt the historic powers of the States, or if it intends to impose a condition on the grant of federal moneys.... Where application of a federal statute to a state "would upset the usual constitutional balance of federal and state powers, ... `it is incumbent upon federal courts to be certain of Congress' intent before finding that federal law overrides' this balance."

Id. at 1344-45 (citations omitted); see Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U.S. 452, 460, 111 S.Ct. 2395, 2400-01, 115 L.Ed.2d 410 (1991); Will v. Michigan Dept. Of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 65, 109 S.Ct. 2304, 2309, 105 L.Ed.2d 45 (1989); Atascadero State Hosp. v. Scanlon, 473 U.S. 234, 242-43, 105 S.Ct. 3142, 3147-48, 87 L.Ed.2d 171 (1985); Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 99, 104 S.Ct. 900, 907, 79 L.Ed.2d 67 (1984); see also United States v. Lopez, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 115 S.Ct. 1624, 1655, 131 L.Ed.2d 626 (1995) (Souter, J., dissenting) (clear statement rule applicable where case "implicates Congress' historical reluctance to trench on state legislative prerogatives or to enter into spheres already occupied by the States.").

Relying on the long line of Supreme Court precedent which established the principle that "management of state prisons is to be left to the states," the Fourth Circuit concluded that "the management of state prisons is a core state function." Torcasio, 57 F.3d at 1345-46. See Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 84-85, 107 S.Ct. 2254, 2259-60, 96 L.Ed.2d 64 (1987), Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349, 101 S.Ct. 2392, 2400-01, 69 L.Ed.2d 59 (1981), Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 562, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1886, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979), Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396, 405, 94 S.Ct. 1800, 1807, 40 L.Ed.2d 224 (1974) ("Where state penal institutions are involved, federal courts have a further reason in addition to the inefficacy of judicial intervention for deference to the appropriate authorities."), overruled on other grounds, Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401, 413-14, 109 S.Ct. 1874, 1881-82, 104 L.Ed.2d 459 (1989), and Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 491-92, 93 S.Ct. 1827, 1837, 36 L.Ed.2d 439 (1973) ("It is difficult to imagine an activity in which a State has a stronger interest ... than the administration of its prisons."). The Torcasio court concluded that requiring states to comply with the ADA and Rehabilitation Act "would have serious implications for the management of state prisons." 57 F.3d at 1346. Given the implications of applying the ADA and Rehabilitation Act for the management of state prisons and for federal-state relations as well as the other provisions of the ADA and Rehabilitation Act which were not naturally read as including state prisons,3 the Fourth Circuit held that the broad, non-specific language did not "clearly establish" that state prisons come within the purview of the ADA and Rehabilitation Act. 57 F.3d at 1346. The defendant state officials were, therefore, entitled to qualified immunity. Id. at...

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4 cases
  • Kaufman v. Carter
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Michigan
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    ...A recent Indiana district court decision raises a concern already put to rest by the Ninth Circuit. Crawford v. Indiana Dep't of Correction, 937 F.Supp. 785, 791 (N.D.Ind. 1996). The district court held that Rehabilitation Act rights are suspended during incarceration, reasoning that "it st......
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