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Indiana Prisoner Granted Leave to Proceed in First Amendment Retaliation Suit

by Ed Lyon

Ty Evans is an Indiana state prisoner. He is also an accomplished freelance writer who regularly submits articles about prison life that are often printed in different publications.

In August 2018, Evans was given the job of being a “suicide companion” for depressed prisoners. He signed a confidentiality agreement prior to the assignment. After working with two clients, Evans obtained their written consent for an article he wrote about the program, which did not include any protected or confidential information about them.

When a prospective publisher contacted the prison for a statement, Evans was removed from his job and placed in solitary confinement for 90 days. He was subsequently denied a GED tutor’s position because there is “confidential information in Education as well,” according to deputy warden Dawn Buss. Due to the ongoing retaliation against him resulting from his journalistic work, Evans did not submit any more of his completed articles; rather, he filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint against Buss for violating his First Amendment free speech rights and retaliating against him.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Miller, Jr. conducted an initial screening of Evans’ pleadings on September 16, 2019. Laying out the groundwork for this type of complaint, he found that Evans had competently raised plausible legal claims showing a causal chain of events from which retaliation could be inferred.

Judge Miller ruled that Evans’ complaint properly alleged he was engaged in protected First Amendment activity, that he experienced retaliation in a manner that chilled further such activities, and that those activities were a motivating factor for Buss’ retaliatory acts. He then held that Evans could proceed against Buss in her individual and official capacities to seek nominal, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as an injunction barring any further retaliation. The case remains pending. See: Evans v. Buss, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ind.), Case No. 3:19-cv-00568-RLM-­MGG. 


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Related legal case

Evans v. Buss