1. ACCESS TO COURTS.

Position:PART TWO: Case Summaries by Major Topic
 
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U.S. Appeals Court

EVIDENCE

Daniel v. Cook County, 833 F.3d 728 (7th Cir. 2016). A pretrial detainee brought a [section] 1983 action against a sheriffs office, the sheriff, and the county, alleging lack of adequate health care in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. The detainee appealed. The appeals court reversed and remanded. The court held that summary judgment was precluded by a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the detainee's injury resulted from systemic deficiencies in the jail's medical scheduling and record keeping. The court ruled that findings from a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation were admissible under the hearsay exception for factual findings from a legally authorized investigation. (Cook County Jail, Illinois)

U.S. District Court EVALUATION DUE PROCESS

Disability Law Center v. Utah, 180 F.Supp.3d 998 (D. Utah 2016). Pretrial detainees, who had been declared incompetent to stand trial but had not been adjudicated guilty of a crime, brought a class action against the state of Utah under [section] 1983, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and alleging that the state was depriving them of substantive due process by holding them in jail for extended periods while they waited to receive court-ordered competency restoration treatment The state filed a motion to dismiss. The district court denied the motion. The court held that detainees who have been declared incompetent to stand trial have a liberty interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause in being free from incarceration absent a criminal conviction, and that the detainees stated a claim against the state for violation of their right to substantive due process. (Utah Department of Human Services, Utah State Hospital)

U.S. District Court

LEGAL ASSISTANCE CIVIL SUIT

Harnage v. Dzurenda, 176 F.Supp.3d 40 (D. Conn. 2016). A male state prison inmate brought an action against commissioners and deputy commissioners of a state department of corrections, alleging that the legal assistance program at his facility violated his right to equal protection of the laws by failing to provide to male inmates the legal assistance in civil family matters that they provided to female inmates. The defendants moved to dismiss. The district court granted the motion in part and denied in part. The court held that the inmate's allegations that the corrections department provided different services to inmates based on gender, stated a claim for violation of his equal protection rights. The court found that the defendants were not entitled to absolute immunity, or to qualified immunity. The inmate, who was subject to a restraining order and protective order prohibiting communication with his children, alleged that as a result of his gender he was denied the benefit of legal assistance. The court found that the fact that the commissioners and deputy commissioners of the state department of corrections were obligated to provide legal assistance services in civil family matters to female inmates did not grant them license to violate the Equal Protection Clause by withholding those services from male inmates on the basis of gender, and thus the commissioners and deputy commissioners were not entitled to absolute immunity in the male inmate's equal protection challenge. (Connecticut Department of Correction)

U.S. Appeals Court ACCESS TO COURT

Keith v. Koerner, 843 F.3d 833 (10th Cir. 2016). A female prisoner, who was raped by a prison maintenance employee, brought a [section] 1983 action against prison officials, including the warden, alleging that the officials violated her Eighth Amendment rights by creating an environment in which sexual misconduct was likely to occur. The district court granted the warden's motion for summary judgment and the prisoner appealed. The appeals court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. The court held that: (1) the warden could not be held liable under [section] 1983 as a supervisor under a failure-to-train theory; (2) summary judgment was precluded by genuine issues of material fact as to whether the warden was personally involved in failing to enforce prison policies in a way that allowed the sexual misconduct to occur, as to whether the warden's failure to adequately enforce the prison policy regarding sexual misconduct proximately caused the prisoner to be raped, and as to whether the warden acted with deliberate indifference to the risk of sexual misconduct by his employees. The court noted that it was clearly established that the prisoner had an Eighth Amendment right to expect reasonable protection from prison officials. According to the court, the training provided by the prison warden to his subordinates regarding sexual misconduct did not constitute a complete failure to train that made sexual misconduct almost inevitable, and thus warden could not be held liable under [section] 1983 as a supervisor under the failure-to- train theory. The court noted that the employee who raped the prisoner received specific training about the impropriety of- and potential consequences for- engaging in sexual misconduct, the employee received the prison's policy when he was hired that absolutely forbade acts of undue familiarity, including sexual misconduct with prisoners, and the employee also read and understood the Kansas statute that made it a felony for him to engage in unlawful sexual relations with prisoners. The court also ruled that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the female prisoner had access to the courts during her incarceration, and thus the two-year Kansas law limitations period might be tolled during her incarceration. (Topeka Correctional Facility, Kansas)

U.S. Appeals Court

ATTORNEY FEES PLRA- Prison Litigation Reform Act

Murphy v. Smith, 844 F.3d 653 (7th Cir. 2016). An inmate brought an action against correctional officers, claiming that the officers hit him, fracturing part of his eye socket, and left him in a cell without medical attention, in violation of [section] 1983 and state law. The district court entered judgment for the inmate, following a jury verdict, and awarded attorney fees. The correctional officers appealed. The appeals court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. The court held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act requires 25% of any monetary judgment received by a prisoner be awarded as attorneys' fees, and only if 25% of the award is inadequate to compensate counsel fully does a defendant contribute more to the fees. The jury had awarded $241,001 in compensatory and punitive damages against an officer and $168,750 against a lieutenant. The district court reduced the combined award to a total of $307,733. The district court also awarded attorney fees and ordered that 10 percent of the damages awarded be put toward paying those fees. The appeals court ordered the sum of $76,933 toward satisfying the attorney fees. (Vandalia Correctional Center, Illinois)

U.S. Appeals Court

CLASS ACTION

Phillips v. Sheriff of Cook County, 828 F.3d 541 (7th Cir. 2016). Current and former pretrial jail detainees brought a [section] 1983 action against a county and the county sheriff, alleging deliberate indifference to their need for dental care. The two classes were certified. After a bench trial, the detainees' motion for preliminary injunctive relief was denied, the injunctive relief class was decertified, the detainees' motion for permanent injunctive relief was dismissed as moot, and the certified class based on the predominance of common questions was modified. The detainees filed a motion for relief from the judgment based on newly discovered evidence. The district court denied the motion and the detainees appealed. The court dismissed the detainee's motion for relief from the judgment. The court held that the detainees did not point to systematic and gross deficiencies that would support commonality. The court noted that the detainees' claims of deliberate indifference to their dental care needs, based on delays in receiving a face-to-face evaluation by a registered nurse or in receiving "return to clinic" appointments, did not satisfy the commonality requirement for class certification, where the constitutionality of the delays depended on a variety of individual circumstances which could be answered only by looking at the unique facts of each detainee's case. According to the court, alleged delays of more than 24 hours in responding to requests for dental treatment, and delays in scheduling "return to clinic" appointments, did not point to systematic and gross deficiencies that would lead to a finding that all detainees were effectively denied treatment. (Cook County Jail, Illinois)

U.S. District Court

PLRA-Prison Litigation Reform Act EXHAUSTION

Tillman v. Allen, 187 F.Supp.3d 664 (E.D. Va. 2016). A state inmate brought a pro se, in forma pauperis [section] 1983 action against a jail warden, alleging violation of his right to practice his Wiccan religion in violation of Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the First Amendment. The warden moved for summary judgment. The court granted the motion. The court held that: (1) the inmate failed to exhaust administrative remedies with respect to claims he was denied a Common Fare diet and religious objects; (2) the inmate could not exhaust administrative remedies for denial of a transfer back to a former facility and the right to attend Wiccan services since none were available for such claims. (3) transfer back to the former facility was not a protected religious exercise under RLUIPA; (4) the inmate failed to show that inability to participate in services was the result of a government action rather than his own indolence; and (5) the free exercise claim necessarily failed since inmate could not maintain a RLUIPA claim. (Haynesville Correctional Center, Virginia)

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