Part 2: case summaries by major topic.

Position:Case overview
 
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  1. ACCESS TO COURT U.S. District Court Craft v. County of San Bernardino, 624 ATTORNEY FEE F.Supp.2d 1113 (C.D.Cal. 2008). County jail inmates brought a class action alleging that a county's practice of routinely strip-searching inmates without probable cause or reasonable suspicion that the inmates were in possession of weapons or drugs violated the Fourth Amendment. After the court granted the inmates' motion for partial summary judgment, the parties entered into private mediation and reached a settlement agreement providing for, among other things, a class fund award of $25,648,204. The inmates moved for the award of attorney's fees and costs. The district court held that class counsel were entitled to an attorney's fees award in the amount of 25% of the settlement fund plus costs. The court noted that counsel obtained excellent pecuniary and nonpecuniary results in a complex and risky case involving 150,000 class members, 20,000 claims, and five certified classes, each of which presented unsettled legal issues. According to the court, tens or hundreds of thousands of future inmates benefited from policy changes brought about by the suit, and the attorneys were highly experienced and highly regarded civil rights lawyers with extensive class action experience. (San Bernardino County Jail, California) U.S. District Court Decker v. Dunbar, 633 F.Supp.2d 317 (E.D.Tex. LAW LIBRARY 2008). Affirmed 358 Fed.Appx. 509. An inmate filed a pro se [section] 1983 action against prison officials, asserting Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment violations, among other constitutional claims. The officials moved for summary judgment and the district court granted the motion. The court held that the officials' conduct in delaying the inmate's use of a restroom for 30 minutes did not amount to deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. According to the court, the delay in taking the inmate to a restroom was caused by the need to conduct a prisoner count, and the inmate failed to demonstrate that he suffered any injury as a direct result of the delay. The court found that placement of the inmate in a holding cell for 90 minutes on a day that the outside temperature reached 95 degrees did not amount to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The court noted that even assuming the holding cell was extremely hot, 90 minutes was not an excessive period of time rising to the level of a constitutional violation. The court held that the inmate failed to demonstrate that his alleged lack of access to the prison's law library resulted in dismissal of his multiple previously filed criminal appeals and civil cases, and thus the inmate failed to establish an actual injury, as required to prevail on the claim that he was denied access to court. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division) U.S. District Court Jensen v. Knowles, 621 F.Supp.2d 921 (E.D.Cal. EXHAUSTION 2008). A state prisoner brought a pro se [section] PLRA-Prison 1983 action against prison officials, claiming Litigation Reform deprivation of his Eighth Amendment rights by Act allegedly denying the prisoner a medically necessary diabetic diet and forcing him to reside in a cell with a prisoner who smoked, and deprivation of his First Amendment rights by the alleged confiscation of the prisoner's Bible and Christian doctrine books. The district dismissed the action on the grounds that the prisoner was not entitled to in forma pauperis (IFP) status, under the three strikes rule. The appeals court reversed and remanded. On remand, the defendants moved to dismiss, and the prisoner moved for re-serve a correctional officer. The district court granted the defendants' motions in part and denied in part, and granted the plaintiffs motion. The court held that the prisoner's claim that he was deprived of his First Amendment rights due to the confiscation of his Bibles and Christian doctrine books by prison officials was precluded on exhaustion grounds, under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), even though the prisoner exhausted his claim, where the prisoner filed suit two days before the prison grievance process itself was exhausted. The court found that the prisoner's claim that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated, due to exposure to second-hand smoke by his forced housing with a prisoner who smoked and due to prison officials' failure to issue a medical order prohibiting his housing with a smoker, satisfied the exhaustion requirements by completing the grievance process, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). (Mule Creek State Prison, California) U.S. Appeals Court Gevas v. Ghosh, 566 F.3d 717 (7th Cir. 2009). TELECONFERENCE A prisoner brought a [section] 1983 action alleging prison staff members and administrators were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. After a telephonic conference among all of the parties was held, an agreement was supposedly reached, but there was no court reporter or recording of the conference. The district court granted the defendants' motion to enforce the settlement agreement and ordered the prisoner to sign the release and settlement agreement within 30 days or have his case dismissed. The prisoner appealed. The appeals court affirmed. According to the court, the magistrate judge's failure to record the settlement agreement did not invalidate the settlement, and the magistrate judge did not coerce the prisoner into settling. The court noted that both parties assumed the risk that the judge would recall the discussion differently than they did, when neither asked that any part of the discussion be placed on the record. According to the court, having made no such request to have the discussion placed on the record, the prisoner had to live with the consequences. (Stateville Correctional Center, Illinois) U.S. Appeals Court Hagan v. Rogers, 570 F.3d 146 (3rd Cir. 2009). APPOINTED ATTORNEY Fourteen state prisoners jointly filed a FILING FEES single [section] 1983 complaint, on behalf of IN FORMA PAUPERIS themselves and a purported class, claiming PLRA-Prison violation of their Eighth and Fourteenth Litigation Reform Amendment rights by prison officials' Act purported deliberate indifference to the exposure of prisoners to an outbreak of a serious and contagious skin condition, allegedly scabies. The prisoners sought class certification, requested to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), and sought appointment of counsel. The district court denied joinder (combining actions), dismissed with leave to amend for all except one prisoner, and denied class certification. The prisoners appealed. The appeals court reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. The appeals court held that: (1) IFP prisoners were not barred from joinder by PLRA; (2) each joined prisoner was required to pay the full individual filing fee; and (3) the typicality and commonality requirements were satisfied for class certification. The court noted that prisoners proceeding in forma pauperis (IFP) remained within the definition of "persons" under the permissive joinder rule, and thus, the prisoners were not categorically barred from joinder in their civil rights action, despite concerns that joinder would undermine PLRA by permitting split fees or avoiding the three-strike rule that limited IFP status. (Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center, New Jersey) U.S. District Court Hinton v. Corrections Corp. of America, 623 EXHAUSTION F.Supp.2d 61 (D.D.C. 2009). An inmate sued the PLRA-Prison operators of a correctional facility under Litigation Reform [section] 1983, asserting that overcrowded and Act unsanitary conditions had caused him to become infected with the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria. The district court granted the operators' motion for summary judgment, finding that the inmate failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. The court noted that the inmate had access to an inmate handbook, was familiar with parts of it, and did not dispute that he had other means of informing himself of the requirements of the official grievance process. (Central Treatment Facility, District of Columbia, operated by Corrections Corporation of America) U.S. District Court Hunt ex rel Chiovari v. Dart, 612 F.Supp.2d STATUTE OF 969 (N.D.I11. 2009). A mother brought a LIMITATIONS [section] 1983 action against a county sheriff, unknown county corrections officers, unknown village police officers, and a village, for deprivation of her son's constitutional rights, arising out of his death while being transported to a county jail. The district court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the unknown officers. The court held that the county sheriffs objection to a production request for personnel files of three officers did not lull the mother into delaying the suit, so as to prevent the officials from asserting the Illinois statute of limitations defense against the mother's claims under [section] 1983. (Cook County, Illinois) U.S. District Court Jones v. Carroll, 628 F.Supp.2d 551 (D.Del. EXHAUSTION 2009). A former inmate brought a [section] PLRA-Prison 1983 action against prison employees, Litigation Reform alleging that they failed to protect Act him from an attack by another inmate. The prison employees moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted. The inmate moved for reconsideration. On reconsideration, the district court found that summary judgment was precluded for certain issues. The court held that summary judgment was precluded by a genuine issue of material fact as to whether an inmate's medical condition after having been stabbed by another inmate excused his failure to exhaust his administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The court also found that a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the inmate told prison officials...

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