Part two: case summaries by major topic: part I.

Position:Case overview
 
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  1. ACCESS TO COURT U.S. Appeals Court EXHAUSTION Cohen v. Corrections Corp. of PLRA- Prison Litigation Reform America, 588 F.3d 299 (6th Cir. Act 2008). A federal prisoner filed a pro se [section] 1983 action, claiming that a private prison and corrections personnel failed to accommodate the practice of his religion of Judaism by not providing kosher food. The district court dismissed the action for failure to exhaust under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The prisoner petitioned for a writ of certiorari. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari, vacated the decision, and remanded based on intervening law. On remand, the prisoner filed a supplemental brief. The appeals court reversed and remanded, finding that PLRA did not require exhaustion prior to filing complaint. The court noted that a new decision by the U.S. Supreme Court held that under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, a prisoner is not required to specifically plead or demonstrate exhaustion in his complaint. The Court further held that "exhaustion is not per se inadequate simply because an individual later sued was not named in the grievance." The Supreme Court found that the appeals court imposition of the prerequisite to properly exhaust a claim prior to filing a complaint was "unwarranted." (Corrections Corporation of America, Northeast Ohio Correctional Center.) U.S. District Court LEGAL MAIL Frazier v. Diguglielmo, 640 LEGAL MATERIAL F.Supp.2d 593 (E.D.Pa. 2008). A prisoner brought an action against several prison officers and supervisors, alleging that the defendants violated his rights by interfering with his mail and seizing legal materials from his cell. The defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The district court granted the motion in part and denied in part. The court held that the prisoner's bare allegation, that prison officials' seizure of a writ of coram nobis "obstructed" his right to "petition the government for redress of grievances," was insufficient to allege the infringement of an exercise of a First Amendment right of access to the courts to secure judicial relief, as required to state a claim for violation of the right of access. The court noted that the prisoner did not describe the contents of the writ or the judgment he sought to challenge, nor did the prisoner allege or even allude to any prejudice in any legal action caused by the writ's confiscation. The court found that the prisoner's allegation that prison officials seized legal documents relating to his criminal and habeas cases was insufficient to state a claim for violation of First Amendment right of access to the courts, absent an allegation that the alleged seizure caused him prejudice in a legal challenge to his conviction or to his conditions of confinement. (State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Pennsylvania) U.S. Appeals Court LAW LIBRARY Bandy-Bey v. Crist, 578 F.3d 763 RETALIATION (8th Cir. 2009). A state prisoner brought a [section] 1983 action against prison officials. The district court awarded summary judgment for the officials, and the prisoner appealed pro se. The appeals court affirmed. The court held that the discipline imposed on the inmate for his alleged misrepresentations about a prison official in an officer kite form, in stating that the officer insisted that the inmate write his legal documents by hand, was not retaliatory. The court noted that the officer's directly contradictory incident report provided "some evidence" to support the disciplinary action. According to the court, the discipline imposed on the inmate for his alleged failure to follow an officer's direct order to go to another officer's office was not retaliatory, where the undisputed evidence showed that the inmate failed to follow the direct order. The court held that the inmate was not deprived of substantive due process, where he was not deprived of access to the courts and was not subjected to retaliatory discipline, and the disciplinary sanctions of 10 and 15 days' segregation imposed on him that prevented him from using the law library did not impede his ability to pursue a non-frivolous claim or offend a protected liberty interest. (Minnesota Correctional Facility in Lino Lakes, Minnesota) U.S. Appeals Court EXHAUSTION Boyd v. Driver, 579 F.3d 513 ((5 PLRA- Prison Litigation Reform Cir. 2009). Following his acquittal Act on charges of assaulting prison employees, a federal inmate filed a pro se Bivens action against numerous prison employees, alleging a "malicious prosecution conspiracy." The inmate alleged that prison employees committed perjury and tampered with evidence in his prsssosecution for assaulting employees. The district court dismissed the action and the inmate appealed. The appeals court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part. The appeals court held that the inmate was not required to exhaust his administrative remedies with regard to his claim in his Bivens action, where the claim was not "about prison life" within the meaning of the exhaustion provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). According to the court, the allegation by the inmate, that prison employees committed perjury and tampered with evidence in conspiring to maliciously prosecute him for assault, did not, without more, state any constitutional claim, as required to support a Bivens action. But the court held that allegations that prison employees gave perjured testimony at the inmate's criminal trial and destroyed and tampered with video evidence of the alleged assaults stated a claim for a due process violation, sufficient to support his Bivens action. (Federal Correctional Institution Three Rivers, Texas) U.S. District Court LEGAL MAIL Covell v. Arpaio, 662 F.Supp.2d 1146 (D. Ariz. 2009). A prisoner brought a [section] 1983 action against a county sheriff, alleging that the sheriff violated his First Amendment rights by instituting a policy that banned incoming letters and restricted incoming mail to metered postcards. The prisoner alleged that the mail policy prevented him from receiving legal mail from witnesses in his criminal case. The sheriff moved for summary judgment and the district court granted the motion. The court held that the jail's non-privileged mail policy which banned incoming letters and restricted incoming mail to metered postcards was reasonably related to a legitimate penological interest in reducing contraband smuggling. The court noted that alternative means, including postcards, telephones, and jail visits, existed. According to the court, allowing stamped mails would increase the likelihood of smuggling contraband into the jail, which would in turn lead to conflicts and violence, and there was no evidence that the prisoner's suggested alternative, by having staff inspect each piece of mail and remove the stamps, would accommodate the right at a de minimis cost to the jail. The court held that even if correspondence from a witness on the prisoner's witness list was improperly excluded by the county jail, in violation of the prisoner's right of access to the courts, the prisoner failed to allege any violation of the policy that was at the direction of the county sheriff, as required to render him liable under [section] 1983. (Maricopa County Lower Buckeye Jail, Arizona) U.S. Appeals Court PLRA- Prison Crawford v. Clarke, 578 F.3d 39 (lst Litigation Reform Act Cir. 2009). Muslim inmates confined in a special management unit (SMU) sued the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC) under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), alleging that he violated their right to freely exercise their religion by preventing them from participating in Jum'ah Friday group prayer. The district court entered an injunction requiring closed-circuit broadcasting of Jum'ah in any SMU in which the plaintiff inmates were housed or might be housed in the future, and subsequently denied the commissioner's motion for reconsideration. The commissioner appealed. The appeals court affirmed. The appeals court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in issuing the injunction requiring corrections officials to provide closed circuit television broadcasts of services in any SMU in which the plaintiff inmates were housed or might be housed in the future, as opposed to the SMU in which they were currently housed, without making findings as to whether other SMUs were suitable for closed circuit broadcasts. The court found that the injunction did not violate the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), where the prospective relief was narrowly drawn and providing closed-circuit broadcasting was the least intrusive means to alleviate the burden on the inmates' rights. The court noted that the commissioner put nothing in the record to differentiate other SMUs on the issues of a compelling governmental interest or least restrictive means. (Massachusetts Department of Correction, MCI-Cedar Junction) U.S. District Court EXHAUSTION Dace v. Smith-Vasquez, 658 F.Supp.2d PLRA- Prison Litigation Reform 865 (S.D.IH. 2009). A state prisoner Act RETALIATION FOR LEGAL brought a [section] 1983 action ACTION against prison employees, alleging that his exposure to excessively cold conditions during his incarceration resulted in a deprivation of his Eighth Amendment rights, and that employees unconstitutionally retaliated against him by exposing him to such conditions. The employees moved for summary judgment and the district court granted the motion. The court held that the prisoner failed to administratively exhaust his [section] 1983 claims against prison employees in accordance with Illinois Department of Corrections grievance procedures, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). According to the court, even if the employees failed to directly respond to some or all of the prisoner's grievances, the fact remained that the prisoner failed to take up those...

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