Part two: case summaries by major topic.

Position::P. 39-82 - Case overview
 
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  1. ACCESS TO COURT

    U.S. Appeals Court

    PLRA- Prison Litigation Reform Act

    EXHAUSTION

    Akhtar v. Mesa, 698 F.3d 1202 (9th Cir. 2012). A state prisoner brought a [section] 1983 action against correctional officers, alleging deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in connection with the officers' alleged failure to comply with the prisoner's medical orders, which required the prisoner to be housed in a ground floor cell. The district court dismissed the action and denied the prisoner's motion to alter or amend the judgment. The prisoner appealed. The appeals court affirmed and remanded. The court held that the district court abused its discretion by failing to consider arguments that directed the court to crucial facts showing he might have exhausted his administrative remedies, and in addition to being pro se, the prisoner was illiterate, disabled, and had limited English skills. The court found that the prisoner satisfied the administrative exhaustion requirement of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) prior to filing his [section] 1983 action against the correctional officers, where the prisoner filed grievances addressing the officers' alleged failure to comply with medical orders several months before filing the complaint. (Mule Creek State Prison, California)

    U.S. Appeals Court

    PLRA- Prison Litigation Reform Act

    EXHAUSTION

    Albino v. Baca, 697 F.3d 1023 (9th Cir, 2012). A detainee in a county jail brought a [section] 1983 action against a sheriff, alleging failure to protect him against other inmates, deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, failure to adequately train and supervise deputies, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and gross negligence. The district court granted summary judgment for the sheriff. The detainee appealed. The appeals court affirmed. The appeals court held that: (1) the sheriff, in asserting the detainee's failure to exhaust administrative remedies, met his burden of showing that a grievance procedure existed and was not followed; (2) jail officials did not affirmatively interfere with the detainee's ability to exhaust administrative remedies, as would provide a basis for excusing failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA); and (3) the detainee failed to show that jail's grievance procedure was effectively unavailable to him, due to his lack of awareness of the grievance procedure. (Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department's, Main Jail, California)

    U.S. District Court

    POSTAGE

    INDIGENT INMATES

    Gaskins v. Dickhaut, 881 F.Supp.2d 223 (D.Mass. 2012). A state prisoner brought a [section] 1983 action against a prison's superintendent and treasurer, alleging the defendants violated his constitutional right of access to courts under the Fourteenth Amendment. The prisoner challenged a Massachusetts Department of Corrections' (DOC) regulation that determined that an inmate was not indigent, and thus ineligible for free postage, if he had more than $10 in his prison account during 60-day period. The defendants moved to dismiss and the district court allowed the motion. The court held that the inmate failed to allege that the policy prevented him from pursuing a legal claim or caused him to suffer an actual injury, as required to state a [section] 1983 claim against prison officials for denial of access to courts under Fourteenth Amendment, where his complaint lacked such allegations. (Massachusetts Department of Corrections, Souza Baranowski Correctional Center)

    U.S. Appeals Court

    PLRA- Prison Litigation Reform Act

    FRIVOLOUS CASES

    Gibson v. City Municipality of New York, 692 F.3d 198 (2nd Cir. 2012). A detainee in the custody of a state's mental health commissioner filed a civil rights action against city officials. The district court dismissed the complaint, and the detainee appealed. The appeals court affirmed. The appeals court held that the detainee was a "prisoner" within the meaning of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). According to the court, a detainee in the custody of the state's mental health commissioner pursuant to a temporary order of observation was a "prisoner" within the meaning of PLRA, and thus could not proceed in forma pauperis in a civil rights action against city officials because of his previous frivolous filings, where the criminal proceedings against the detainee were merely suspended during his confinement and observation, and would only terminate if he was still being held at the time a temporary order expired or the criminal charges at issue were otherwise dropped. (Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Facility, New York)

    U.S. Appeals Court

    APPOINTED ATTORNEY

    Gruenberg v. Gempeler, 697 F.3d 573 (7th Cir. 2012). A state prisoner, proceeding pro se, filed a [section] 1983 action against various prison officials, guards, and medical staff, alleging violations of the Eighth Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. The prisoner appealed. The appeals court affirmed. The appeals court held that: (1) the prisoner did not have a clearly established right to not be continually restrained without clothing or cover in a cell for five days following his ingestion of a handcuff key, the master key for belt restraints, and the key used for opening cell doors, where restraint had been imposed to keep the prisoner from re-ingesting those keys; (2) the continuous restraint of the prisoner without clothing or cover in a cell for five days did not violate his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights; (3) the prisoner's Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process claims were barred; and (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion by ruling that the prisoner was competent to advance his case and was not entitled to appointed counsel. (Waupun Correction Institution, Wisconsin)

    U.S. District Court

    APPOINTED ATTORNEY

    IN FORMA PAUPERIS

    Hartmann v. Carroll, 882 F.Supp.2d 742 (D.Del. 2012). A state prisoner brought a [section] 1983 action, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, against a warden, deputy warden, and an employee of the medical healthcare contractor for the Delaware Department of Correction (DOC). The prisoner alleged deliberate indifference to his medical needs. The prisoner requested counsel, and the employee moved to dismiss. The district court denied the request for counsel and denied the motion to dismiss. The court held that evidence did not support the conclusion that the prisoner was incompetent, where the prisoner had actively participated in the litigation, and he had been able to represent himself in court. (Sussex Correctional Institution, Delaware)

    U.S. District Court

    ACCESS TO COUNSEL

    ACCESS TO COURTS

    In re Guantanamo Bay Detainee Continued Access to Counsel, 892 F.Supp.2d 8 (D.D.C. 2012). In habeas proceedings challenging aliens' detentions at the U.S. Naval Facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, four detainees moved individually to dismiss their habeas petitions without prejudice, conditioned on their continued access to counsel under the protective order previously created to assure such rights. Counsel for two other detainees, who were denied access to their counsel following the denial of their habeas petitions, moved for an order affirming that the protective order continued to apply to them. The district court consolidated the motions and held that the protective order continued to govern access to counsel issues for all detainees who had a right to petition for habeas relief. (U.S. Naval Facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba)

    U.S. District Court

    EXPERT WITNESS

    Jones v. Pramstaller, 874 F.Supp.2d 713 (W.D.Mich. 2012). The estate of a prisoner who died of viral meningoencephalitis brought an action under [section] 1983 against a doctor who provided the prisoner with medical care under contract with the contractor that provided health care to state prisoners. The doctor moved for disqualification of the estate's expert witness. The district court granted the motion. The court held that the estate failed to show that the expert witness' testimony was based on common sense rather than expertise and experience, and the estate failed to show that the expert witness's opinion was based on reliable principles and methods. The proposed expert witness, a physician, believed that the doctor's unreasonable delay in having the prisoner hospitalized was probably a cause of the prisoner's death. (Ernest Brooks Facility, Michigan Department of Corrections)

    U.S. District Court

    LEGAL MATERIAL

    Joseph v. Fischer, 900 F.Supp.2d 320 (W.D.N.Y. 2012). A state prisoner who observed the Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE) faith brought an action against correctional officials, alleging that the officials violated his right to practice his religion, denied his right of access to courts, and retaliated against him The prisoner sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as money damages. The officials moved for judgment on the pleadings. The district court granted the motion in part and denied in part. The court held that the issue of whether correctional officials' restrictions on NGE activities were adequately justified by legitimate security concerns, as required under the First Amendment and RLUIPA, could not be resolved on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, since it was not possible, based solely on the pleadings, to determine whether the actions of the officials had unjustifiably burdened the prisoner's religious exercise. The court found that the prisoner's allegations, that he was denied access to courts due to a correctional official's confiscation or destruction of documents, failed to state a claim for denial of access to courts, where the allegations were conclusory, and the prisoner failed to show what prejudice he suffered as a result of the official's alleged actions. (Attica Correctional Facility, New York)

    U.S. District Court

    PLRA- Prison Litigation Reform Act

    RETALIATION

    EXHAUSTION

    DUE PROCESS

    Patel...

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