Part two: case summaries by major topic.

Position:P. 83-123 - Case overview
  1. MAIL

    U.S. Appeals Court





    Al-Owhali v. Holder, 687 F.3d 1236 (10th Cir. 2012). A federal inmate brought a suit against the Attorney General, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), a prison warden, and the FBI, alleging that several special administrative measures imposed upon him violated his First and Fifth Amendment rights. The inmate had been convicted of several terrorism-related offenses stemming from the 1998 bombing of the United States embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. The district court dismissed the complaint and the inmate appealed. The appeals court affirmed. The appeals court held that: (1) the inmate failed to address whether the ban on his communications with his nieces and nephews was supported by a rational penal interest; (2) the measure preventing the inmate's subscription to two Arabic-language newspapers fell within the warden's broad discretion to limit incoming information, and was rationally related to a penal interest to prevent the inmate from acting upon contemporary information or receiving coded messages; and (3) the inmate offered only a vague allegation regarding the measure that purportedly barred him from obtaining a book authored by former President Jimmy Carter, where the inmate offered no factual context to show that the measure was unrelated to any legitimate penal interest, and instead merely implied the existence of a secret list of banned publications. (United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum, Florence, Colorado)

    U.S. District Court




    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



    Lane v. Williams, 689 F.3d 879 (7th Cir. 2012). Convicted sex offenders who, after completing their sentences, remained in state custody as civil detainees pursuant to the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act, brought a [section] 1983 action, alleging constitutional problems with the conditions of their confinement at a treatment facility. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants and the detainees appealed. The appeals court affirmed. The appeals court held that security restrictions on face-to-face interactions between the civil detainees held in different units within the state's treatment facility for sexually violent persons (SVP) did not constitute treatment decisions which, as a matter of due process, had to be made by health professionals, merely because the security restrictions affected treatment options. The court found that requiring the civil detainees to use United States Mail, rather than the facility's internal mail system, to send letters to detainees in the facility's other units did not violate the detainees' First Amendment associational rights, even if the facility's internal mail system was a superior means of sending letters. The court noted that commitment under the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act is civil and may be for purposes such as incapacitation and treatment, but not for punishment. As a general matter, persons who have been involuntarily civilly committed are entitled to more considerate treatment and conditions of confinement than criminals whose conditions of confinement are designed to punish. (Rushville Treatment and Detention Center, Illinois)

    U.S. District Court



    U.S. v. Ligambi, 886 F.Supp.2d 492 (E.D.Pa. 2012). A detainee who was charged with various crimes, including racketeering, moved to suppress an outgoing prison letter seized by prison officials. The district court denied the motion. The court held that the defendant, who was in prison while charged with various crimes, including racketeering, did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his outgoing non-privileged mail. The court noted that prison regulations permitted officials to seize correspondence when it might contain information concerning criminal activities, it was established practice to inspect non-privileged mailings to promote discipline in the institution, and the defendant had a reputation for involvement with organized crime. (South Woods State Prison, Southern State Correctional Facility, New Jersey)


    U.S. Appeals Court




    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. The court held that the prisoner stated a [section] 1983 Eighth Amendment claim against correctional officers for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs .The prisoner alleged that he suffered from numerous medical conditions and was hearing and mobility impaired, that his medical orders stated that the prisoner was mobility impaired and had housing restrictions requiring a lower bunk, no stairs, and no triple bunk, and that the correctional officers knew of those medical orders, but failed to comply with them. (Mule Creek State Prison, California)

    U.S. District Court





    Allen v. Ford, 880 F.Supp.2d 407 (W.D.N.Y. 2012). A state inmate brought a [section] 1983 action against correction officers, alleging negligence in failing to provide adequate safety equipment while he was working in a cafeteria and in failing to provide treatment when he burned himself, as well as asserting deliberate indifference in instruction and supervision. The officers moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion. The court held that: (1) the negligence claims were precluded by sovereign immunity; (2) one officer did not know of and disregard the severity of the prisoner's injuries; and (3) the officer advising the prisoner to sign up for sick call for the following morning, rather than providing emergency sick call at that time, was not deliberately indifferent. The court noted that the prisoner reported the incident to the officer, who asked if he was badly burned, the prisoner responded that he did not know, the prisoner's skin did not blister until after he returned to his cell at the end of his shift, and the prisoner visited the medical department the next morning and was transferred to a county medical center. (New York State Department of Corrections, Wende Correctional Facility)

    U.S. District Court

    ADA- Americans with Disabilities Act




    RA- Rehabilitation Act

    Anderson v. Colorado, 887 F.Supp.2d 1133 (D.Colo. 2012). A mentally ill inmate sued a state, its Department of Corrections (DOC), the DOC's director, and a warden, asserting claims for alleged violations of due process, the Eighth Amendment bar against cruel and unusual punishment, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Rehabilitation Act. Following a bench trial, the district court held that: (1) denying the inmate in administrative segregation any opportunity to be outdoors and to engage in some form of outdoor exercise for period of 12 years was a serious deprivation of a human need; (2) the defendants were deliberately indifferent to the inmate's mental and physical health; (3) the inmate failed to establish that he was denied a necessary and appropriate medication in violation of ADA and the Rehabilitation Act; (4) the defendants had to assign a department psychiatrist to reevaluate the inmate's current mental health treatment needs and take steps concluded to be appropriate in the psychiatrist's medical judgment; (5) the inmate failed to establish a violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment, ADA, and the Rehabilitation Act due to the alleged denial of treatment provided by a multidisciplinary treatment team; (6) the inmate had a due process- protected liberty interest in progressing out of administrative segregation; and (7) the new stratified incentive system that was being implemented with respect to inmates in administrative segregation, if used...

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