Part two: case summaries by major topic.

Position::P. 89-134 - Case overview
 
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  1. LIABILITY

    U.S. District Court

    PLRA-Prison Litigation Reform Act

    SETTLEMENT

    CONSENT DECREE

    Disability Law Center v. Massachusetts Dept, of Correction, 960 F.Supp.2d 271 (D.Mass. 2012). A nonprofit organization, which represented mentally ill prisoners, brought an action against a state's Department of Correction, alleging that the Department and its officials violated the federal constitutional rights of prisoners by subjecting them to disciplinary and other forms of segregation for prolonged periods of time. After extensive negotiations, the parties jointly moved for approval of a settlement agreement The district court granted the motion, finding the agreement to be fair, reasonable, and adequate. The court noted that the agreement addressed the fundamental issue of prison suicides by providing a process for minimizing the possibility that inmates with serious mental illnesses would be confined in segregation, and for reviewing their mental health while in segregation. The court held that the agreement did not order any "prospective relief," or in fact any "relief" at all, thereby precluding the applicability of the requirement of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), that prospective relief not extend further than necessary to remedy violation of a federal right (Massachusetts Department of Correction)

    U.S. District Court

    DELIBERATE INDIFFERENCE

    NEGLIGENCE

    QUALIFIED IMMUNITY

    Moulton v. DeSue, 966 F.Supp.2d 1298 (M.D.Fla. 2012). The personal representative of a jail inmate's estate brought a [section] 1983 action against correctional officers, a nurse, and a sheriff, alleging deliberate indifference to the inmate's right to adequate medical care while in pretrial confinement, which resulted in her death. The defendants filed motions for summary judgment. The district court denied the motions in part and granted the motions in part. The court held that summary judgment was precluded by a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the correctional officers' failure to call emergency rescue when the pregnant jail inmate complained of stomach cramps constituted more than grossly negligent disregard of a substantial risk of a serious harm, precluding summary judgment for the officers on the deliberate indifference to the inmate's serious medical need claim. According to the court, correctional officers were on notice that their alleged actions or inactions violated the jail inmate's clearly established Fourteenth Amendment right to adequate medical care, and, thus, the officers were not entitled to qualified immunity in [section] 1983 action. The court also held that summary judgment was precluded by a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the correctional officers acted with ill will or malice toward the jail inmate, or exhibited reckless indifference. (Bradford County Jail, Florida)

    U.S. District Court

    FTCA--Federal Tort Claims Act

    POLICIES/PROCEDURES

    Alvarado-David v. U.S., 972 F.Supp.2d 210 (D.Puerto Rico 2013). A prisoner brought an action against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging he fell out of his bunk and hit a toilet bowl, breaking his frontal teeth and upper lip because the United States' failed to provide prisoners with ladders to climb to their bunks. The United States moved to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under the FTCA's discretionary function exception. The district court granted the motion. The court held that the decision by Bureau of Prisons (BOP) personnel not to provide ladders or other equipment for the prisoners to climb to their bunks fit within the discretionary function exception to the FTCA. The court noted that no rules or regulations governed the use of ladders or bunk beds in correctional facilities, and the decision not to provide ladders in correctional facilities for safety reasons, as ladders could be broken off and used as weapons or escape devices, was grounded in considerations of public policy. (Metropolitan Detention Center, Guaynabo, Puerto Rico)

    U.S. District Court

    INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY

    INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

    OFFICIAL CAPACITY

    PLRA--Prison Litigation Reform Act

    Aref v. Holder, 953 F.Supp.2d 133 (D.D.C. 2013). Current and former prisoners brought an action against the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), BOP officials, and the Attorney General, claiming that their First and Fifth Amendment rights were violated when they were placed in Communications Management Units (CMUs), in which their ability to communicate with the outside world was seriously restricted. Following dismissal of all but the procedural due process and First Amendment retaliation claims, the defendants moved to dismiss the First Amendment claims. The district court granted the motion in part and denied in part. The court held that: (1) the prisoner's release from BOP custody rendered moot his official-capacity claims for equitable relief; (2) a second prisoner sufficiently alleged a First Amendment retaliation claim; but (3) the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) barred the prisoners' individual-capacity claims against a BOP official for mental or emotional injury. (Federal Correctional Institutions in Terre Haute, Indiana, and Marion, Illinois)

    U.S. District Court

    SUPERVISORY

    LIABILITY

    Canales v. Gatzunis, 979 F.Supp.2d 164 (D.Mass. 2013). A former county jail inmate brought an action in state court against a county sheriffs department, the sheriff, the jail superintendent, a state public safety commissioner, and others, alleging the defendants subjected him to reckless, negligent, and cruel medical treatment. Some defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The district court granted the motion in part and denied in part. The court found that because the county sheriffs department and other county defendants voluntary removed to inmate's action to federal court, the defendants did not enjoy Eleventh Amendment immunity against any Massachusetts Tort Claims Act (MTCA) claims they would be subject to in state court as a result of waiver. The court held that the former jail inmate's allegations that the county defendants had a "disorganized medical program" at the jail and failed to maintain a "quality assurance program," and that the jail failed "to maintain adequate and accurate medical records," insufficiently pled that the jail superintendent was personally involved in misinforming the inmate that he had HIV and mistakenly administering another prisoner's HIV medication to the inmate, as would subject the superintendent to supervisory liability for his subordinates' alleged Eighth Amendment violations under [section] 1983. (Suffolk County House of Correction, Massachusetts)

    U.S. District Court

    CLASS ACTION

    CONSENT DECREE

    INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

    Coleman v. Brown, 960 F.Supp.2d 1057 (E.D.Cal. 2013). California prisoners with serious mental disorders brought a class action against a Governor, alleging that due to prison overcrowding, they received inadequate mental health care, in violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment Separately, California prisoners with serious medical conditions brought a class action asserting constitutional claims similar to those in the other action. In the case concerning mental health care, the district court found Eighth Amendment violations and appointed a special master to oversee the development and implementation of a remedial plan. In the case concerning medical care, the State stipulated to a remedial injunction, and, after the State failed to comply with that injunction, the district court appointed a receiver to oversee remedial efforts. A three judge district court panel consolidated the two cases and the panel entered a remedial order requiring the State to reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent of design capacity within two years. The Governor appealed. The United States Supreme Court affirmed the population reduction order. The district court subsequently denied the defendants' motion to vacate or modify the population reduction order, and directed the defendants to comply with the population reduction order. The defendants' moved to stay the order directing compliance pending appeal to the United States Supreme Court. The district court denied the motion, finding that: (1) the State was not likely to succeed on the merits of the prisoners' lawsuit challenging prison conditions; (2) the State would not be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) issuance of a stay would substantially injure the prisoners; and (4) the public interest favored denying the stay. (California)

    U.S. District Court

    INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

    RLUIPA--Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act

    Conway v. Purves, 963 F.Supp.2d 708 (E.D.Mich. 2013). State prisoners brought an action against a state department of corrections (DOC) and its officials challenging the nutritional adequacy of the meals provided to the prisoners during the Islamic month of Ramadan, and asserting claims for violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and constitutional violations. The plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction or a temporary restraining order (TRO) to require the department of corrections and its officials to provide nutritionally balanced meals containing between 2600 and 2900 calories on any given day during Ramadan. The district court denied the motion, finding that the prisoners failed to show certain and immediate irreparable harm, as required for a preliminary injunction. The court noted that Ramadan had recently concluded, that any harm that the prisoners could suffer approximately one year in the future was speculative, and the action would likely be resolved prior to the next Ramadan observance. (Michigan Department of Corrections)

    U.S. District Court

    DELIBERATE INDIFFERENCE

    FAILURE TO PROTECT

    FAILURE TO SUPERVISE

    FAILURE TO TRAIN

    E.A.F.F. v. U.S., 955 F.Supp.2d 707 (W.D.Tex. 2013). Unaccompanied alien minors brought an action against Office of...

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