Part two: case summaries by major topic.

PositionP. 77-117 - Case overview

U.S. Appeals Court






    Blackmon v. Sutton, 734 F.3d 1237 (10th Cir. 2013). A former juvenile pretrial detainee brought a [section] 1983 action against various members of a juvenile detention center's staff, alleging they violated the Fourteenth Amendment rights guaranteed to him as a pretrial detainee. The district court denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The defendants appealed. The appeals court affirmed in part, and reversed in part. The court held that the eleven-year-old pretrial detainee's right to be free from punishment altogether was clearly established at the time the staff allegedly used a chair bearing wrist, waist, chest, and ankle restraints to punish detainee, for the purposes of the juvenile detention center's staffs qualified immunity defense. According to the court, the senior correctional officer approved a decision by one of his subordinates, a fully grown man, to sit on the chest of the eleven-year-old without any penological purpose. The court found that the detainee's Fourteenth Amendment due process rights were violated when employees allegedly failed to provide the eleven-year-old detainee with any meaningful mental health care despite his obvious need for it. The court noted that prison officials who assumed a "gate keeping" authority over the prisoner's access to medical professionals were deliberately indifferent to the detainee's medical needs when they denied or delayed access to medical care. But the court also held that the detainee's alleged right to be placed in a particular facility of his choice while awaiting trial was not clearly established at the time the director failed to transfer detainee to a nearby shelter. The court stated: "Weeks before eleven-year-old, 4'11," 96- pound Brandon Blackmon arrived at the juvenile detention center in Sedgwick, Kansas, officials there made a new purchase: the Pro-Straint Restraining Chair, Violent Prisoner Chair Model RC-1200LX. The chair bore wrist, waist, chest, and ankle restraints all. In the months that followed, the staff made liberal use of their new acquisition on the center's youngest and smallest charge. Sometimes in a legitimate effort to thwart his attempts at suicide and self-harm. But sometimes, it seems, only to punish him. And that's the nub of this lawsuit." (Juvenile Residential Facility, Sedgwick County, Kansas)

    U.S. Appeals Court



    T.S. v. Doe, 742 F.3d 632 (6th Cir. 2014). Parents, on behalf of their minor children, brought a [section] 1983 action against the superintendent of a juvenile detention center, correctional officers, and other administrators, claiming that the suspicionless strip search of the juveniles, as part of the intake process of the detention center, violated the juveniles' Fourth Amendment rights. The district court granted summary judgment for the parents. The defendants appealed. The appeals court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. The court held that the right of juvenile detainees held on minor offenses to be free from suspicionless strip searches was not clearly established at time the two juveniles arrested for underage drinking were strip searched, and thus, correctional officers who conducted searches were protected by qualified immunity from liability in the [section] 1983 action arising from the searches. The court noted that prior court decisions had recognized that a strip search of a person arrested for a minor offense was unreasonable, given that subsequent court decisions had found that state's enhanced responsibility for juveniles supported strip searches, and a recent Supreme Court decision had concluded that the Fourth Amendment did not prohibit strip search of all adult criminal detainees. The court found that under Kentucky law, the correctional officers' strip searches of the two juveniles, as part of the intake process of a juvenile detention center, were ministerial acts, and thus, the officers were not eligible for qualified official immunity from liability on the juveniles' claims of negligence, invasion of privacy, assault, false imprisonment, grossly negligent infliction of emotional distress, and arbitrary action in violation of state constitution, even if officers were both acting in good faith and within scope of their employment. (Breathitt Regional Juvenile Detention Center, Kentucky)

    U.S. District Court






    Endl v. New Jersey, 5 F.Supp.3d 689 (D.N.J. 2014). The parents of an inmate who died in a state prison brought a [section] 1983 action, individually and the mother as administrator of the inmate's estate, against the state, the department of corrections (DOC), a prison, corrections officers, a medical care provider, and physicians and nurses, alleging the inmate had been deprived of necessary medical care. The defendants filed motions to dismiss. The district court granted the motions in part and denied in part. The court held that corrections officers, who were sued in their official capacities, were not immune from liability under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act (TCA) where there were not just errors in medical judgment, but claims of deliberate or reckless indifference, and the survivors' clearly alleged conduct that may have been outside the scope of the officers' employment or that may have constituted willful misconduct. The court found that allegations that individual medical providers responsible for the inmate misdiagnosed the inmate's congestive heart failure as bronchitis, failed to provide a medical workup following the inmate's complaint of chest cavity pain, and failed to properly medicate him, were sufficient to support an Eighth Amendment claim for cruel and unusual punishment in the [section] 1983 action against the providers. (Northern State Prison, New Jersey)

    U.S. District Court



    Estate of Henson v. Wichita County, 988 F.Supp.2d 726 (N.D.Tex. 2013). Family members of a pretrial detainee who died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) while being held in a county jail brought a [section] 1983 action against a county and a jail physician, among others, for violation of the detainee's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and asserted claims under state law for negligence and breach of contract. The defendants moved for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The district court granted the motions in part, and denied in part. The physician and the county moved for reconsideration. The district court granted the motion, finding that the physician was not subject to supervisory liability under [section] 1983, absent any finding that the nurse refused to treat the detainee, ignored his complaints, intentionally treated him incorrectly, or engaged in any similar conduct that would clearly evince a wanton disregard for any serious medical need. The court held that the county was not liable in the [section] 1983 claim brought by family members, absent a showing of an underlying constitutional violation by a county employee or a county policy that permitted or caused some constitutional violation. (Wichita County Jail, Texas)

    U.S. District Court


    Foster v. Ghosh, 4 F.Supp.3d 974 (N.D.D1. 2013). A state inmate brought an action against Illinois Department of Corrections officials and an optometrist who treated him in prison, alleging under [section] 1983 that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment The inmate moved for a preliminary injunction requiring the defendants to grant him access to an ophthalmologist to evaluate his cataracts. The district court granted the motion. The court held that the optometrist and medical director were deliberately indifferent to the inmate's serious medical needs and that the inmate would suffer irreparable harm absent the issuance of an injunction. According to the court, the only treatment the inmate received in prison was a prescription for eyeglasses, which was not effective, and the inmate's request for a consultation was not expensive, unconventional, or esoteric. The court noted that the cost the defendants would bear providing adequate care to the inmate did not outweigh the irreparable harm the inmate would endure if his cataracts remained unevaluated. (Stateville Correctional Center, Illinois)

    U.S. District Court








    Kelly v. Wengler, 7 F.Supp.3d 1069 (D.Idaho 2014). State inmates filed a class action against a warden and the contractor that operated a state correctional center, alleging that the level of violence at the center violated their constitutional rights. After the parties entered into a settlement agreement the court found the operator to be in contempt and ordered relief. The inmates moved for attorney fees and costs. The district court granted the motions. The court held that the settlement offer made in the contempt proceeding, by the contractor that operated the state correctional facility, which provided an extension of the settlement agreement, required a specific independent monitor to review staffing for the remainder of the settlement agreement term, and offered to pay reasonable attorney fees, did not give the inmates the same relief that they achieved in the contempt proceeding, and thus the inmates' rejection of the offer did not preclude them from recovering attorney fees and costs they incurred in the contempt proceeding. The court noted that the inmates were already entitled to reasonable attorney fees in the event of a breach, and the inmates achieved greater relief in the contempt proceeding with regard to the extension and the addition of an independent monitor. After considering the totality of the record and the arguments by counsel, the court awarded the plaintiffs'...

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