Part two: case summaries by major topic.

PositionP. 47-89 - Case overview

    U.S. District Court


    Reid v. Cumberland County, 34 F.Supp.3d 396 (D.N.J. 2013). An inmate filed a [section] 1983 action against a county, its department of corrections, warden, and correctional officers alleging that officers used excessive force against him. The inmate moved to compel discovery. The district court granted the motion. The court held that: (1) information regarding past instances of excessive force by correctional officers was relevant to the inmate's supervisory liability claims; (2) officers' personnel files and internal affairs files were relevant; (3) officers' personnel files and internal affairs files were not protected by the official information privilege; (4) officers' personnel files and internal affairs files were not protected by the deliberative process privilege; (5) internal affairs files concerning the incident in question were subject to discovery; (6) the county failed to adequately demonstrate that the inmate's request for prior instances of excessive force and accompanying documentation was sufficiently burdensome to preclude discovery; and (7) complaints about officers' excessive force, statistics of excessive force, the county's use of force reports, and related internal affairs files were not protected by the official information privilege or the deliberative process privilege. (Cumberland County Department of Corrections, New Jersey)

    U.S. District Court


    American Civil Liberties Union Fund of Michigan v. Livingston County, 23 F.Supp.3d 834 (E.D.Mich. 2014). A civil rights organization brought a [section] 1983 action against a county and county officials alleging that the jail's postcard-only mail policy violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Following the grant of a temporary restraining order (TRO), the organization moved for preliminary injunction. The district court granted the motion. The organization had sought a preliminary injunction enjoining the jail policy of refusing to promptly deliver properly marked legal mail sent by an organization attorney and individually addressed to an inmate. The court held that there was a likelihood of success on the merits of its claim that the policy violated the First Amendment protection accorded inmates' legal mail. The court noted that the organization sent letters in envelopes that were individually addressed to individual inmates, were labeled "legal mail," clearly delineated that the mail came from an organization attorney, the letters asked if the inmate was interested in meeting with an organization attorney to obtain legal advice regarding the jail policy of limiting all incoming and outgoing mail to one side of a four by six-inch postcard, but the letters were not delivered. The jail opened the letters and read them, and the jail failed to notify the inmates or the organization that the letters were not delivered. (Livingston County Jail, Michigan)

    U.S. District Court


    Banks v. Annucci, 48 F.Supp.3d 394 (N.D.N.Y. 2014). A state inmate filed a [section] 1983 action alleging that correctional officers harassed him, tampered with his food and contaminated his Kosher meals, interfered with his mail, mishandled his grievances, and interfered with his access to courts, and that prison medical employees were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs and involuntarily administered psychotropic drugs to him. The court held that prison officials' alleged unauthorized intentional taking or destruction of the inmate's property did not violate the inmate's due process rights, where the state afforded an adequate post-deprivation remedy. The court noted that the officials did not violate the inmate's First Amendment right of access to courts when they allegedly confiscated a rough draft of his civil rights complaint, where the inmate did not allege that he suffered an actual injury as a result, or that officials acted deliberately or maliciously. (Upstate Correctional Facility, New York)

    U.S. District Court



    Barnes v. Alves, 10 F.Supp.3d 391 (W.D.N.Y. 2014). Prison officials moved for reconsideration of a decision by the district court requiring the officials to produce the entire Inspector General report relating to one of the incidents at issue in a state inmate's [section] 1983 action. The district court denied the motion, finding that good cause existed to require prison officials to pay for the copy of the report they were required to produce to the inmate. (Upstate Correctional Facility in Malone, New York)

    U.S. District Court


    Cox v. Massachusetts Dept, of Correction, 18 F.Supp.3d 38 (D.Mass. 2014). A mentally disabled state prisoner brought an action against a state department of correction (DOC) and various officials, alleging violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. The defendants moved to dismiss. The district court granted the motion in part and denied in part. The court found that the prisoner's grievance alleging he was improperly classified, resulting in a sexual assault, provided the DOC with sufficient notice to investigate, and therefore, the prisoner's claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) were administratively-exhausted. The prisoner alleged that the DOC did not keep him safe and that he was mentally challenged. According to the court, the prisoner's allegations that he was sexually assaulted by other inmates, that he suffered other abuses, that prison officials knew of the risk of harm to the prisoner, that his history of mental illness was well-documented, and that officials were responsible for policies, procedures, and training that led to his injury were sufficient to state a [section] 1983 claim against the officials for violations of the Eighth Amendment, and a claim under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, absent allegations of threats, intimidation, or coercion by officials. (Massachusetts Department of Correction, Old Colony Correctional Center)

    U.S. District Court

    PLRA--Prison Litigation Reform Act


    Crayton v. Graffeo, 10 F.Supp.3d 888 (N.D. Ill. 2014). A pretrial detainee in a county department of corrections jail brought an action against three correctional officers, alleging that they beat him in two separate incidents, and asserting an excessive-force claim under [section] 1983. The officers filed a motion for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion in part and denied in part. The court held that the detainee failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before filing his [section] 1983 action, where the detainee neither appealed the notice that his grievance was being forwarded to the jail's Office of Professional Review (OPR), nor did he await the results of OPR's investigation. (Cook County Department of Corrections, Illinois)

    U.S. District Court



    Edmondson v. Fremgen, 17 F.Supp.3d 833 (E.D.Wis. 2014). An indigent prisoner brought a [section] 1983 action against the clerk of the state courts of appeals, alleging that the clerk violated various of his civil rights when she froze his inmate trust accounts until filing fees had been paid in two of his state appeals. The clerk moved to dismiss, and the prisoner moved for appointment of counsel. The district court granted the motion to dismiss and denied the motion to appoint counsel. The court held that freezing the prisoner's trust accounts did not violate his right to access the courts, did not violate the prisoner's right to procedural due process, and was not an illegal seizure.. According to the court, the indigent prisoner's right to access the courts were not violated, although not having the ability to spend money in his accounts prevented him from copying legal materials, where allowing the prisoner's appeals to proceed in the first place, by having deductions for filing fees made from his inmate trust accounts, did not injure his ability to access the courts. (Wisconsin)

    U.S. District Court


    Grenning v. Klemme, 34 F.Supp.3d 1144 (E.D.Wash. 2014). A state inmate brought a [section] 1983 action alleging that prison officials and employees retaliated against him, in violation of the First Amendment, for the content of letters and manuscript he authored, as well as his filing of grievances and a lawsuit. The district court granted the inmate's motion for a protective order. The officials moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion in part and denied in part. The court found that summary judgment was precluded by genuine issues of material fact as to whether prison mailroom staff members selectively applied the foreign language mail policy as a pretext to prevent the inmate, who filed grievances, from receiving mail from his overseas parents written in Norwegian, as to whether the staff members made an effort to seek translations, and as to whether the policy as applied amounted to a de facto ban on all of the inmate's incoming non-English mail. The court held that the correctional sergeant was not entitled to qualified immunity from the inmate's [section] 1983 claim that the sergeant retaliated against him, in violation of the First Amendment, when he disciplined the inmate based on disparaging remarks contained in the inmate's outgoing e-mail to his mother, where a reasonable official would have understood that punishing the inmate for the unflattering content of personal correspondence directed to another was unlawful. The court held that there was no causal connection between the inmate's seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) in separate litigation and the officials' placing him in solitary confinement over one year later. (Airway Heights Corrections Center, Washington)

    U.S. Appeals Court


    Henderson v. Ghosh, 755 F.3d 559 (7th Cir. 2014). An inmate brought an action against prisoner health care...

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