Part Two: case summaries by major topic.

Position::P. 25-61 - Case overview
 
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U.S. Appeals Court PLRA- Prison Litigation Reform Act EXHAUSTION

  1. ACCESS TO COURT

    Blake v. Ross, 787 F.3d 693 (4th Cir. 2015). An inmate broughta [section] 1983 action against correctional officers, alleging use of excessive force. One officer moved for summary judgment on the ground that inmate failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. The district court granted the motion and the inmate appealed. The appeals court reversed and remanded. The court held that an internal investigation afforded correction officials time and opportunity to address the complaints internally, as required for an exception to the PLRA exhaustion of remedies requirement to apply, and the inmate's belief that he had exhausted administrative remedies was a reasonable interpretation of the inmate grievance procedures. (Maryland Reception Diagnostic and Classification Center)

    U.S. Appeals Court APPOINTED ATTORNEY

    Childress v. Walker, 787 F.3d 433 (7th Cir. 2015). A state prisoner brought an action under [section] 1983 alleging that administrators and individuals affiliated with a correctional center violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment and the Due Process Clause. The district court dismissed the action and the prisoner appealed. The appeals court reversed and remanded. The court held that the prisoner stated a claim for relief under the Eighth Amendment with allegations that the prison administrator knew that conditions of his mandatory release included a ban on computer-related material, but nevertheless instituted, condoned, or willfully turned a blind eye to the practice that placed computer-related material among his possessions. The court also found that the district court had to determine, upon the prisoner's motion for appointment of counsel, whether the prisoner, from the confines of his present institutional situation, could adequately investigate and articulate, in accordance with established practices of [section] 1983 liability, familiarity of each defendant with the practices of the educational program that placed computer-related material among his possessions, even though the conditions of his mandatory release included a ban on computer-related material. (Big Muddy River Correctional Center, Illinois)

    U.S. Appeals Court IN FORMA PAUPERIS RETALIATION

    Dimanche v. Brown, 783 F.3d 1204 (11th Cir. 2015). A state prisoner brought a [section] 1983 action against prison officials, alleging he was subjected to harsh treatment in retaliation for filing grievances about prison conditions and asserting claims for cruel and unusual punishment, due process violations, and First Amendment retaliation. The district court dismissed the case for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and failure to state a claim pursuant to the in forma pauperis statute. The prisoner appealed. The appeals court reversed and remanded. The court held that the grievance sent by the state prisoner directly to the Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) met the conditions for bypassing the informal and formal grievance steps at the institutional level under Florida law, and thus the prisoner satisfied the Prison Litigation Reform Act's (PLRA) exhaustion requirement with respect to his [section] 1983 claims alleging cruel and unusual punishment, due process violations, and First Amendment retaliation. The court noted that the prisoner clearly stated at the beginning of the grievance form that he was filing a grievance of reprisal, indicating he feared for his life and that he was "gassed in confinement for grievances [he] wrote," and clearly stated the reason for bypassing the informal and formal grievance steps, namely, his fear that he would be killed if he filed additional grievances at the institutional level, and alleged participation by high-ranking prison officials. The court found that the prisoner stated claims against prison officials for First Amendment retaliation and cruel and unusual punishment by alleging that prison guards and officials sprayed him with tear gas without provocation, denied him prompt medical care, filed false disciplinary reports, and threatened further retaliation, all in retaliation for filing grievances. (Liberty Correctional Institution, Florida)

    U.S. District Court IN FORMA PAUPERIS INDIGENT INMATES

    Harris v. Doe, 78 F.Supp.3d 894 (N.D. 111. 2015). In two related actions, an inmate, proceeding pro se, alleged [section] 1983 claims against prison officers for deprivations of his civil rights. The inmate sought to proceed in forma pauperis in these suits. The district court dismissed the suits, holding that the inmate's allegation of poverty in his applications to proceed in forma pauperis was untrue. The court noted that the inmate represented that he had not received more than $200 in funds over the preceding 12 months from any of numerous categories listed in the application, including a catch-all category of "any other source." According to the court, his prisoner trust fund account reflected a $3,000 deposit, the inmate quickly withdrew most of that $3,000 by writing checks to a "friend" or "friends" who in turn later re-deposited those funds into his account over the next several months, and the inmate promptly expended these re-deposits on commissary items well before he filed his suits. (Cook County Jail, Illinois)

    U.S. Appeals Court PLRA- Prison Litigation Reform Act EXHAUSTION

    Hubbs v. Suffolk County Sheriffs Dept., 788 F.3d 54 (2nd Cir. 2015). A county jail detainee brought a [section] 1983 action against a county sheriff's department, and sheriff's deputies, alleging that he was severely beaten by the deputies while in a holding cell at a courthouse. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants based on the detainee's failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The detainee appealed. The appeals court vacated and remanded, finding that the affidavit of a county jail grievance coordinator, along with a handbook detailing a grievance procedure, did not establish that the detainee had an available administrative remedy, and neither the handbook nor the affidavit demonstrated that the county or sheriffs department, or any official, handled grievances arising from occurrences in the courthouse holding cells or whether remedies for such grievances were actually available. According to the court, the deputies forfeited any arguments that statutory remedies were available to the county jail detainee where the deputies failed to identify in the district court or on appeal any statutes or regulations showing that administrative remedies were available for events that took place in the courthouse holding facility. (Suffolk County Correctional Facility, New York)

    U.S. Appeals Court PLRA- Prison Litigation Reform Act ACCESS TO ATTORNEY

    Kervin v. Barnes, 787 F.3d 833 (7th Cir. 2015). A state prisoner brought a [section] 1983 action against prison officials, alleging that he was placed in segregation as punishment for insisting on keeping his appointment with an attorney and that he was denied due process when he sought redress from the prison's grievance system. The district court, pursuant to the screening process of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), dismissed the suit on the pleadings. The prisoner appealed. The appeals court affirmed. The court held that the state prisoner did not provide any information as to the content or purpose of his meeting with the attorney, precluding any finding as to whether the meeting involved protected speech, as required to support the prisoner's [section] 1983 claim that he was punished not for his insubordinate speech to a prison guard, but rather for meeting with, and presumably talking to, an attorney. (Indiana Department of Corrections)

    U.S. Appeals Court PLRA- Prison Litigation Reform Act EXHAUSTION

    King v. McCarty, 781 F.3d 889 (7th Cir. 2015). A state prisoner brought a [section] 1983 action against a county sheriff and two jail guards, alleging the jail's use of a transparent jumpsuit during his transfer to a state prison, which exposed the prisoner's genitals, violated the prisoner's rights under the Fourth and Eighth Amendments. The district court dismissed the prisoner's Eighth Amendment claim for failure to state a claim and granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment as to the Fourth Amendment claim. The prisoner appealed. The appeals court reversed and remanded. The court held that: (1) the prisoner was required to direct his grievance to the jail, not the state prison, in order to satisfy the Prison Litigation Reform Act's (PLRA) exhaustion requirement; (2) the jail's grievance procedure was not "available," within the meaning of PLRA; (3) allegations were sufficient to state a claim under the Eighth Amendment; and (4) the jail's requirement that the prisoner wear a transparent jumpsuit did not violate the Fourth Amendment. (Illinois Department of Corrections, Livingston County Jail)

    U.S. APPEALS COURT PLRA- Prison Litigation Reform Act EXHAUSTION

    Lee v. Willey, 789 F.3d 673 (6th Cir. 2015). A former prisoner brought a [section] 1983 claim against a part-time prison psychiatrist, alleging that he suffered sexual abuse by another prisoner as a result of the psychiatrist's deliberate indifference to his health and safety in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The district court entered summary judgment in the psychiatrist's favor. The former prisoner appealed. The appeals court affirmed, finding that the district court's ruling that the former prisoner did not submit a substitute prison grievance letter was not clearly erroneous, and the former prisoner failed to exhaust administrative remedies prior to bringing his [section] 1983 claim. (Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center, Michigan)

    U.S. Appeals Court COURT COSTS PLRA- Prison Litigation Reform Act IN FORMA PAUPERIS

    Siluk v. Merwin, 783 F.3d 421 (3rd Cir. 2015). An indigent state prisoner who had been allowed to file in forma...

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