Part Two: case summaries by major topic.

Position:P.26-51 - Case overview
 
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  1. ACCESS TO COURTS

    U.S. Appeals Court PRIVILEGED CORRESPONDENCE/MAIL

    American Civil Liberties Union Fund of Michigan v. Livingston County, 796 F.3d 636 (6th Cir. 2015). A civil rights organization brought a [section] 1983 action against a county and county officials alleging that the jail's mail policy, pursuant to which all incoming and outgoing mail except "bona-fide legal mail" had to be on standard four-by-six-inch postcards, violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Following the grant of a temporary restraining order (TRO), the organization moved for a preliminary injunction. The district court granted the motion and the county appealed. The appeals court affirmed. The court held that the organization had a likelihood of success on the merits of its claim that the policy violated the Fourteenth Amendment's due process protections. The court noted that the organization alleged that the jail blocked delivery of letters sent by the organization's attorney without providing the organization or the intended inmate recipients notice and opportunity to contest the decision. (Livingston County Jail, Michigan)

    U.S. District Court PLRA--Prison Litigation Reform Act LEGAL MAIL

    Angulo v. Nassau County, 89 F.Supp.3d 541 (E.D.N.Y. 2015). An inmate brought a pro se action against a county and its correctional facility personnel, alleging the defendants violated his constitutional rights through the destruction of various legal documents and his legal mail. The defendants moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion. The court held that: (1) the inmate's letter of complaint did not comply with the correctional facility's grievance procedure, and thus the inmate failed to property exhaust his administrative remedies; (2) administrative remedies were "available" to the inmate, and thus the inmate was not excused from filing a grievance; (3) the inmate's allegations that personnel acted willfully and maliciously were insufficient to support the claim that personnel interfered with his ability to access the courts; and (4) personnel did not conspire to destroy the inmate's legal mail. (Nassau County Correctional Center, and Downstate Correctional Facility, New York)

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

    Ball v. LeBlanc, 792 F.3d 584 (5th Cir. 2015). Death row inmates brought a [section] 1983 action against a state department of corrections and state officials, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief based on allegations that heat in the prison violated the Eighth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Rehabilitation Act (RA). Following a bench trial, the district court sustained the Eighth Amendment claims, rejected the disability claims, and issued a permanent injunction requiring the state to install air conditioning throughout death row. The department and officials appealed and the inmates cross-appealed. The appeals court affirmed in part, vacated and remanded in part. The court held that: (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of, or relying on heat index measurements of death-row facilities; (2) the district court did not clearly err in finding that heat in death-row cells posed a substantial risk of serious harm to inmates and that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to the risk posed to death-row inmates by the heat in prison cells; (3) housing of death-row inmates in very hot prison cells without sufficient access to heat-relief measures violated the Eighth Amendment; (4) inmates were not disabled under ADA or RA; and (5) permanent injunctive relief requiring the state to install air conditioning throughout death-row housing violated the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), where acceptable remedies short of facility-wide air conditioning were available. (Department of Public Safety and Collections, Louisiana State Penitentiary)

    U.S. Appeals Court RESTRAINTS CLOTHING-COURT APPEARANCE

    Elmore v. Sinclair, 799 F.3d 1238 (9th Cir. 2015). After affirmance of a state prisoner's murder conviction pursuant to a guilty plea, and his death sentence following a penalty-phase jury trial, the prisoner petitioned for federal habeas relief. The district court denied relief and the prisoner appealed. The appeals court affirmed. The court held the prisoner was not prejudiced by being shackled for the first day of jury selection for the penalty phase. According to the court, even assuming that visible shackling of the defendant violated due process, the defendant was not prejudiced because the nature of the defendant's crime was a gruesome and violent murder, the defendant had agreed, as part of the defense strategy, to show his acceptance of responsibility, and to appear before the jury in jail clothing for the entire penalty phase, the first impression created by the defendant's shackling was partly the point of the defense strategy, and for almost three full weeks the defendant did not appear in shackles before the jury that issued the death sentence. (Whatcom County, Washington)

    U.S. District Court EXPERT WITNESS PLRA--Prison Litigation Reform Act

    Norsworthy v. Beard, 87 F.Supp.3d 1164 (N.D.Cal. 2015). A transsexual female prison inmate brought a [section] 1983 action against prison officials and medical staff for denying necessary medical treatment for the inmate's gender dysphoria in violation of Eighth Amendment The inmate moved to strike expert testimony and for a preliminary injunction requiring the defendants to provide her with sex reassignment surgery (SRS). The defendants moved for judicial notice. The district court granted the motions in part and denied in part. The district court found that the expert report of a psychiatrist retained by the officials and medical staff would not be stricken for failure to comply with the requirements for disclosure of expert qualifications, and that the expert was qualified to testify regarding prison culture and the treatment that incarcerated persons with gender dysphoria should receive. The court noted that notwithstanding years of treatment in the form of hormone therapy and counseling, the inmate continued to experience severe psychological pain, and that the treating and examining psychologists agreed the inmate met the eligibility criteria for SRS under the standards of care for treating transsexual patients.

    The court held that: (1) the inmate was likely to succeed on the merits of the Eighth Amendment claim; (2) the inmate was suffering irreparable harm that would likely continue absent a preliminary injunction; (3) the balance of equities weighed in favor of granting an injunction; (4) it was in the public interest to grant an injunction; and (5) an injunction would meet the requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). (Mule Creek State Prison, California)

    U.S. Appeals Court PRO SE LITIGATION APPOINTED ATTORNEY

    Perez v. Fenoglio, 792 F.3d 768 (7th Cir. 2015). An inmate brought a pro se [section] 1983 action against prison officials alleging cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment, in particular, that the officials were deliberately indifferent to his severe hand injury, delaying his receipt of medically necessary surgery for ten months. After twice denying the inmate's request for pro bono counsel, the district court dismissed the action with prejudice, for failure to state a claim. The inmate appealed and appellate counsel was appointed. The appeals court reversed and remanded. The court held that: (1) the inmate stated a claim against a prison physician for such serious delays in the provision of adequate treatment that the Eighth Amendment may have been violated; (2) the inmate stated a claim against a prison nurse for deliberate indifference; (3) the inmate sufficiently identified an unconstitutional policy or practice to state a claim under [section] 1983 against the private corporation that served as the prison's health care provider; (4) the inmate stated a claim for deliberate indifference against the prison's health care administrator; (5) the inmate stated a claim for deliberate indifference against prison grievance officials; (6) the inmate stated a valid First Amendment retaliation claim; and (7) the district court's denial of the inmate's request for pro bono counsel was not unreasonable. (Lawrence Correctional Center, Illinois)

    U.S. District Court RETALIATION FOR LEGAL ACTION JAILHOUSE LAWYER

    Quiroz v. Horel, 85 F.Supp.3d 1115 (N.D.Cal. 2015). A state prisoner brought an action against prison officials, alleging that the officials retaliated against him for filing a prior federal civil rights complaint and for participating in another inmate's civil rights suit The officials moved for summary judgment The district court granted the motion in part and denied in part. The court held that summary judgment was precluded by genuine issues of material fact as to: (1) whether the official had a retaliatory motive for issuing a Rules Violation Report (RVR) against the prisoner, (2) whether officials had a retaliatory motive when they searched the prisoner's cell; and (3) whether prison officials had an agreement to retaliate against the prisoner by searching his cell, confiscating his paperwork, and issuing a Rules Violation Report (RVR) against him. (Pelican Bay State Prison, California)

    U.S. District Court RETALIATION FOR LEGAL ACTION JAILHOUSE LAWYER

    Quiroz v. Short, 85 F.Supp.3d 1092 (N.D.Cal. 2015). A state prisoner brought an action against prison officials, alleging that the officials retaliated against him for filing a prior federal civil rights complaint and for participating in another inmate's civil rights suit. One official moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion in part and denied in part. The court held that summary judgment was precluded by genuine issues of material fact as to: (1) whether the official acted with a retaliatory motive when he sent to the...

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