Part Two: case summaries by major topic.

Position:P. 51-76 - Case overview
 
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  1. LIABILITY

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

    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 Corrections, Louisiana State Penitentiary)

    U.S. Appeals Court FACILITY DESIGN MUNICIPAL LIABILITY

    Castro v. County of Los Angeles, 797 F.3d 654 (9th Cir. 2015). An arrestee brought an action against a county, its sheriffs department, and two officers under [section] 1983 for violation of his Fourth Amendment right to be protected from harm by other inmates, arising out of an attack against the arrestee by another arrestee with whom he was jailed. A jury returned a verdict for the arrestee, and the district court denied the defendants' motion for judgment as a matter of law. The defendants appealed. The appeals court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court held that: (1) the right of inmates to be protected from attacks by other inmates was established with sufficient clarity to guide a reasonable officer; (2) substantial evidence supported the jury's determination that the officer was deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of serious harm to the arrestee; (3) sufficient evidence supported the jury's determination that the officer's deliberate indifference was the actual and proximate cause of harm to the arrestee; (4) sufficient evidence supported the jury's determination that the supervising officer was aware of, but disregarded, the risk to the arrestee posed by the other inmate; (5) the design of a jail by a municipality is the result of a series of deliberate choices that render the design a formal municipal policy for the purposes of municipal liability under [section] 1983; (6) arrestee failed to establish that the county had actual knowledge of a risk of harm from the design of the jail, as required to establish liability under [section] 1983; and (7) the award of future damages to the arrestee was supported by the record. The jury returned a verdict for the arrestee on all counts and awarded him $2,605,632 in damages. The parties later stipulated to $840,000 in attorney fees, $18,000 in punitive damages.

    The arrestee had been placed in a "sobering cell" after his arrest for public drunkenness and was seriously injured by another drunken inmate in the sobering cell. When the other inmate was admitted, staff determined that he posed a threat to officers, requiring supervision by two officers at all times. The other arrestee was placed in the same cell as the plaintiff, even though the jail policy was to place combative inmates in a separate cell, and separate cells were available but left unused on the night of the incident

    The court noted that the arrestee submitted billing records from his cognitive assistant and his treating psychologist and a chart detailing the charges for medical expenses he already had incurred, and proffered several medical experts who testified to his need for ongoing medical care.

    The jail was purportedly in violation of a state regulation requiring monitoring equipment in sobering cells, as required to establish that the county was deliberately indifferent to the Fourth Amendment right of pretrial detainees to be protected from harm by other inmates and was liable under [section] 1983 for injuries sustained by the arrestee. According to the court "One would assume that for any given construction project, including jails, the municipality's governing body--or a committee that it appoints to act in its stead--reviews bids, considers designs, and ultimately approves a plan for the facility and allocates funds for its construction. These choices are sufficient, in our opinion, to meet the definition of a formal municipal policy ..." (Los Angeles Sheriffs West Hollywood Station, California)

    U.S. Appeals Court PERSONAL LIABILITY FAILURE TO TRAIN OFFICIAL CAPACITY MEDICAL CARE

    Coley v. Lucas County, Ohio, 799 F.3d 530 (6th Cir. 2015). The administrator of a pretrial detainee's estate brought a state court action against a county, county sheriff, police officer and police sergeant, alleging [section] 1983 violations of the detainee's constitutional rights and various state law claims. The district court denied the defendants' motions to dismiss and denied individual defendants' requests for qualified immunity. The defendants appealed. The appeals court affirmed. The court held that a police officer's act of shoving a fully restrained pretrial detainee in a jail booking area, causing the detainee to strike his head on the wall as he fell to the cement floor without any way to break his fall, constituted "gratuitous force" in violation of the detainee's Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from excessive force. The court noted that the detainee's state of being handcuffed, in a belly chain and leg irons, led to a reasonable inference that the officer's actions were a result of his frustration with the detainee's prior restraint behavior, since the detainee was not in any condition to cause a disruption that would have provoked the officer to use such force. The court held that the police officer was on notice that his actions were unconstitutional, and therefore he was not entitled to qualified immunity from liability under [section] 1983. According to the court, the officer's attempts to cover up the assault by filing false reports and lying to federal investigators following the death of the detainee led to a reasonable conclusion that the officer understood that his actions violated the detainees' clearly established right not to be gratuitously assaulted while fully restrained and subdued.

    The court held that a police sergeant's continued use of a chokehold on the unresisting, fully-shackled pre-trial detainee, after hearing the detainee choke and gurgle, and when a fellow officer was urging him release his chokehold, was objectively unreasonable, in violation of the detainee's Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from excessive force. The court noted that the sergeant's subsequent acts of telling other officers to leave the medical cell after the detainee was rendered unconscious, failing to seek medical help, and refusing to mention the use of a chokehold in incident reports, led to the inference the that sergeant was aware he violated the law and sought to avoid liability. According to the court, the police sergeant was on notice that his actions were unconstitutional, and therefore, he was not entitled to qualified immunity under [section] 1983.

    The court found that the county sheriff could be held personally liable under [section] 1983, based on his failure to train and supervise employees in the use of excessive force, the use of a chokehold and injuries derived therefrom, and to ensure that the medical needs of persons in the sheriffs custody were met According to the court, evidence that the sheriff helped his employees cover up their unconstitutional actions by making false statements to federal officials about his knowledge of his employees' assault, chokehold, and deliberate failure to provide medical attention to the detainee demonstrated that the sheriff at least implicitly authorized, approved or knowingly acquiesced in the unconstitutional conduct of the offending employees. The court noted that under Ohio law, allegations by the estate of the pretrial detainee that the county sheriff had full knowledge of the assault but intentionally and deliberately made false statements to federal officials were sufficient to state a claim that the sheriff ratified the conduct of his officers and, thus, was potentially personally liable for his officers' actions.

    The court concluded that the officers' use of excessive force, failure to provide medical care, assault and battery, and wrongful death could be imputed to the sheriff in his official capacity since the sheriffs false statements to federal investigators were a position that was inconsistent to non-affirmance of the officers' actions. (Lucas County Jail, Ohio)

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

    Doe v. Cook County, Illinois, 798 F.3d 558 (7th Cir. 2015). Detainees at a county juvenile detention center brought a class action against the center and the county, alleging that some employees at the center violated their constitutional rights by abusing their charges. The facility administrator, who was appointed to run the detention center as part of a settlement between the parties, proposed to terminate the employment of 225...

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