Part Two: Case summaries by major topic.

Position:Case overview
 
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Presented alphabetically by year within each major category.

  1. ACCESS TO COURT

    U.S. District Court

    ATTORNEY FEES

    Rodriguez v. County of Los Angeles, 96 F.Supp.3d 1012 (C.D. Cal. 2014). State detainees brought an action against numerous defendants, including a county, a sheriffs department, and individual jail guards and supervisors, alleging excessive force under [section] 1983. Following a jury verdict in their favor, the detainees moved for attorney fees. The district court granted the motion, holding that: (1) the detainees were entitled to recover fully compensatory attorney fees, notwithstanding the fact that some individual defendants were dismissed or prevailed at trial and that the detainees did not succeed on all motions, where the detainees succeeded on all of their claims; (2) the detainees were entitled to a lodestar multiplier of 2.0; and, (3) the district court would apply only a 1% contribution of the detainees' $950,000 damages award to their attorney fee award, where the defendants' conduct involved malicious violence leaving some detainees permanently injured. The court awarded over $5.3 million for attorney fees. (Men's Central Jail, Los Angeles, California)

    U.S. District Court

    EXPERT WITNESS

    Cavanagh v. Taranto, 95 F.Supp.3d 220 (D. Mass. 2015). A pretrial detainee's son brought an action under [section] 1983 against correctional officers who were on duty the day of the detainee's suicide, alleging the officers violated the detainee's due process rights. The officers moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion. The court held that the officers were not deliberately indifferent to the detainee's mental health history and safety, to her safety through inadequate cell checks, or to her safety by failing to remove a looped shoelace from her cell. The court noted that even if an expert's report prepared for the plaintiff had been filed on time, the report would have been excluded due to the expert's lack of qualifications. According to the court, the expert only pointed to national statistics as support for his opinion that the detainee possessed predisposing characteristics that made her an obvious risk for suicide, and the expert's opinions that the officers were improperly trained and a reasonable mental health clinician would have deemed the detainee to pose a suicide risk were irrelevant. (Suffolk County House of Correction, Massachusetts)

    U.S. Appeals Court

    PLRA--Prison Litigation Reform Act

    EXHAUSTION

    McBride v. Lopez, 807 F.3d 982 (9111 Cir. 2015). After a prison's appeals coordinator dismissed a prisoner's administrative grievance as untimely, the prisoner brought an action against prison guards under [section] 1983 claiming violation of the Eighth Amendment by use of excessive force against him. The district court granted the guards' motion to dismiss. The prisoner appealed. The appeals court affirmed. The court held that: (1) the threat of retaliation for reporting an incident can render the prison grievance process effectively unavailable and thereby excuse a prisoner's failure to exhaust administrative remedies before filing a court action; (2) the prisoner subjectively perceived prison guards' statement to be a threat not to use the prison grievance system; and (3) prison guards' statement could not have reasonable been objectively viewed as a threat of retaliation if the prisoner filed a grievance against the guards. The guards had stated that he was "lucky," in that the injuries he sustained during an altercation between the prisoner and guards "could have been much worse" than they were, to be a threat not to use the prison grievance system. The court noted that the prisoner had recently been beaten by the guards that made the statement, and the prisoner could have believed the guards bore him considerable hostility and therefore the statement could have been interpreted as threatening. (Pleasant Valley State Prison, California)

    U.S. Appeals Court

    APPOINTED ATTORNEY

    Naranjo v. Thompson, 809 F.3d 793 (5th Cir. 2015). An inmate filed a [section] 1983 action against the management company of a prison in which he was incarcerated. The district court denied the inmate's motion for appointment of counsel, and entered summary judgment in the company's favor. The inmate appealed. The appeals court vacated and remanded. The court held that the district court abused its discretion in failing to consider using its inherent power to compel counsel to accept uncompensated appointment after it determined that the inmate's [section] 1983 action against the management company presented exceptional circumstances, even though such appointment was not authorized by statute. (Reeves County Detention Center, Pecos, Texas, operated by GEO Group, Inc.)

    U.S. District Court

    APPOINTED ATTORNEY

    Pinson v. U.S. Department of Justice, 104 F.Supp.3d 30 (D.D.C. 2015). A federal prison inmate brought an action against the Department of Justice (DOJ), alleging DOJ withheld records from him in violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act. The inmate moved for sanctions, a protective order, appointment of counsel, an order to show cause, production of documents, and a preliminary injunction. The district court granted the motion in part and denied in part. The court held that the inmate would be appointed counsel for the limited purpose of reviewing correspondence withheld by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and determining DOJ's compliance with FOIA. The court found that sanctions for the DOJ's failure to timely comply with a court order were not warranted. The court noted that the BOP's mail policy prevented the inmate from reviewing the DOJ's FOIA responses, preventing him from properly litigating his FOIA claims. (Federal Bureau of Prisons, ADX Florence, Colorado)

    U.S. Appeals Court

    CLASS ACTION

    Rodriguez v. Robbins, 804 F.3d 1060 (9th Cir. 2015). A petitioner sought a writ of habeas corpus, on behalf of himself and a class of aliens detained during immigration proceedings for more than six months without a bond hearing, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief providing individualized bond hearings with the burden on the government, certification of the class, and appointment of class counsel. The district court denied the petition. The petitioner appealed. The appeals court reversed and remanded. On remand, the district court entered a preliminary injunction and the government appealed. The appeals court affirmed. The district court then granted summary judgment to the class and entered a permanent injunction, and the parties appealed. The appeals court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court held that the aliens were entitled to automatic individualized bond hearings and determinations to justify their continued detention. The court ruled that the government had to prove by clear and convincing evidence that an alien was a flight risk or a danger to the community to justify denial of a bond at the hearing. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Los Angeles, California)

    U.S. Appeals Court

    PLRA--Prison Litigation Reform Act

    EXHAUSTION

    Whatley v. Warden, Ware State Prison, 802 F.3d 1205 (11th Cir. 2015). A state prisoner brought a [section] 1983 action, alleging that he had been beaten by prison staff and denied medical care after the beating. The district court dismissed the action based on failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The prisoner appealed. The appeals court reversed. The court held that the district court failed to accept as true the prisoner's view of the facts regarding exhaustion of administrative remedies and failed to make specific findings to resolve disputed issue of fact regarding the exhaustion of administrative remedies. (Telfair State Prison, Ware State Prison, Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Georgia)

    U.S. Appeals Court

    LEGAL MATERIAL

    Willey v. Kirkpatrick, 801 F.3d 51 (2d Cir. 2015). A state prisoner brought an action under [section] 1983 against a prison superintendent, a corrections sergeant, and corrections officers, alleging unsanitary conditions, theft of legal documents, harassment, malicious prosecution, and false imprisonment. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants. The prisoner appealed. The appeals court vacated the district court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court held that remand was required for the district court to address issue in first instance of whether the prisoner had a right under the First, Fifth, Eighth, or Fourteenth Amendments to refuse to provide false information to a corrections officer. The court held that the prisoner's claim of theft of legal documents should be considered as one for impeding access to the courts. (Wende Correctional Facility, New York)

    U.S. Appeals Court

    PLRA--Prison Litigation Reform Act

    EXHAUSTION

    Reyes v. Smith, 810 F.3d 654 (9th Cir. 2016). A state prisoner brought a [section] 1983 action against prison physicians, alleging that they had violated the Eighth Amendment through deliberate indifference to his medical needs by denying him pain medication. The district court granted the physicians' motion to dismiss. The prisoner appealed. The appeals court reversed and remanded. The court held that as a matter of first impression, a prisoner exhausts administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), despite not complying with the procedural rule, if prison officials decide the merits of a grievance at each step of the administrative process. According to the court, the prisoner's grievance was sufficient to exhaust his available remedies under the state prison grievance system. (Mule Creek State Prison, California)

  2. ADMINISTRATION

    U.S. District Court

    CONTRACT SERVICES

    EMPLOYEE QUALIFICATIONS

    Gorman v. Rensselaer County, 98 F.Supp.3d 498 (N.D.N.Y. 2015). An employee in a county sheriffs department brought a [section] 1983 action against the county, sheriff, master sergeant...

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