Part two: case summaries by major topic.

Position::P. 29-58 - Case overview
 
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  1. ACCESS TO COURT

    U.S. District Court

    FILING FEES

    Carter v. James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, 134 F.Supp.3d 794 (D. Del. 2015). A state prisoner filed a pro se complaint under [section] 1983 seeking injunctive relief against a prison. The district court dismissed the action. The court held that the prisoner's claims that the prison's business office miscalculated and deducted incorrect sums of money from his prison account when making partial filing fee payments, that there was poor television reception, and that he was not allowed to purchase canteen items from the commissary, were not actionable under [section] 1983, where all of the claims were administrative matters that should be handled by the prison.

    The court found that the prisoner's claims that he was being electronically monitored through a "microwave hearing effect eavesdropping device" and electronic control devices were fantastical and/or delusional and therefore were insufficient to withstand screening for frivolity in filings by an in forma pauperis prisoner, in the prisoner's [section] 1983 action. (James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware)

    U.S. District Court

    INITIAL APPEARANCE RIGHT TO COUNSEL DUE PROCESS

    Fant v. City of Ferguson, 107 F.Supp. 3d 1016 (E. D. Mo. 2015). City residents brought a class action lawsuit against a city, asserting claims under [section] 1983 for violations of Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments based on allegations that they were repeatedly jailed by the city for being unable to pay fines owed from traffic tickets and other minor offenses. The residents alleged that pre-appearance detentions lasting days, weeks, and in one case, nearly two months, in allegedly poor conditions, based on alleged violations of a municipal code that did not warrant incarceration in the first instance, and which were alleged to have continued until an arbitrarily determined payment was made, violated their Due Process rights. The residents alleged that they were forced to sleep on the floor in dirty cells with blood, mucus, and feces, were denied basic hygiene and feminine hygiene products, were denied access to a shower, laundry, and clean undergarments for several days at a time, were denied medications, and were provided little or inadequate food and water. The plaintiffs sought a declaration that the city's policies and practices violated their constitutional rights, and sought a permanent injunction preventing the city from enforcing the policies and practices. The city moved to dismiss. The district court granted the motion in part and denied in part.

    The court held that: (1) allegations that residents were jailed for failure to pay fines without inquiry into their ability to pay and without any consideration of alternative measures of punishment were sufficient to state a claim that the city violated the residents' Due Process and Equal Protection rights; (2) the residents plausibly stated a claim that the city's failure to appoint counsel violated their Due Process rights; (3) allegations of pre-appearance detentions plausibly stated a pattern and practice of Due Process violations; (4) allegations of conditions of confinement were sufficient to state a plausible claim for Due Process violations; and (5) the residents could not state an Equal Protection claim for being treated differently, with respect to fines, than civil judgment debtors. The court noted that the residents alleged they were not afforded counsel at initial hearings on traffic and other offenses, nor were they afforded counsel prior to their incarceration for failing to pay court-ordered fines for those offenses. (City of Ferguson, Missouri)

    U.S. District Court

    LAW LIBRARY

    Gannaway v. Prime Care Medical, Inc., 150 F.Supp.3d 511 (E.D. Pa. 2015). A state inmate brought [section] 1983 action against Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) employees, private companies and healthcare professionals contracted to provide medical services to DOC institutions, alleging that he received inadequate medical treatment throughout his incarceration, in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and that he was retaliated against, in violation of the First Amendment. The defendants moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the motions. The court held that the inmate failed to show that he suffered any actual injury from the prison officials' alleged denial of access to a law library or paralegal assistance, as would support his [section] 1983 First Amendment access to courts claim. According to the court, the dockets from the inmate's civil rights cases showed that courts granted him extensions to file documents whenever requested, and a case initiated by the inmate was dismissed after he responded to the defendants' motion for summary judgment and the court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. (Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Rockview, and Prime Care Medical).

    U.S. District Court

    PLRA- Prison Litigation Reform Act EXHAUSTION

    Kitchen v. Ickes, 116 F.Supp.3d 613 (D. Md. 2015). An inmate brought a [section] 1983 action against a corrections officer and a prison health care provider, alleging excessive force in the officer's use of pepper spray and deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. The officer and the provider moved to dismiss, or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion. The court held that the inmate exhausted his available administrative remedies as to his claim that the corrections officer used excessive force in spraying him with pepper spray, as required to file suit against the officer, under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The court noted that the inmate filed a request for an administrative remedy on the issue of alleged use of excessive force, appealed the decision rendered concerning his claim of excessive force, and subsequently filed a grievance with the inmate grievance office regarding the officer's use of pepper spray. The court held that the inmate failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies, as required prior to bringing suit with respect to prison conditions under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), as to his claim that after he was sprayed with pepper spray, he was forced to sleep on a mattress that was contaminated with pepper spray, without sheets, for weeks. The court noted that the inmate failed to file a request for an administrative remedy on the issue of the contaminated mattress, and raised the issue for first time in his appeal to the inmate grievance office regarding the officer's use of pepper spray. (North Branch Correctional Institution, Maryland)

    U.S. District Court

    PLRA- Prison Litigation Reform Act

    Minton v. Childers, 113 F.Supp.3d 796 (D. Md. 2015). A prisoner brought a [section] 1983 action against prison officials, seeking injunctive relief, along with nominal and punitive damages, after the officials barred his receipt of used books puisuant to prison directives. The officials and the prisoner both filed motions for summary judgment. The district court granted the officials' motion and denied the prisoner's motion. The court held that the prisoner failed to exhaust administrative remedies under Maryland law prior to filing the [section] 1983 action in federal court, in violation of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). (Eastern Correctional Institution, Maryland)

    U.S. District Court

    EVIDENCE

    Wilson v. Hauck, 141 F.Supp.3d 226 (W.D.N.Y. 2015). A former inmate brought a [section] 1983 action against corrections officers alleging they violated his rights by use of excessive force and/or by failing to protect him from that excessive force. The inmate moved for sanctions for alleged spoliation of evidence. The district court granted the motion. The court held that: (1) officers at one point possessed and had the ability to preserve original photographs of the inmate's injuries and the original videotape of his cell extraction; (2) officers were at least negligent with respect to the destruction or loss of both the original photographs and the videotape; and (3) differences between the originals and the copies were sufficient to permit a reasonable trier of fact to conclude that the originals would support inmate's claims. (Attica Correctional Facility, N.Y.)

  2. ADMINISTRATION

    U.S. District Court

    PRISONER ACCOUNTS COMMISSARY

    Carter v. James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, 134 F.Supp.3d 794 (D. Del. 2015). A state prisoner filed a pr se complaint under [section] 1983 seeking injunctive relief against a prison. The district court dismissed the action. The court held that the prisoner's claims that the prison's business office miscalculated and deducted incorrect sums of money from his prison account when making partial filing fee payments, that there was poor television reception, and that he was not allowed to purchase canteen items from the commissary, were not actionable under [section] 1983, where all of the claims were administrative matters that should be handled by the prison. (James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware)

    U.S. District Court

    COMMISSARY

    Montalvo v. Lamy, 139 F.Supp.3d 597 (W.D.N.Y. 2015). An inmate brought an action against a sheriff, prison officials and a commissary, alleging that he was a diabetic and that, while incarcerated, he was not provided with a medically appropriate diet, was not permitted to purchase food items from the prison commissary, and was the subject of false misbehavior reports when he complained about his dietary issues. The defendants moved to dismiss. The district court granted the motion in part and denied in part. The court held that the inmate failed to allege that the prison commissary, operated by a private company, was acting under the color of state law, as required to state constitutional claims against the commissary. The court noted that the inmate did not allege that the commissary had a policy of denying commissary...

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