AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Corrections Law
for Jails, Prisons and Detention Facilities


     Back to list of subjects             Back to Legal Publications Menu

U.S. Supreme Court Actions


     After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the U.S. government detained hundreds of illegal aliens, pending a determination of their possible connection to terrorist activity. The plaintiffs, six men of Arab or South Asian descent who were among the detainees and were subsequently removed from the country, filed a proposed class action lawsuit against federal executive officials and wardens, seeking damages, and claiming that their “harsh pretrial conditions” were punitive, violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, and were based on race, religion, or national origin. They also asserted that the defendant wardens allowed guards to abuse them. The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected all these claims.  In 42 U.S.C. 1983, Congress provided a damages remedy for plaintiffs whose constitutional rights were violated by state officials. There was no corresponding remedy for constitutional violations by federal agents. In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized (in Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, #301, 403 U. S. 388, 91 S. Ct. 1999, 29 L. Ed. 2d 619) an implied damages action for violations of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures by federal agents. The Court later allowed Bivens-type remedies in Fifth Amendment gender-discrimination and Eighth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishments cases. Bivens, however, will not be further extended to a new context if there are “special factors counseling hesitation in the absence of affirmative action by Congress.” To avoid interference with sensitive Executive Branch functions or any inquiry into national-security issues, the Court ruled, a Bivens remedy should not be extended to the claims concerning confinement conditions. With respect to the wardens, Congress did not provide a damages remedy against federal jailers in the Prison Litigation Reform Act 15 years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s expressed caution about extending Bivens. Qualified immunity bars the claims of conspiracy to violate civil rights under 42 U.S.C. 1985(3). Reasonable officials in the defendants’ positions would not have known with sufficient certainty that section 1985(3) prohibited their joint consultations and the resulting policies. There was no clearly established law on the issue of whether agents of the same executive department are distinct enough to “conspire” within the meaning of the statute. Ziglar v. Abbasi, #15-1358, 198 L. Ed. 2d 290, 2017 U.S. Lexis 3874.

     North Carolina law prohibited as a felony offense any registered sex offender accessing “a commercial social networking Web site where the sex offender knows that the site permits minor children to become members or to create or maintain personal Web pages.” Over 1,000 people were prosecuted under that law. A man registered as a sex offender was indicted after posting a statement on his personal Facebook profile about a positive traffic court experience, and state courts rejected his challenge to the law.The U.S. Supreme Court reversed, holding that the statute impermissibly restricts lawful speech in violation of the First Amendment. Today, the Court reasoned, one of the most important places to exchange views is cyberspace, particularly social media. Even if the statute was content-neutral and subject to intermediate scrutiny, the provision was not “narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest.” While social media will be exploited by criminals and sexual abuse of a child is a most serious crime, the Court agreed, the assertion of a valid governmental interest “cannot, in every context, be insulated from all constitutional protections.” The statute “enacts a prohibition unprecedented in the scope of First Amendment speech it burdens…. With one broad stroke, North Carolina bars access to what for many are the principal sources for knowing current events, checking ads for employment, speaking and listening in the modern public square, and otherwise exploring the vast realms of human thought and knowledge.” The state did not establish that this “sweeping law” was necessary to keep convicted sex offenders away from vulnerable victims. Social media websites today are integral to the fabric of modern society and culture. The First Amendment does, however, permit a state to enact specific, narrowly-tailored laws that prohibit a sex offender from engaging in conduct that often precedes a sexual crime, such as contacting a minor or using a website to gather information about a minor. Packingham v. North Carolina, #15-1194, 137 S. Ct. 1730 (2017).

     A Colorado woman was convicted of both felonies and misdemeanors connected with the alleged abuse of her children. She was sentenced to prison and ordered to pay $8,192.50 in fees, court costs, and restitution. Subsequently, her conviction was reversed on appeal, and she was acquitted on retrial. A Colorado man was convicted of attempting to patronize a prostituted child and attempted sexual assault. He was sentenced to prison and ordered to pay $4,413 in fees, costs, and restitution. His convictions were reversed and vacated and he was not retried. Colorado correctional officials withheld $702.10 from the woman’s inmate account between her conviction and acquittal. The man paid the state $1,977.75 after his conviction. After their convictions were overturned, both of them sought refunds of the money withheld or paid. The Colorado Supreme Court denied the refunds, ruling that Colorado’s Exoneration Act provided the exclusive authority for refunds and that neither of them had filed a claim under that Act. The court also upheld the constitutionality of the Act, which permits the state to retain conviction-related assessments until the prevailing defendant institutes a separate civil proceeding and proves his or her innocence by clear and convincing evidence. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed. The Act’s scheme violates the guarantee of due process. The former prisoners had an obvious interest in regaining the money. The state may not retain these funds simply because their convictions were in place when the funds were taken. Once the convictions were erased, the presumption of innocence was restored. Colorado may not presume a person, adjudged guilty of no crime, guilty enough for monetary penalties. Colorado’s scheme creates an unacceptable risk of the erroneous deprivation of the defendants’ property, conditioning refunds on proof of innocence by clear and convincing evidence, while defendants in their position are presumed innocent. When the amount sought is not large, the cost of pursuing a claim under the Act would be prohibitive. The state had no equitable interest in withholding the refund of the money. Nelson v. Colorado, #15-1256, 197 L. Ed. 2d 611, 2017 U.S. Lexis 2615. 

      A man was searched during a traffic stop and a vitamin bottle containing pills was found. Officers conducted a field test which proved negative for controlled substances. They arrested him and an evidence technician at the police station also got a negative result for controlled substances when he tested the pills but reported that one of the pills tested “positive for the probable presence of ecstasy.” He was charged with unlawful possession and a judge, relying solely on an officer’s complaint, ruled that there was probable cause to hold the detainee pending trial. A state police lab then again tested the pills and found no controlled substance, but not before the detainee had been in custody for 48 days. The detainee sued the city and its officers more than two years after he was arrested but less than two years since the criminal case was dismissed. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected lower court rulings that a two year statute of limitations barred an unlawful arrest claim and that the pretrial detention after legal process was initiated barred a Fourth Amendment claim. The Fourth Amendment prohibits detention without probable cause. When the legal process has begun, but probable cause was not satisfied, as here where the judge’s probable cause determination was allegedly based on fabricated evidence, it does not cut off a Fourth Amendment claim. The unlawful detention claim was properly brought under the Fourth Amendment, rather than the due process clause. On remand, the appeals court was ordered to hold further proceedings on when the claim accrued, unless it found that the city waived its timeliness argument. Manuel v. Joliet, #14-9496,  197 L. Ed. 2d 312, 2017 U.S. Lexis 2021, 85 U.S.L.W. 4130.
    A California prisoner was "validated" as a prison-gang associate and placed in secured housing. A year later, the state amended its laws so that secured housing prison-gang associates could no longer earn future good-time credit. He filed a writ of habeas corpus in state court challenging the application of the changed law to him as an ex post facto law impermissibly enhancing his punishment. His petition was rejected by the trial court and a state intermediate appellate court on grounds that he had filed it in the wrong county. He then filed an original petition for habeas relief with the California Supreme Court, which was also summarily denied. The federal district court denied the prisoner's ex post facto claim under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), which requires a state prisoner seeking federal habeas relief to exhaust state remedies, 28 U.S.C. 2254(b)(1)(A). If the state courts adjudicate a federal claim “on the merits,” AEDPA mandates deferential, rather than de novo, review, unless the state-court decision “was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law,”, or “was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts.” In this case, a federal appeals court incorrectly ruled that the California Supreme Court's ruling was not on the merits. While the lower California courts rejected the prisoner's petition for reasons of improper venue, which did not deal with the merits, there is only one California Supreme Court, and he filed an original petition there, so improper venue could not have been the basis, the decision was on the merits, and any federal review of the issue should therefore have used a "differential lens" on the state court ruling. Kernan v. Hinojas, #15-833, 136 S. Ct. 1603, 194 L. Ed. 2d 701, 2016 U.S. Lexis 3051, 84 U.S.L.W. 4284.
     As two guards undertook to move an inmate to a segregation unit, one of them allegedly assaulted him, pnnching him in the face. The prisoner sued that guard for excessive force and the second guard for failing to take protective action. A jury found the first guard liable, but the second raised as a defense the Prison Litigation Reform Act's requirement that a prisoner exhaust available administrative remedies before filing suit. The prisoner argued that an internal investigation of the incident was a substitution for the grievance procedures. A federal appeals court overturned the dismissal of the failure to protect claim on exhaustion of remedies grounds. It held that "special circumstances" could excuse failure to comply with administrative procedural requirements, especially when the prisoner mistakenly, but reasonably, believed that he sufficiently exhausted his remedies. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned this ruling. “The Fourth Circuit's unwritten 'special circumstances’ exception is inconsistent with the text and history of the PLRA.” The exhaustion of available administrative remedies is mandatory under the statute. However, under circumstances were an administrative remedy is officially on the books but not actually available, operating as a dead end, it becomes, practically speaking, incapable of use. It is also not "available" if prison administrators thwart prisoners from using it by intimidation or misrepresentation. Further proceedings were required to determine whether the prisoner actually had an "available administrative remedy." Ross v. Blake, #15-339, 2016 U.S. Lexis 3614
     A federal prisoner sued the U.S. government under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 1346(b), claiming that he was severely beaten by another prisoner because of negligence by prison officials. The defendants were granted summary judgment under an exception to liability under the Act for “[a]ny claim based upon . . . the exercise or performance . . . [of] a discretionary function," in this case decided where to house inmates. While that lawsuit was pending, the prisoner filed a second claim asserting constitutional claims against prison employees arising out of the first incident. The first lawsuit was dismissed based on the discretionary function, and the second suit was then dismissed based on the first suit's dismissal. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that this was improper. The trial court did not dismiss the first suit based on a finding that the employees were not negligent, but only based on an exception to the FTCA as to federal government liability. That had no bearing on the issue of whether employees could be liable instead on a constitutional claim. Simmons v. Himmelreich, #15-109, 2016 U.S. Lexis 3613.
     Both federal and state courts hearing federal civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 have discretion to award a prevailing party (other than the federal government) reasonable attorneys' fees under 2 U.S.C. Sec. 1988. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, has restricted such awards to prevailing defendants only to cases in which the plaintiff's lawsuit was "frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation." The Idaho Supreme Court held that it was not bound by that interpretation of the law and made a Sec.1988 award of attorneys' fees to a prevailing defendant in a Sec. 1983 lawsuit without first deciding whether the plaintiff's claim was "frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation." The U.S. Supreme Court reversed. Sec. 1988 is a federal statute, so the Supreme Court's interpretation is final and binding on all courts, federal or state.
James v. Boise, #15-493, 136 S. Ct. 685, 2016 U.S. Lexis 947.
     Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, a prisoner who qualifies to proceed in a lawsuit as a pauper has to pay an initial partial court filing fee of 20% of the larger of either the average monthly deposits in their inmate account or the average monthly balance of that account over the last six months, and then pay the rest of the fee in monthly installments of 20% of the last month's income credited to their account. A federal inmate who frequently engages in litigation argued that such monthly payments were not due in a new case until all obligations incurred in a prior case were paid off. A federal appeals court disagreed, holding that monthly payments on a new case were due together with the monthly payments for prior cases. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld this ruling. The statute, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1915(b)(2), requires simultaneous rather than sequential payment of multiple monthly installment payments. Bruce v. Samuels, #14-844, 136 S. Ct. 627, 193 L. Ed. 2d 496, 2016 U.S. Lexis 620.
     The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an Eighth Amendment constitutional challenge by death penalty inmates to Oklahoma's practice of using a 500-milligram dose of midazolam as the first drug it administered, before it administered a paralytic agent and potassium chloride in carrying out executions. The first drug made it a virtual certainty that the prisoner being executed would be unconscious when the second and third drugs were administered, and the plaintiff inmates failed to show that there was a known available alternative method of carrying out an execution that would provide a substantially less severe risk of pain. Glossip v. Gross, #14-7955, 2015 U.S. Lexis 4255.
     The U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, has ruled that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage and that each state must also recognize such marriages legally entered into in other states. As a result, to the extent that prisoners have a constitutional right to marry, which they generally do, with very limited exceptions, that right now extends to entering into same-sex marriages. Prisons will now have to universally accommodate prisoners entering into same-sex marriages to the same extent as they now accommodate opposite sex marriages. Obergefell v. Hodges, #14-656, 2015 U.S. Lexis 4250.
      The U.S. Supreme Court has vacated and remanded a federal appeals court decision rejecting liability for the use of a Taser in the stun mode and other force against a detainee. In the case, a jail detainee claimed that jailers used excessive force against him when they moved him to a different cell after he refused orders to take down a yellow sheet of paper covering the light in his cell. The prisoner refused to cooperate with the move, lying face down on his bunk and refusing to get up. He was forcibly removed and handcuffed and placed on a bunk. When the officers tried to remove the handcuffs, he allegedly resisted, which he later denied. The officers then allegedly smashed his head into the concrete bunk, which they later denied. A Taser was then applied to the detainee's back in stun mode for five seconds. He declined the attentions of a nurse. The trial court noted the case law that held that it was reasonable to use force against an inmate who refused to comply with orders but concluded that the issue in the case was "whether [the] defendants' response to plaintiff's obstinance was reasonable under the circumstances or whether it was excessive and was intended to cause [the] plaintiff harm." The court also concluded that, because a jury could find that the defendants had acted with malice, qualified immunity was not available. Later, a jury returned a verdict for the defendants, which was upheld on appeal. The Fourteenth Amendment governed the plaintiff's claims as a pretrial detainee. The federal appeals court held that the jury was adequately instructed on the elements of that claim. The jury instructions, the court said, properly required them to find, in order to impose liability, that the defendants knew that their use of force posed a risk of harm to the plaintiff, but that they recklessly disregarded his safety. Kingsley v. Hendrickson, #12-3639, 744 F.3d 443, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 3972, 2014 WL 806956 (7th Cir. 2014). In reversing by a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the detainee only had to show that the force purposefully or knowingly used was objectively unreasonable, as that standard adequately protected an officer who acted in good faith. The jury instructions were erroneous because they suggested that the jury should weigh the officers' subjective reasons for using force, whether the officers actually intended to violate, or recklessly disregarded the detainee's rights, and the issue of whether that error was harmless would depend in part on the detailed specifics of the case. This determination must be made from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, including what the officer knew at the time, and must account for the "legitimate interests [stemming from the government's] need to manage the facility in which the individual is detained," appropriately deferring to "policies and practices that in th[e] judgment" of jail officials "are needed to preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain institutional security." Kingsley v. Hendrickson, #14-6368, 192 L. Ed. 2d 416, 2015 U.S. Lexis 4073.
     A domestic violence probation violator with a lengthy history of substance abuse and mental health problems killed himself while awaiting transportation to another facility. A federal appeals court ruled that prison administrators in the case were not entitled to qualified immunity on a claim that inadequate provision of medical care by a private third party contractor cause the prisoner's suicide. Barkes v. First Corr. Med. Inc., #12-3074, 766 F.3d 307 (3rd Cir. 2014). The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously reversed, holding that even if the facility's suicide screening and prevention procedures had the shortcomings that the plaintiffs alleged, no precedent in effect on the date of the suicide, November of 2004, would have made it clear to the defendant officials that they were overseeing a system that violated the Constitution. Since the defendants were not violating clearly established law that mandated the proper implementation of adequate suicide prevention protocols, they were entitled to qualified immunity. Taylor v. Barkes, #14-939, 2015 U.S. Lexis 3715.
     The U.S. Supreme Court held that a correctional policy that prohibited prisoners from growing beards (with an exception for inmates with a diagnosed skin condition allowed to grow 1/4 inch beards) violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000cc-1(a), when used to deny a sincerely devout Muslim prisoner the right to grow a 1/2-inch beard as required by his religious beliefs. The rights granted by the statute are not limited to beliefs shared by all practitioners of a religion. The defendants failed to show that enforcing the policy in this manner served the stated compelling interests in safety, keeping out contraband, and preventing inmates from quickly changing their appearance. It would be difficult to hide contraband by such a short beard, and hair on the head was allowed to be that length. It was not shown that security concerns could not be satisfied by searching such beards. Requiring prisoners to be photographed both with and without beards would be a less restrictive means of preventing them from being able to quickly change appearance, such as during an escape. The opinion noted that many other institutions allowed facial fair.Holt v. Hobbs, #13-6827, 2015 U.S. Lexis 626.
     Officers who make a lawful arrest for a serious offense may take and analyze a cheek swab of the arrestee's DNA. Like fingerprinting and photographing, it is a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Maryland v. King, #12-207, 2013 U.S. Lexis 4165.
     The U.S. Supreme Court held that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for juvenile murderers violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling came in two consolidated cases of juveniles given such sentences after being convicted of murder at the age of 14. Miller v. Alabama, #10-9646, 2012 U.S. Lexis 4877.
     Subjecting an arrestee taken into custody on civil contempt charges to a strip search at a county jail did not violate his constitutional rights. County jail and county correctional facility rules could mandate such searches for persons entering the general population and did not have to limit strip searches to persons reasonably suspected of possessing drugs, weapons, or other contraband. Security interests in preventing smuggling at the time of prisoner intake is as strong as the interest in preventing it during contact visits. Jails need not show a past history of smuggling problems to justify such searches, and the strip searches helped deter smuggling. Applying the search policy to all arrestees also helped promote equal treatment. Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington, #10-945, 2012 U.S. Lexis 2712.
     A prisoner was questioned for between five and seven hours in a conference room at a prison by two deputies who asked him about crimes he was accused of engaging in before his incarceration. He confessed and was later convicted, with the confession admitted into evidence despite the fact that he had been given no Miranda warnings during the questioning. The U.S. Supreme Court held that the prisoner had not been taken into custody for Miranda purposes, since he was told at the beginning and reminded later that he was free to leave and go back to his cell. Additionally, he was not physically restrained or threatened, was interviewed in a well-lit, average-sized conference room where the door was sometimes left open, and was offered food and water. These "facts are consistent with an environment in which a reasonable person would have felt free to terminate the interview and leave, subject to the ordinary restraints of life behind bars." Howes v. Fields, #10-680, 2012 U.S. Lexis 1077.
     An inmate at a privately run federal prison filed a civil rights lawsuit against employees there for alleged deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in connection with treatment of injuries suffered in a fall. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, in these circumstances, California state law provides adequate alternative damage remedies for negligence or medical malpractice so that there is no need to imply a federal constitutional civil rights cause of action against the private employees. These state law remedies provide both adequate deterrence of similar future conduct and compensation for any damages suffered.  Minneci v. Pollard, #10-1104, 2012 U.S. Lexis 573.
     The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the order of a special three-judge court ordering that the California state prison system reduce its population from 156,000 prisoners, nearly double capacity, by approximately 46,000 prisoners, or 137.5% of design capacity within two years. Current overcrowding was found to have resulted in inadequate medical care and mental health treatment. The Court found that the injunctive order complied with the stringent requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, and that the court below properly gave "substantial weight" to any potential adverse impact on public safety from the order. Brown v. Plata, #09–1233, 2011 U.S. Lexis 4012.
     The U.S. Supreme Court has held that states, in accepting federal funding, do not consent to waive their sovereign immunity to private suits for money damages under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U. S. C. §2000cc-1. The decision means that prisoners may still file lawsuits seeking injunctive or declaratory relief to compel states to change policies or practices that they claim unduly restrict religious freedom under the statute, but may not seek money damages against states and their agencies. The lawsuit was brought by a Texas inmate who claimed that he was denied the right to attend Christian worship services because of disciplinary rules restricting him to his cell, and sought damages from the state and its prison officials. Sossamon v. Texas, #08–1438, 2011 U.S. Lexis 3187.
     A man sentenced to death after being convicted of murdering his girlfriend sought to challenge his conviction in Texas state court by seeking DNA testing of various untested evidence from the crime scene, including knives, an axe handle, vaginal swabs, fingernail clippings, and certain hair samples. State courts rejected his plea for DNA testing, finding that he had not made a required showing that he "would not have been convicted if exculpatory results had been obtained through DNA testing." He then filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the prosecutor, seeking injunctive relief requiring the DNA tests. By a 6-3 vote, the U.S, Supreme Court held that claims concerning the right to DNA testing could be asserted not only in habeas corpus proceedings, but also in federal civil rights lawsuits. Success in having the testing done would not necessarily imply the invalidity of the plaintiff's conviction. The Court therefore ordered further proceedings on the merits of the plaintiff's claim that denying him the DNA testing violated his due process rights. Skinner v. Switzer, #09–9000, 2011 U.S. Lexis 1905.
     The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal appeals court ruling ordering California officials to grant parole to an inmate convicted of attempted murder. The Court held that "there is no right under the federal Constitution to be conditionally released before the expiration of a valid sentence, and the states are under no duty to offer parole to their prisoners." The "responsibility for assuring that the constitutionally adequate procedures governing California's parole system are properly applied rests with California courts, and is no part of the Ninth Circuit’s business." Swarthout v. Cooke, #10–333, 2011 U.S. Lexis 486
       A former prisoner in an Ohio facility claimed that a correctional officer had sexually assaulted her on two consecutive nights, and sued two superintending prison officers, a case manager on her living unit, and a prison investigator. She claimed that the case manager failed to take any action to prevent the second assault after she reported the first one, and that the investigator retaliated against her for her accusations by placing her, shackled and handcuffed, in solitary confinement in a cell without adequate heat, clothing, bedding, or blankets. The trial court denied the defendants summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity, finding that there were disputed material issues of fact, and the defendants did not appeal that ruling. After a full trial, a jury awarded the plaintiff $350,000 in compensatory and punitive damages against the case manager and $275,000 against the investigator. The defendants did not then file a motion seeking judgment as a matter of law after the verdict, nor did they seek a new trial. Instead, they argued, on appeal, that the trial court should have granted their motion for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. A federal appeals court agreed, and reversed the jury's verdict. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, reversing the appeals court, and holding that a party may not appeal a denial of summary judgment after a district court has conducted a full trial on the merits. There was no "purely legal" issue of qualified immunity preserved for appeal, as the dispute was not over what the pre-existing law was, but instead what the facts were--such as whether the case manager was adequately informed, after the first attack, of the assailant's identity. The defendants could not argue, on appeal, that the plaintiff had not proven her case, as they failed to raise an issue of the sufficiency of the evidence by a post-judgment motion for judgment as a matter of law. Ortiz v. Jordan, #09–737, 2011 U.S. Lexis 915.
     While detained by immigration authorities, a prisoner claimed that he "persistently" sought treatment for a bleeding, suppurating lesion. While a Public Health Service (PHS) physician's assistant and three outside specialists repeatedly advised that he urgently needed a biopsy, a PHS physician and a commissioned PHS officer allegedly denied that request. After the prisoner's release from custody, he had tests that confirmed the presence of metastatic cancer. He filed a lawsuit asserting both medical negligence claims against the U.S. government under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 1346, 2671-2680, and constitutional claims against the individual defendants under Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Officers, #301, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). The plaintiff subsequently died, and the lawsuit was continued by his estate. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 233(a), the Federal Tort Claims Act is the exclusive remedy for any claims against any PHS employees or officers for damages for personal injury, including death, arising out of the performance of medical functions while acting within the scope of employment. As a result, the constitutional claims under Bivens were barred. Hui v. Castaneda, #08-1529, 130 S. Ct. 1845 (2010).
      The U.S. Supreme Court rejected claims that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority in enacting 18 U.S.C. Sec. 4248, providing for the civil commitment of sexually dangerous federal prisoners beyond the date that they would otherwise be released. Congress had such authority under the "necessary and proper" clause of the Constitution, and Congress has long been involved in the delivery of mental health care to federal prisoners. The statute was supported by sound reasons, particularly the need to protect the community from the danger such prisoners may pose. The Court rejected arguments that the statute invaded the province of state sovereignty in violation of the Tenth Amendment, particularly as, under the statute, states may assert their authority on such prisoners domiciled or tried within their jurisdiction if they wish to do so, which would result in the immediate transfer of the prisoner to state custody. The Court also found that the legislation was narrow in scope, and that its ruling did not confer on Congress a general police power, which continues to remain with the states. The Court stated that it was not deciding any claim that the law violates equal protection or substantive or procedural due process, claims that the plaintiffs "are free to pursue" on remand. U.S. v. Comstock, #08–1224, 2010 U.S. Lexis 3879.
    The U.S. Supreme Court held that a federal appeals court incorrectly dismissed a prisoner's complaint that a correctional officer used excessive force against him based on a determination that his allegedly resulting injuries were "de minimus" (minimal). Such claims of the use of excessive force against prisoners, under the principles set forth in Hudson v. McMillian, #90-6531, 503 U.S. 1 (1992), should be decided based on the nature of the force used rather than the extent of the injuries. In this case, the prisoner asserted that the officer, acting without provocation, responded to his request for a grievance form by snatching him off the ground, slamming him into a concrete floor, and then proceeding to punch, kick, knee, and choke him, until another officer intervened. These actions allegedly resulted in a bruised heel, lower back pain, increased blood pressure, migraine headaches, dizziness, and psychological trauma. The legal standard for whether the force employed was excessive, the Court noted, was not the extent of the injuries, but whether the force was "applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Wilkins v. Gaddy, #08-10914, 2010 U.S. Lexis 1036.
      The U.S. Supreme Court, in a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by a man convicted of sexual assault and other crimes, ruled that the plaintiff had no constitutional right to post-conviction access to the state's evidence for DNA testing for the purpose of attempting to prove his innocence. The Court also reasoned that it was a legislative task to develop procedures and rules for obtaining access to such evidence for DNA testing. District Attorney's Office for the Third Judicial Circuit v. Osborne, #08–6, 129 S. Ct. 2308 (2009).
   A New York state law that purported to protect correctional officers from liability in lawsuits by prisoners for conduct carried out within the scope of their employment violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Under the New York law, the state's general courts were stripped of jurisdiction over federal civil rights lawsuits or similar state law claims filed by prisoners in that context, which would result in the dismissal of such lawsuits, and prisoners being limited, instead, to filing claims against the State of New York in the New York Court of Claims. The U.S. Supreme Court found that Congress has made the judgment, as a matter of federal law, that any person who violates a federal right while acting under color of state law is subject to a federal civil rights lawsuit for damages, and that both federal and state courts have jurisdiction over such claims. A state, the Supreme Court declared, may not "relieve congestion in its courts by declaring a whole category of federal claims to be frivolous," which appeared to be the basis of the New York statute. Haywood v. Drown, #07-10374, 2009 U.S. Lexis 3807.
     U.S. Supreme Court rules, by 5-4, that imposing a death sentence for the rape of a child where the crime did not involve and was not intended to result in the child's death violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Kennedy v. Louisiana, No. 07-343, 2008 U.S. Lexis 5262.
     The U.S. Supreme Court in Boumediene v. Bush, No. 06-1195, 2008 U.S. Lexis 4887, ruled that aliens detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as enemy combatants after their capture in Afghanistan or elsewhere overseas are constitutionally entitled to pursue claims for habeas corpus, and found that the procedures provided in a 2005 statute for review of the detainees' status are inadequate and constitute an unconstitutional suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. In another case, Munaf v. Geren, No. 06-1666, 2008 U.S. Lexis 4888, decided the same day, June 12, 2008, the Court ruled that the habeas corpus statute applies to U.S. citizens held overseas by U.S. military forces, such as in Iraq, even if those forces are operating as a component of an multinational coalition. The U.S. citizens being detained had traveled voluntarily to Iraq and are alleged to have committed crimes there. The Court further ruled, however, that the particular plaintiffs in that case were not entitled to relief to enjoin the U.S. from transferring them to the custody of Iraqi authorities for criminal prosecution.
     Kentucky's use of lethal injection to execute death row prisoners did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Baze v. Rees, No. 07–5439, 128 S. Ct. 1520 (2008).
     In a case (Avena and Other Mexican Nationals) involving 51 Mexican nationals confined in U.S. prisons, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the U.S. had violated Article 36(1)(b) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by failing to provide them with notice of their rights to contact the Mexican consulate after they were taken into custody. The ICJ, therefore, held that each of these individuals were entitled to review and reconsideration of the U.S. state court convictions, even if they had failed to comply with otherwise applicable state rules concerning the challenging of those convictions. In a prior decision, Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon, No. 04-10566, 548 U.S. 331 (2006), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Convention did not negate the need to apply state rules. The President of the United States, however, issued a memo stating that the U.S. would "discharge its institutional obligations" and have state courts follow the ICJ decision. The Plaintiff in the immediate case, incarcerated in Texas, then filed a Texas state court habeas application challenging his capital murder conviction and death sentence because of the failure to inform him of his rights under the Vienna Convention. The U.S. Supreme Court has now held that neither the ICJ decision nor the President's memo are directly enforceable federal law which would pre-empt state limits on the filing of successive habeas petitions. The court further found that a treaty such as the Vienna Convention is not binding domestic law in the U.S. when Congress has not passed statutes to implement it, except if the treaty itself conveys an intention that it be "self-executing." The plaintiff's habeas petition was therefore properly dismissed. Medellin v. Texas, No. 06-984, 2008 U.S. Lexus 2912.
     A federal prisoner transferred from a facility in Atlanta, Georgia to one in Kentucky allegedly noticed that a number of items were missing from his property, which the federal Bureau of Prisons had shipped to his new facility. He filed a lawsuit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1346, seeking recovery of damages. The property involved included items of religious and nostalgic significance, including two copies of the Qur'an, a prayer rug, and religious magazines, with an estimated total value of $177. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an exception to the FTCA's waiver of sovereign immunity for actions of federal employees, which bars liability arising from the detention of any property "by any officer of customs or excise or any other law enforcement officer," 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2680(c), applies to all law enforcement officers, including federal correctional officers. The Supreme Court therefore upheld the dismissal of the prisoner's lawsuit. Ali v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, No. 06-9130, 2008 U.S. Lexis 1212.
     The Westfall Act, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2679(b)(1) provides federal employees absolute immunity from tort claims for actions taken in the course of their official duties, and gives the Attorney General the power to certify that a federal employee sued for wrongful or negligent conduct was acting within the scope of his office or employment at the time of the incident. Once that certification takes place, the U.S. government is substituted as the defendant instead of the employee, and the lawsuit is then governed by the Federal Tort Claims Act. Additionally, if the lawsuit began in state court, the Westfall Act provides that it shall be removed to federal court, and renders the Attorney General's certification "conclusive" for purposes of the removal. Once the certification and removal take place, the federal court has the exclusive jurisdiction over the case, and cannot decide to send the lawsuit back to state court. In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court also ruled that certification can take place under the Westfall Act in instances where the federal employee sued asserts, and the Attorney General also concludes, that the incident alleged in the lawsuit never even took place. Osborn v. Haley, No. 05-593 2007 U.S. Lexis 1323. [N/R]
     Interpreting the scope of the "exhaustion of remedies" requirement in the Prison Litigation Reform Act, (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1997e(a), the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that: (a) Failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense under the PLRA, and inmates are not required to specifically plead or demonstrate exhaustion in their complaints--instead, defendant prison officials must specifically raise the failure to do so as a defense; (b) Exhaustion is not per se inadequate under the PLRA when an individual later sued was not named in the grievance, and the applicable procedural rules that a prisoner must properly exhaust are not defined by the PLRA, but by the prison grievance process itself; and (c) The PLRA does not require dismissal of the entire complaint when a prisoner has failed to exhaust some, but not all, of the claims included in the complaint. Jones v. Bock, No. 05-7058, 05-7142, 2007 U.S. Lexis 1325. [N/R]
     The U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-3 vote (with the Chief Justice not participating), holds that the President did not have authority to conduct military tribunal trials for detainees at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and that the military commission convened had a structure and procedures violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the Geneva Conventions. Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, No. 05-184,126 S. Ct. 2749 (2006). [N/R]
     U.S. Supreme Court overturns an appeals court decision that a prison policy forbidding certain very dangerous and "recalcitrant" prisoners access to newspapers, magazines, and photographs violated the First Amendment as a matter of law. Policy was justified by prison officials' legitimate interest in providing such prisoners with incentives for improvement of their behavior. Beard v. Banks, No. 04-1739 2006 U.S. Lexis 5176. [2006 JB Aug]
     U.S. Supreme Court rules that prisoners are required, under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, to properly exhaust available administrative remedies for their grievances before pursuing federal lawsuits over prison conditions, including complying with procedural rules, such as deadlines for grievance filing. Woodford v. Ngo, No. 05-416, 2006 U.S. Lexis 4891. [2006 JB Aug]
    U.S. Supreme Court rules that states and state agencies can be sued for damages for disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to the extent that a disabled prisoner asserts a claim for conduct that actually violates constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment. U.S. v. Georgia, No. 04-1203, 04-1236 126 S. Ct. 877 (2006). [2006 JB Mar]
     U. S. Supreme Court vacated a temporary stay order issued by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas that prevented a Missouri prison inmate from obtaining an abortion. The Missouri prisoner, who was pregnant when incarcerated on a parole violation, had obtained an order from a federal trial court requiring the state to provide access to an abortion by providing transportation to a clinic 80 miles away, despite a Department of Corrections policy under which such transportation is not provided for abortions that the Department does not deem "medically necessary." The prisoner reportedly planned to pay for the abortion herself. The Supreme Court action, which was a brief two-sentence order, with no dissents, had the effect of reinstating the trial court's order. Crawford v. Roe, No. 05A333, 2005 U.S. Lexis 7841, 74 U.S.L.W. 3270. [N/R]
     Unanimous U.S. Supreme Court finds that procedures Ohio adopted to govern its placement of its most dangerous prisoners at its "Supermax" facilities are constitutionally adequate to satisfy due process. Such procedures, while providing prisoners with an opportunity to present information and receive notice concerning the basis for the proposed classification, need not be full-blown adversary proceedings, and the prisoners' rights were not violated by their inability to call witnesses at the hearings. Wilkinson v. Austin, No. 04-495, 125 S. Ct. 2384 (2005). [2005 JB Aug]
     U.S. Supreme Court rules that the use of visible shackles, whether during the guilt phase of a criminal trial or the penalty phase of a capital case, is a violation of constitutional due process unless it is justified by specific findings concerning the need for such restraint of the particular defendant based on "essential" interests like courtroom security. Deck v. Missouri, No. 04-5293, 2005 U.S. Lexis 4180. [2005 JB Jul]
     Unanimous Supreme Court, in a case filed by inmates belonging to Satanist, Wicca (witchcraft), and white supremacist religions, rejects the argument that a federal statute barring restrictions on religious practice without a "compelling" governmental interest is an unconstitutional "establishment of religion." Court notes that prison safety and security are such "compelling" interests, and expects that courts applying the statute will give "due deference" to the experience and expertise of prison and jail administrators. Cutter v. Wilkinson, No. 03-9877, 2005 U.S. Lexis 4346. [2005 JB Jul]
     U.S. Supreme Court rules that prisoners could challenge state parole procedures through a federal civil rights lawsuit, and were not required to instead seek habeas corpus relief, when success in their challenge would not directly result in their release from custody. Wilkinson v. Dotson, 03-287, 2005 U.S. Lexis 2204. [2005 JB Apr]
     U.S. Supreme Court, by 5-3, rules that prisons cannot segregate prisoners by race even temporarily except under extraordinary circumstances where there is a compelling interest in doing so. Johnson v. California, No. 03-636, 2005 U.S. Lexis 2007. Supervisor of prison transportation work crew did not violate an inmate's Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment by allegedly using a racial epithet against him. While the use of the term, if true, was "inexcusable and offensive," it did not, without more, constitute a violation of constitutional rights. Moore v. Morris, No. 04-6140, 116 Fed. Appx. 203 (10th Cir. 2004). [2005 JB Apr]
     U.S. Supreme Court to examine what due process is required before placing prisoners in a "super-maximum security" facility. Austin v. Wilkinson, #02-3429, 372 F.3d 346(6th Cir. 2004), cert. granted, Wilkinson v. Austin, 04-495, 2004 U.S. Lexis 8174. [2005 JB Feb]
     U.S. Supreme Court rules that foreign nationals detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, captured in Afghanistan hostilities, have a right to access to U.S. courts to challenge the legality of their detention, and that U.S. citizen detained as an "enemy combatant" for allegedly fighting against the U.S. in Afghanistan, also had a due process right to access to a "neutral decision maker" to challenge the factual basis for his detention. In a third case involving a U.S. citizen detained as an "enemy combatant" on U.S. soil for alleged involvement in terrorist conspiracy, Court does not reach ultimate issues because of procedural defects in court filing. Rasul v. Bush, No. 03-334, 2004 U.S. Lexis 4760; Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, No. 03-6696, 2004 U.S. Lexis 4761; Rumsfeld v. Padilla, No. 03-1027, 2004 U.S. Lexis 4759. [2004 JB Aug]
     U.S. Supreme Court rules that states may be sued for damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for acts of disability discrimination which allegedly interfere with the constitutional right of access to the courts, and that such claims are not barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity. Court does not provide a clear answer about whether similar lawsuits against governmental employees for damages are proper in other circumstances of alleged disability discrimination in the providing of public services or programs. Tennessee v. Lane, #02-1667, 124 S. Ct. 1978 (2004). [2004 JB Jul]
     U.S. Supreme Court rules that prisoners may pursue federal civil rights lawsuits for damages over prison discipline despite the fact that the disciplinary conviction has not been set aside, so long as the lawsuit challenges only the conditions of confinement, rather than the fact or duration of the confinement. Muhammad aka Mease v. Close, # 02-9065, 124 S. Ct. 1303 (2004). [2004 JB Apr]
     U.S. Supreme Court to review issue of whether California prison practice of routinely segregating prisoners by race during initial period of incarceration is permissible for purposes of preventing racial violence, as federal appeals court ruled, or unconstitutional discrimination in violation of the right to equal protection. Johnson v. California, #03-636, 72 U.S. Law Week 3551 (March 1, 2004). [2004 JB Apr]
     U.S. Supreme Court upholds Michigan prison rules limiting visits by children, non-family members, former prisoners, or for prisoners who commit two violations of substance abuse rules. Overton, Director, Michigan Department of Corrections v. Bazzetta, #02-94, 123 S. Ct. 2162 (2003). [2003 JB Aug]
     U.S. Supreme Court holds that a punitive damages award of $145 million was excessive in a case where the compensatory damages were $1 million. Such a disproportionate award of punitive damages violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Courts reviewing punitive damages should consider: (1) the degree of reprehensibility of the defendant's misconduct, (2) the disparity between the actual or potential harm suffered by the plaintiff and the punitive damages award, and (3) the difference between the punitive damages awarded by the jury and the civil penalties authorized or imposed in comparable cases. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Campbell, #01-1289, 123 S. Ct. 1513 (2003). [N/R]
    U.S. Supreme Court to review constitutionality of Michigan prison regulations banning visits from inmate's minor relatives and former prisoners who are not family members. Federal appeals court struck down regulations as applied to non-contact visits. Bazzetta v. McGinnis, #01-1635, 286 F.3d 311 (6th Cir. 2002), cert. granted sub nom., Overton v. Bazzetta, #02-94, 71 U.S.L.W. 3387 (12/02/2002). [2003 JB Jan]
     U.S. Supreme Court rules that punitive damages may not be awarded in private lawsuits under provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act prohibiting disability discrimination by public entities or the recipients of federal funding. Decision overturns $1.2 million award against city for failure to provide wheelchair restraints in a vehicle in which a wheelchair-bound detainee was transported and injured. Barnes v. Gorman, #01-682, 122 S. Ct. 2097 (2002). [2002 JB Aug] 
    U.S. Supreme Court holds that alleged use of "hitching post" to restrain prisoner outside in hot weather for seven hours without bathroom breaks and with only one or two water breaks, if true, established an Eighth Amendment violation, for which defendant prison officials were not entitled to qualified immunity defense at summary judgment phase of proceedings. Hope v. Pelzer, #01-309, 122 S. Ct. 2508 (2002). [2002 JB Aug]
      U.S. Supreme Court rules that prisoners may be offered incentives to participate in treatment and rehabilitation programs in which they are required to disclose prior acts that may be crimes without violating the compelled self-incrimination prohibitions of the Fifth Amendment. McKune v. Lile, #00-1187, 2002 U.S. Lexis 4206. [2002 JB Jul]
     Unanimous U.S. Supreme Court rules that "exhaustion of remedies" requirement of Prison Litigation Reform Act applies to all lawsuits by inmates about prison life, including those involving particular incidents, such as an allegation of excessive use of force by a correctional officer, as well as those that involve general circumstances or conditions. Porter v. Nussle, 2002 U.S. Lexis 1373. [2002 JB Apr]
     Civil commitment of previously convicted sex offender require some finding of the offender's "lack of control." Kansas v. Crane, #00-957, 122 S. Ct. 867 (2002). [2002 JB Apr]
     Sending notice of a proposed forfeiture of property to an incarcerated prisoner via certified mail in care of the prison where he was incarcerated is adequate to satisfy due process of law when the prison had a procedure for delivering mail to inmates; the government must only attempt to provide actual notice, there is no requirement that actual notice must be received. Dusenbery v. United States, No. 00-6567, 2002 U.S. LEXIS 401. [2002 JB Feb]
     U.S. Supreme Court upholds warrantless searches of a probationer's home without probable cause as a condition of probation; evidence uncovered in one such search, conducted by a sheriff's detective with reasonable suspicion, did not need to be suppressed. United States v. Knights, No. 00-1260, 121 S. Ct. 1955 (2001). [2002 JB Feb]
     U.S. Supreme Court, by 5-4 vote, rules that federal civil rights claims may not be brought against private companies acting under color of federal law, such as a private company operating a halfway house under a contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons. Correctional Services Corp. v. Malesko, #00-860, 2001 U.S. LEXIS 10812. [2002 JB Jan]
     296:115 Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, prisoners must exhaust available administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit, even when they are seeking only money damages and money damages may not be obtained through the administrative grievance process. Booth v. Churner, #99-1964, 121 S. Ct. 1819 (2001).
     296:115 U.S. Supreme Court rejects "catalyst theory" for the award of attorneys' fees in federal lawsuits; a plaintiff, in order to be entitled to an attorneys' fee award must receive a court judgment on the merits or a court- ordered consent decree; a voluntary change in the behavior of the defendant will not suffice. Buckhannon Board and Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, No. 99-1848, 121 S. Ct. 1835 (2001).
     294:83 U.S. Supreme Court rules that prisoners do not have a special First Amendment right to provide legal assistance to fellow inmates. Shaw v. Murphy, No. 99-1613, 121 S. Ct. 1475 (2001).
     291:35 U.S. Supreme Court rules that Congress exceeded its authority by attempting to make employment discrimination provisions of Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) applicable to state government; employees can no longer sue states under this federal statute for money damages for disability discrimination. Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Garrett, #99-1240, 531 U.S. 356 (2001).
     279:35 Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) may not constitutionally be applied to state employees; Congress exceeded its authority in attempting to create a remedy for age discrimination which went beyond what the Supreme Court had previously ruled concerning equal protection of law in age discrimination. Kimel v. Florida Bd. of Regents, #98-791, 98-796, 120 S. Ct. 631 (2000).
     283:99 U.S. Supreme Court upholds federal statute requiring an automatic stay of injunctive orders against correctional facilities when officials ask for termination or modification of such orders and the trial court fails to hold a hearing and make findings that there are currently existing violations within a designated time period. This time limit did not constitute a violation of separation of powers. Miller v. French, #99-224, 120 S. Ct. 2246 (2000).
     285:142 U.S. Supreme Court strikes down federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as unconstitutional. Some plaintiffs were attempting to use statute to assert claims arising out of alleged sexual assaults by law enforcement personnel. United States v. Morrison, #99-5, 120 S. Ct. 1740 (2000).
     272:115 Attorneys' fee cap in Prison Litigation Reform Act applied to work done after law's effective date, even in cases which were pending prior to the law's enactment. Martin v. Hadix, #98-262, 119 S. Ct. 1998 (1999).
     273:131 U.S. Supreme Court, in three decisions, narrowly interprets federal disability discrimination statute; plaintiff employees whose disabilities may be corrected by medication or devices such as eyeglasses will generally not be disabled persons entitled to protection against employment discrimination. Murphy v. United Parcel Service, Inc., #97- 1992, 119 S. Ct. 2133 (1999); Sutton v. United Air Lines, Inc., #97-1943, 119 S. Ct. 2139 (1999); Albertsons, Inc. v. Kirkingburg, #98-591, 119 S. Ct. 2162 (1999).
     273:132 Monetary sanctions awarded against plaintiff's lawyer in federal civil rights lawsuit were not immediately appealable; any appeal must wait until the final resolution of the underlying case. Cunningham v. Hamilton Co., Ohio, #98-727, 119 S. Ct. 1915 (1999).
     273:132 Congress did not have constitutional authority under Article I of the Constitution to abrogate states' sovereign immunity to lawsuits in their own state courts; probation officers could not sue state of Maine, in either federal or state court, for overtime pay they claimed they were owed under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Alden v. Maine, #98-436, 119 S. Ct. 2240 (1999).
     258:83 U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rules that same-sex sexual harassment claims can be pursued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc., 118 S.Ct. 998 (1998).
     258:84 Appeals court order to trial court to enter final judgment reducing amount of damages awarded to plaintiff by jury, without allowing possibility of plaintiff obtaining a new trial, violated Seventh Amendment constitutional right. Hetzel v. Prince William Co., Va., 118 S.Ct. 1210 (1998).
     260:115 Unanimous U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to state prisons, based on "unambiguous" text of statute; Court does not address question of whether applying ADA to state prisons was a constitutional exercise of authority by Congress; ruling expected to result in more ADA lawsuits by prisoners. Penn. Dept. of Corrections v. Yeskey, No. 97-634, 118 S.Ct. 1952 (1998).
     260:117 U.S. Supreme Court rejects imposition of higher burden of proof on federal civil rights plaintiffs asserting that defendants acted with unconstitutional motive. Crawford-El v. Britton, 118 S.Ct. 1584 (1998).
     263:163 Despite the presence, in terminated correctional officer's suit, of several claims against the State of Wisconsin barred by the Eleventh Amendment, correctional defendants could still properly remove the entire lawsuit from state to federal court, and the federal trial court had jurisdiction to consider and rule on remaining claims not barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity. Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections v. Schacht, #97-461, 118 S.Ct. 2047 (1998).
     263:163 Exclusionary rule does not apply to parole revocation hearings. The rule would apply to a subsequent criminal trial, for offenses committed while on parole, if police officers conduct an illegal search of a parolee's person or premises. Penn. Bd. of Probation & Parole v. Scott, #97-581, 118 S.Ct. 2014 (1998).
     263:164 Asymptomatic HIV infection qualifies as a disability for purposes of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Bragdon v. Abbott, #97-156, 118 S.Ct. 2196 (1998).
     263:164 U.S. Supreme Court issues two important decisions on sexual harassment; establishes legal standards for employer liability for supervisor's harassment; prompt corrective action by employer can limit or bar liability. Burlington Indus. v. Ellerth, #97-569, 118 S.Ct. 2257 (1998); Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, #97-282, 118 S.Ct. 2275 (1998).
     255:35 U.S. Supreme Court upholds convictions of former sheriff and deputy sheriff on federal bribery and conspiracy charges for allegedly allowing conjugal visits to federal prisoner held in county jail. Salinas v. United States, 118 S.Ct. 469 (1997).
     250:147 U.S. Supreme Court rules that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority under the Fourteenth Amendment in passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act; rules and laws of general applicability, including jail and prison rules and regulations, no longer need to be justified by a compelling state interest or use the least restrictive means when they allegedly impose a substantial burden on the exercise of religion. Boerne, City of, v. Flores, 117 S.Ct. 2157, 1997 U.S. Lexis 4035 (June 25, 1997).
     250:150 No federal right to immediate appeal of denial of qualified immunity in federal civil rights cases filed in state court. Johnson v. Fankell, 117 S.Ct. 1800, 1997 U.S. Lexis 3547 (June 9, 1997).
     US Supreme Court overturns $800,000 award against county based on alleged inadequate screening before hiring deputy with arrest record who caused injuries to arrestee; single hiring decision could not be the basis for municipal liability in absence of evidence that sheriff consciously disregarded high risk that deputy would use excessive force Bd of Co. Com'rs of Bryan Co., Okl v. Brown, 117 S.Ct. 1382 (1997).
     249:131 U.S. Supreme Court rules that prisoner's federal civil rights lawsuit challenging procedures used to discipline him was barred when disciplinary result had not previously been invalidated, if a judgment in prisoner's favor would necessarily imply invalidity of the discipline. Edwards v. Balisok, 117 S.Ct. 1584, 1997 U.S. Lexis 3075 (May 19, 1997).
     250:148 U.S. Supreme Court rules that qualified immunity defense in federal civil rights lawsuits is not available to correctional officers working for privately run state prisons. Richardson v. McKnight, 117 S.Ct. 2100, 1997 U.S. Lexis 3866 (June 23, 1997).
     238:153 U.S. Supreme Court adopts therapist-patient privilege protecting disclosures during therapy sessions from compelled disclosure in court; affirms ordering of new trial in which jury awarded $545,000 in police shooting case where jury was told it could presume withheld therapy records would be unfavorable to officer. Jaffee v. Allen, 116 S.Ct. 1923 (1996).
     237:131 U.S. Supreme Court rules that an award of punitive damages which was 500 times the size of the compensatory damages awarded by a jury was "grossly excessive" and constitutionally violative of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, 116 S.Ct. 1589 (1996).
     234:83 U.S. Supreme Court rules that defendants in civil rights lawsuits may raise qualified immunity defense in both motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment, and may be able to appeal denials both times in same case prior to trial. Behrens v. Pelletier, 116 S.Ct. 834 (1996).
     238:151 U.S. Supreme Court overturns detailed injunctive order requiring system-wide changes in Arizona prison law library and legal assistance programs; Court sets forth rule that prisoners have no "abstract" right to law libraries, but rather to access to courts; relief granted by courts must be limited to instances where "actual injury" is shown; prison law libraries and legal assistance programs are not constitutionally required to provide inmates with ability to litigate "any" kind of legal claim, but only those related to challenging their sentences or conditions of confinement; courts must show "deference" to prison regulations which impinge on right of access to courts, even if actual injury is shown, if "reasonably related to legitimate penological interests." Lewis v. Casey, 116 S.Ct. 2174 (1996).
     226:150 Update: U.S. Supreme Court vacates grant of qualified immunity to prison officials in suit brought by inmate challenging his placement in administrative detention after he told the press he sold drugs to Vice Presidential candidate; Court orders reconsideration in light of Johnson v. Jones, reported above. Kimberlin v. Quinlan, 6 F.3d 789 (D.C. Cir. 1993), rehearing denied, 17 F.3d 1525 (D.C. Cir. 1994), cert. granted, 115 S.Ct. 929 (1995), vacated, 115 S.Ct. 2552 (1995).
     226:149 U.S. Supreme Court, resolving major split between U.S. appeals courts, unanimously rules that defendants in federal civil rights cases may not seek immediate appeal of denials of qualified immunity when trial court bases such denial on basis that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial; immediate appeal in such cases is limited to reviewing whether "clearly established law" violation is alleged, not issues of sufficiency of evidence. Johnson v. Jones, 115 S.Ct. 2151 (1995).
     226:147 U.S. Supreme Court rules that prisoner placed in disciplinary segregation following charges of misconduct was not entitled to due process procedural protections; state regulation simply requiring that disciplinary guilt be supported by substantial evidence did not result in a state-created constitutionally protected "liberty" interest; focus in determining whether state creates a liberty interest to shift from search for mandatory language in state laws or regulations to the nature of the deprivation imposed. Sandin v. Conner, 115 S.Ct. 2293 (1995).
     U.S. Supreme Court rules that peremptory challenges of potential jurors based on gender violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. J.E.B. v. Alabama Ex. Rel. T.B., 114 S.Ct. 1419 (1994).
     U.S. Supreme Court Holds that courts should dismiss federal civil rights suits seeking damages when a judgment in favor of the plaintiff necessarily implies the invalidity of the plaintiff's criminal sentence, but that sentence has not already been overturned. Heck v. Humphrey, 114 S.Ct. 2364 (1994).
     U.S. Supreme Court holds that liability in a civil rights lawsuit for "deliberate indifference" to inmate safety and health must be based on a showing that prison officials were "subjectively aware" of the risk, rejecting an objective test that would base liability on what officials "should have known." Farmer v. Brennan, 114 S.Ct. 1970 (1994).
     Oregon state constitutional provision prohibiting judicial review of jury awards of punitive damages in most cases violates the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, U.S. Supreme Court holds. Honda Motor Co., Ltd. v. Oberg, 114 S.Ct. 2331 (1994).
     U.S. Supreme Court rules that "significant injury" is not a requirement for proving use of excessive physical force against a prisoner in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1 (1992).
     Consent decrees may be modified without showing a "grievous wrong," U.S. Supreme Court adopts "flexible" standard in case involving jail overcrowding. Rufo v. Inmates of Suffolk Co. Jail, 112 S.Ct. 748 (1992).
     Federal Tort Claims Act prohibition of award of "punitive damages" against U.S. government does not bar awards for future medical expenses or for loss of enjoyment of life. Molzof v. U.S., 112 S.Ct. 711 (1992).
     Prisoner's civil rights lawsuit can be dismissed as frivolous when the facts alleged are irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25 (1992).
     Civil rights plaintiff solely seeking monetary damages who was awarded only $1 in nominal damages was a "prevailing party," but was not entitled to attorneys' fee award of $280,000; Court states that, in such cases, "the only reasonable fee is usually no fee at all." Farrar v. Hobby, 113 S.Ct. 566 (1992).
     U.S. Supreme Court holds that $10 million punitive damage award did not violate due process. Pacific Mutual Life Ins. Co. v. Haslip, 499 U.S. 1 (1991), a claim the court rejected.
     Punitive damages are not, per se, a violation of due process, but Supreme Court indicates that "extreme results" may be "unacceptable" under due process. Pacific Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Haslip, 111 S.Ct. 1032 (1991).
     Federal statute authorizing nonconsensual referral of prisoner lawsuits challenging "conditions of confinement" to magistrates includes civil rights lawsuits over individual incidents of unconstitutional conduct, such as alleged excessive use of force, as well as over ongoing prison conditions. McCarthy v. Bronson, 111 S.Ct. 1737 (1991).
     Race-based peremptory challenges to potential jurors in civil lawsuits is unconstitutional, U.S. Supreme Court rules. Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Company, Inc., 111 S.Ct. 2077 (1991).
     U.S. Supreme Court, reacting to repeated frivolous petitions from two men, invokes rule denying them permission to avoid paying filing fees as paupers. Zatko v. California, 112 S.Ct. 355 (1991).
     Prison officials cannot be held liable, in federal civil rights suits, for inadequate prison conditions absent a showing of "deliberate indifference" as a mental state; U.S. Supreme Court adopts tougher standard for inmate suits. Wilson v. Seiter, 111 S.Ct. 2321 (1991).
     State officials may be sued for damages in their individual capacities in federal civil rights cases, even if they were acting "in their official capacities" during the complained of conduct, U.S. Supreme Court rules. Hafter v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21 (1991).
     U.S. Supreme Court upholds forced treatment of mentally ill inmate with antipsychotic drugs without judicial hearing; state's provision for prison administrative hearing met due process requirements. Washington v. Harper, 110 S.Ct. 1028 (1990).
     U.S. Supreme Court vacates court decision that regulation prohibiting rosary beads in visiting area violates first amendment. Higgins v. Burroughs, 816 F.2d 119 (3rd Cir.), vacated, 108 S.Ct. 54 (1987).
     U.S. Supreme Court denies award of attorney's fees to inmate who did not receive any relief on the merits of his claim. Hewitt v. Helms, 107 S.Ct. 2672 (1987). U.S. Supreme Court rules injured inmates have no constitutional right to sue. Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, S.Ct. 662 and Davidson v. Cannon, 474 U.S. 344, 106 S.Ct. 668 (1986).
     U.S. Supreme Court rules using lethal force in good faith to quell a prison disturbance does not violate constitutional rights. Whitley v. Albers, No. 84-1077; 475 U.S. 312 (1986).
     U.S. Supreme Court allows attorneys to waive fees in settlements. Evans v. Jeff D., 475 U.S. 717 (1986).
     U.S. Supreme Court rules administrative record need not contain reasons for denying witnesses to inmates. Ponte v. Real, U.S., 105 S.Ct. 2192 (1985).
     U.S. Supreme Court rules inmates not protected by Fourth Amendment; pretrial detainees not entitled to contact visits. Block v. Rutherford, 104 S.Ct. 3227 (1984) and Hudson v. Palmer, 104 S.Ct. 3194.
     U.S. Supreme Court allows for pretrial detention of juveniles. Schall v. Martin, 104 S.Ct. 2403 (1984).
     U.S. Supreme Court rules right to appointed counsel does not attach until judicial proceedings are begun against inmate regardless of confinement in administrative segregation. United States v. Gouveia, 104 S.Ct. 2292 (1984).
     Reasonable restrictions on pretrial detainees are O.K. -mail, searches of inmates and cells, double-celling. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 99 S.Ct. 1861 (1979).

Back to list of subjects             Back to Legal Publications Menu