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(Published as VOLUME 2000 NUMBER 283)
U.S. Supreme Court Actions
Defenses: Statute of Limitations
Prison Litigation Reform Act
Prisoner Assault: Officer
Index of Cases Cited
U.S. SUPREME COURT ACTIONS
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.
In the Prison Litigation Reform Act, (PLRA), Congress provided that injunctive relief should only be granted against correctional institutions where specific violations of federal civil rights are found, and further provided that such orders should be narrowly draw, limited to the relief necessary to correct the violation, and utilize the "least intrusive means" necessary to correct the violation of the federal right. 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3626(a)(1).
Recognizing that many correctional institutions were already operating under existing injunctions, Congress also provided a mechanism for correctional administrators to seek termination of an outdated injunctive order which does not meet the current legal standard for grants of prospective relief as summarized above. Section 3626(a)(2) provides for the immediate termination of prospective relief upon a finding that it does not meet this standard, with the trial court able to deny such immediate termination upon entering written findings, based on the record, that the standard was met. It further provided, in 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3626(e)(2), that a motion to terminate or modify an existing injunctive order would act as an automatic stay after no judicial action was taken for thirty days. (In 1997 amendments, Congress further provided that a trial court could postpone the effective date of this automatic stay "for good cause shown" for up to 60 days).
In French v. Duckworth, #97-3075, 178 F.3d 437 (7th Cir. 1999), full text: <http://www.kentlaw.edu/7circuit/>, a federal appeals court panel ruled that the "automatic stay" provision violated the principle articulated in United States v. Klein, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 128 (1871), that Congress does not have the power to impose a rule of decision for pending judicial cases, apart from its power to change the underlying applicable law. It found, therefore, that the statute violated separation of powers. It further ruled that the clear language of the statute did not allow suspension of automatic stay by the trial court.
The case began when prisoners in an Indiana correctional facility filed a class action lawsuit against the state complaining of prison conditions almost thirty years ago. Some of the relief sought by the prisoners was granted in an injunction affirmed fifteen years ago in French v. Owens, 777 F.2d 1250 (7th Cir. 1985), and the prison has operated under that injunction, as modified over time, ever since. Following the enactment of the PLRA, correctional defendants sought termination of the decree by a motion in June 1997. After almost two years had passed, the trial court had not acted on this request, and no automatic stay was entered either. The federal appeals court ruled that no such stay should be entered, because of constitutional problems with the automatic stay provision.
The U.S. Supreme Court has now reversed the federal appeals court decision. It agreed with the appeals court that the statute should be interpreted as meaning exactly what it says--that the stay of an injunctive order is "automatic" if a trial court does not hold a hearing and reach findings showing the existence of a current civil rights violation in a correctional institution within the designated time. But it found that this did not violate separation of powers. The Court noted that an injunctive order is subject to a court's continuing supervisory jurisdiction and "may be altered according to subsequent changes in the law." When Congress changes the law underlying an injunctive order, that order is no longer enforceable to the extent that it is inconsistent with the new law. The automatic stay provision does not violate separation of powers simply because it places a "time limit" within which the court must act or else enter an automatic stay.
The Court indicated that it was not ruling on the issue of whether the time limit imposed was "so short that it deprives litigants of a meaningful opportunity to be heard," since that was a due process issue not raised in the court below. "We leave open, therefore, the question whether this time limit, particularly in a complex case, may implicate due process concerns." Miller v. French, #99-224, 120 S. Ct. 2246 (2000).
Text: <http://www.law.vill.edu/Fed-Ct/sct.html>. [Cross-references: Prison Litigation Reform Act: Consent Decrees & Injunctive Orders].
DEFENSES: STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
Arizona statutory amendment eliminating tolling (extension) of statute of limitations for prisoner lawsuits did not apply retroactively to bar prisoner's lawsuit over his medical treatment when the tolling had already taken place before the law was changed, even when the prisoner did not actually file his lawsuit until after the change was effective.
An Arizona prisoner filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs by state correctional employees after he underwent a surgical procedure to remove a cancerous growth on his back. Specifically, he claimed that when he was given medically necessary bleach baths after the surgery to combat an infection, this was done in bath tubs allegedly encrusted in fecal matter and scabs from other patients.
At the time these events allegedly took place, an Arizona statute tolled (extended) the two year statute of limitations for personal injury actions until a prisoner discovered the right to bring the action or should have discovered that right with the exercise of reasonable diligence. Prior to the time the prisoner had filed the lawsuit, but after he had discovered his right to bring it, the state legislature amended the law, deleting the special tolling provision for prisoners.
The lawsuit was dismissed as barred by the statute of limitations, which the trial court ruled had not been extended. A federal appeals court reversed, holding that the statutory amendment eliminating the tolling provision of prisoner lawsuits did not apply retroactively. The statute of limitations, therefore, was extended, and did not begin to run until the date that the prisoner's attorney told him of his right to file suit, when the tolling provision was in effect on that date, even though the provision was repealed before the prisoner actually filed his action. Tworivers v. Lewis, No. 97-15844, 174 F.3d 987 (9th Cir. 1999).
Text: <http://www.ce9.uscourts.gov/opinions>. [Cross-reference: Medical Care].
Correctional officer who made an anonymous, obscene, and racist telephone call to a state legislator while on duty was properly terminated; Connecticut Supreme Court rejects arbitrator's award reinstating officer and reducing the penalty to 60 days suspension without pay.
A state correctional officer attended a union rally in the Connecticut state capitol to protest legislative action rejecting an interest arbitration award that affected the labor contract covering correctional officers. At the rally, the union asked its members to contact members of the state Senate to protest this rejection, and distributed telephone lists for that purpose. While on duty at a correctional facility, the officer called approximately six legislators, using his employer's phone for the purpose.
Without identifying himself, the officer allegedly left a "profane and racist message" on one state Senator's voice mail. In part, the message was "this is one of the correction officers that you referred to as a [...] criminal. Who the fuck are you to call [officers] a criminal you fucking cock-sucking crack fucking nigger." During an investigation of the call, he initially denied making it, but later admitted that he had done so. He was terminated from his job and also arrested for harassment in the second degree and was ordered to perform 300 hours of community service and serve a two year period of probation as a result.
An arbitrator, addressing a grievance that the officer filed protesting the severity of the firing as a sanction for his conduct, vacated the firing and instead ordered a suspension of 60 days without pay, followed by reinstatement. The Supreme Court of Connecticut ruled that the arbitration award violated the state's "clearly defined public policy" against telephone harassment, as established both by the criminal statute prohibiting such conduct and by the Department of Correction's internal regulations.
"We do not hold that the violation of a criminal statute is a per se public policy violation sufficient to justify vacating an arbitrator's decision. Instead, we conclude that this case poses a narrow, blatant example of the department of correction's proper exercise of its power to dismiss." Connecticut v. AFSCME, Council 4, Local 387, #16121, 747 A.2d 480 (Conn. 2000).
A prisoner could not sue a state's law enforcement officials for allegedly delivering him to another state's custody in violation of his extradition rights in the absence of a showing that he would not have been extraditable if the proper procedures were followed; such a showing, however, must be made in a prior proceeding, not in a federal civil rights lawsuit.
A Wisconsin prisoner sued Arkansas law enforcement officials for violating his federal civil rights by allegedly violating various provisions of the Arkansas Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA). The prisoner had violated conditions of his parole in Wisconsin, and subsequently left the state and was arrested in Arkansas for a traffic violation.
Shortly after his arrest, Arkansas law enforcement authorities received a request from the state of Wisconsin to hold him pending a formal extradition request. He claimed that he was delivered to Wisconsin law enforcement authorities before he was afforded a state court hearing to challenge the extradition request. Wisconsin then revoked his parole and incarcerated him.
A federal appeals court ruled that the prisoner could not pursue his federal civil rights claim concerning the alleged violation of his extradition rights in the absence of a showing that he was not, in fact, extraditable through the proper procedures. Further, such a showing would necessarily imply the invalidity of his Wisconsin parole revocation, which must be done in another proceeding, not in a federal civil rights lawsuit.
His lawsuit, therefore, was barred by the holding in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), under which a federal civil rights lawsuit in which a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of a conviction or sentence must be dismissed unless the plaintiff "can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated." Knowlin v. Thompson, #97-3463, 207 F.3d 907 (7th Cir. 2000).
Prisoner's First Amendment right of association created an arguable claim to form a prisoners' "legal defense center," and trial court should not have granted prison officials who denied this request summary judgment without engaging in a detailed analysis of the functions that this group would have.
A New York prisoner earned a college degree while incarcerated and "practiced his craft" as a "jailhouse lawyer" after engaging in self-study of law. He asked prison officials to allow him to form a "Prisoners' Legal Defense Center," with the stated goals of disseminating information to the public and media on prison issues, lobbying the state and federal government in support of prison issues, and providing legal assistance to selected prisoners. Officials at the prison denied this request, and an administrative appeal to state correctional officials was denied. The prisoner then filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, claiming that the denial of his request violated his First Amendment rights of association.
The lawsuit was dismissed as frivolous by the trial court, and a panel of a federal appeals court ruled that the First Amendment associational right asserted had an arguable basis in the law under Jones v. North Carolina prisoners' Labor Union, Inc., 433 U.S. 119 (1977). After further proceedings, prison officials asserted that the application had been denied because the proposed center "conflicted with an already existing group and would thus result in duplication of services," and that there were concerns that it would "undermine the safety and security" of the facility, "foster, and perhaps even instigate, adversarial conflicts," and "incite collective subversive activities," triggering "serious conflict," "extortion and violence."
Based on an affidavit from a correctional official making these assertions, the trial court granted summary judgment to defendant correctional officials. A federal appeals court reversed, finding that summary judgment had been improper.
The court found that the plaintiff prisoner had stated "credible arguments" why his group should be recognized despite correctional officials' concerns. He questioned the validity of the prison's asserted interest in preventing the duplication of services because the correctional defendants "have never identified the inmate group providing the same service," and he also challenged the stated security concerns as "unrelated to the denial of his application." The appeals court ruled that the trial judge should have considered those arguments and also examined whether "some of the proposed" functions of the group but not others would survive scrutiny under the test in Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987).
Under this test: "First, there must be a valid and rational connection between the regulation and the governmental interest put forward to justify it, and the governmental objective must be legitimate and neutral. The court must then consider whether there are alternative means of exercising the proscribed right, the impact that accommodating the right will have on other inmates, on prison guards, and on the allocation of prison resources generally, and the availability of ready alternatives to the regulation."
The defendant officials were, the appeals court ruled, entitled to qualified immunity from damage claims, since the "First Amendment right of association to form an inmate legal services organization was not clearly established" at the time the prisoner sought permission to form the group in 1995. His claims for injunctive relief, however, were not effected by this immunity. The appeals court therefore ordered further proceedings on the claims for injunctive relief. Nicholas v. Miller, #98-2768, 189 F.3d 191 (2nd Cir. 1999).
Text: <http://www.tourolaw.edu/2ndCircuit>. [Cross-reference: Access to Courts/Legal Info].
Portion of sentence imposing $140 in restitution on prisoner incarcerated for breaking and entering authorized the immediate deduction of amounts from his prison account; Michigan appeals court rejects the argument that the restitution order should be stayed until the prisoner was paroled or discharged.
A Michigan prisoner was serving a sentence for breaking and entering. As part of his sentence, he was ordered to pay $140 in restitution to the victim of his crime. The state department of corrections began to enforce the order for restitution by removing funds from the prisoner's account on a monthly basis. He filed a lawsuit challenging these deductions, and argued that the restitution order could not be executed until he was placed on parole or discharged.
An intermediate Michigan appeals court disagreed with the prisoner, upholding the deductions. It noted that the restitution order did not specify a clear period for payment, and was therefore "collectible immediately" in the absence of any "language to the contrary." White-Bey v. Corrections Dept., #213395, 608 N.W.2d 833 (Mich. App. 1999).
Georgia prisoner could not pursue a civil lawsuit against county sheriff seeking return of unidentified property when it had already been determined, in his criminal proceeding, that no such property was being held; trial court's order barring all future civil filings by prisoner as frivolous, however, went too far and violated his right of access to the courts.
A Georgia state prisoner filed a lawsuit against the sheriff and other county officials, claiming that approximately $60 worth of unidentified property was taken from him at the time of his arrest and never returned to him. Noting that the prisoner had filed a motion during his criminal trial, also seeking the return of this property, and that the trial court had ruled that no such property was being held by any of the officials, an intermediate Georgia appeals court upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit.
Once it had been factually determined that his property claim was meritless, the prisoner could not seek to relitigate the matter in a civil lawsuit, in the absence of fraud or lack of jurisdiction of the criminal court.
At the same time, the appeals court ruled that the trial court's order that all subsequent civil pleadings by the plaintiff prisoner be deemed frivolous and "null and void by operation of law" went too far. The appeals court said that the trial court's "frustration" with the prisoner's "so far meritless litigiousness is understandable," but that the order in question went too far in restricting the prisoner's access to the courts. "All future filings unrelated to the present claim must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis." Hooper v. Harris, 512 S.E.2d 312 (Ga. App. 1999). [Cross-reference: Access to Courts/Legal Info; Frivolous Lawsuits].
Doctor's actions in adjusting prisoner's anti-seizure medication, and referring prisoner to a neurologist when he complained of side effects, did not constitute "deliberate indifference," but was rather aimed at attempting to determine the proper dosage for treatment.
A Missouri prisoner's medication, designed to prevent epileptic seizures, was adjusted upwards in dosage by a prison physician, based on blood tests that showed that the medications were a "sub-therapeutic" levels. Following this, the prisoner claimed to suffer from blurred vision, dizziness and severe headaches. In subsequent weeks, the doctor made various adjustments to the prisoner's medication schedule, and had him examined by a neurologist. The neurologist found that one medicine had now reached a toxic level in the prisoner's blood, and ordered a reduction in the dosage of that medication.
The prisoner sued the prison doctor and various other correctional employees, claiming that his treatment constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. This claim was rejected both by a trial court and, ultimately, by a federal appeals court.
The appeals court noted that the doctor, rather than displaying deliberate indifference to the prisoner's serious medical needs, engaged in a series of adjustments in his medication, designed to determine the proper dosage. Additionally, the doctor had the prisoner examined by a neurologist in response to the prisoner's complaints. The prisoner argued for the first time, on appeal, that he does not have a seizure disorder at all and that the doctor's efforts to treat this "nonexistent disease, both before and after the dosage increases," constituted the deliberate indifference.
The appeals court ruled that it would not consider this argument on appeal, since it was not raised in the trial court. Further, it found that even if it did consider it, the prisoner would not prevail on it, since even if it were true, it would only show, at most, negligence in making either the original diagnosis, or negligence in relying on that diagnosis. Negligence, standing alone, is not deliberate indifference and cannot be the basis for a federal civil rights claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment. Because the doctor did nothing that violated the prisoner's civil rights, the court also found that none of the other defendants could be held liable for his actions. Jolly v. Knudsen, #99-1928, 205 F.3d 1094 (8th Cir. 2000).
Prisoner's complaint that county jail did not have the number of paramedics that its own staffing policy called for did not establish a federal civil rights violation; prisoner's bare allegation of "delay" in medical tests and treatment did not make a federal claim when he failed to show any serious medical need requiring treatment.
A prisoner in an Illinois county jail complained that the medical facilities there were inadequate. While jail policy required that five paramedics be regularly assigned to the jail division that he was in, there were only three paramedics currently assigned. He claimed that this level of staffing "has caused him to fear pain and to lose sleep." He also complained that he waited several months for physical therapy, a CAT scan and thyroid tests.
A federal trial court rejected the prisoner's attempt to make a federal civil rights violation out of these alleged problems. The court noted that the prisoner failed to specifically identify a "serious medical need" of his that "required treatment." A mere allegation of "delay," standing alone, furthermore, did not demonstrate deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. And the jail's alleged failure to follow its own policy in terms of the number of paramedics to assign to a particular division did not state a violation of federal civil rights. "Violations of state law or procedures in and of themselves are not cognizable" under the federal civil rights statute. Lewis v. Sheahan, 35 F. Supp. 2d 633 (N.D. Ill. 1999).
New York prisoner serving a murder sentence based on his guilty plea was not entitled to an order that a mental health evaluation of him be conducted to be considered by the parole authorities in determining his eligibility for parole; state statute concerning evaluation of those found not guilty because of mental disease or defect did not apply.
A New York prisoner pled guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. As a result of a change in the law, he became eligible for release on parole after serving 20 years in prison. Therefore, starting in 1982, he applied for parole every two years, but all of his applications were denied.
The prisoner filed a lawsuit seeking an order requiring the state office of mental health to conduct a mental health evaluation of him to be considered by the Parole Board in determining his eligibility for parole. In support of his claim, he pointed to a state statute creating a three-track scheme of procedure and treatment for defendants who are absolved of responsibility for a criminal act by reason of mental disease or defect.
An intermediate New York appeals court found this state statute and its requirements irrelevant, however, since the plaintiff prisoner was simply convicted outright of his offense based on a guilty plea, rather than found not guilty because of a mental disease or defect. Accordingly, he was not entitled to an order compelling such a mental health evaluation. (The court also noted that the record reflected that such an evaluation had been conducted anyway, and had been summarized in a report for the parole authorities). The court upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit. Moore v. New York State Office of Mental Health, 705 N.Y.S.2d 701 (A.D. 2000).
PRISON LITIGATION REFORM ACT: EXHAUSTION OF REMEDIES
Prisoner's claim that his property had been lost or destroyed during a prison riot could not be the subject of a federal civil rights lawsuit when he failed to pursue an available administrative appeal from the denial of his administrative grievance over the items.
On the day that a prisoner arrived at a maximum security prison in Puerto Rico, various belongings were taken from him by prison employees to be mailed to one of his family members. On the next day, however, a riot took place in the prison, and many of the prisoners' belongings were damaged or lost. The prisoner assumed that his belongings were among those destroyed, since they never arrived at the home of his family member.
The prisoner filed an initial administrative grievance over the loss of the property, but never filed an appeal from the initial denial of his claim within the five-day limit provided for in the prison's grievance procedures. He then filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking the value of the lost items.
A federal trial court granted a motion by defendant prison officials to dismiss the lawsuit, finding that it was subject to the "exhaustion of available administrative remedies" requirement of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1997e(a). The court ruled that this requirement, applicable to any lawsuit "with respect to prison conditions," applied in this case even though money damages were unavailable in the prison's administrative procedures.
The prisoner failed to exhaust available administrative remedies when he failed to file an administrative appeal. The court also noted that the prisoner did not claim that any prison employees intended to misplace or destroy his property. Since he therefore was only claiming, at most, negligence by prison employees, he had not shown any constitutional violation, and the court would not inquire further into the adequacy of the post-deprivation remedies available to him. Feliciano v. Servicios Correccionales, 79 F. Supp. 2d 31 (D. Puerto Rico 2000). [Cross-references: Inmate Property].
PRISONER ASSAULT: BY OFFICER
Prisoner's lawsuit alleging that he was assaulted by a corrections officer constituted a claim concerning "prison conditions," requiring him to exhaust available administrative remedies before filing; since he did not do so, the suit was properly dismissed.
An Ohio prisoner was recovering from nasal surgery when a corrections officer and a nurse came to his cell making medication rounds. He asked the nurse for some gauze for his nose. In a federal civil rights lawsuit he later filed, he claimed that the corrections officer then told him to "shut up" and assaulted him while the nurse stood by, doing nothing to stop the assault or call for help. He claimed that this resulted in a separated shoulder.
A federal trial court dismissed the lawsuit based on the prisoner's failure to exhaust administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1997e(a). Upholding this result, a federal appeals court ruled that the exhaustion of remedies requirement applied even though money damages sought in the lawsuit were not available in prison administrative grievance procedures.
It also ruled that a claim of excessive use of force in the prison involved a "prison condition," triggering the exhaustion requirement. Finally, the prisoner in this case failed to exhaust available administrative remedies, even though he did file an administrative grievance, since he filed the lawsuit before allowing the administrative process to be completed. Freeman v. Francis, #98-4288, 196 F.3d 641 (6th Cir. 1999).
Text: <http://pacer.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions/main.php>. [Cross-references: Prison Litigation Reform Act: Exhaustion of Remedies].
Incident during an arrest three years before, during which detainee tried to swallow a crack pipe and crack cocaine, was insufficient to put jailers on notice that he had present suicidal tendencies; defendant jail officials were entitled to qualified immunity on lawsuit over failure to prevent detainee's suicide.
Police officers placed an Arkansas man under arrest for public intoxication. In the course of the booking procedure, a fight occurred between him and four officers, resulting in the detainee being sprayed with pepper spray or some other kind of chemical restraint. The detainee was allegedly later again sprayed with some type of chemical restraint in his cell on two occasions.
Approximately four hours after the man's arrest, his body was discovered hanging by his jail jumpsuit from his cell door. He was pronounced dead at the hospital and the autopsy report ruled the death a suicide. His surviving family filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful death by means of deliberate indifference.
The trial court declined to grant a motion for qualified immunity by defendant law enforcement officials, finding that there was some evidence that they should have known of the prisoner's "suicidal tendencies," based on an incident during a prior arrest three years earlier in which he attempted to swallow a crack pipe and crack cocaine, possibly to destroy evidence.
A federal appeals court disagreed, finding that even if one of the defendants knew of this prior incident, this would be insufficient to show that they knew the prisoner had present suicidal intentions upon his arrest three years later, or that there was a "strong likelihood" that "self-infliction of harm would result." Any inference of suicidal tendencies from an incident three years in the past "would be extremely tenuous." Further, there was no evidence that any of the defendants actually drew that inference and therefore acted with "deliberate indifference," or indeed actually had knowledge of the earlier incident at all.
At no time during his final arrest or the booking procedure did the prisoner threaten to commit suicide or otherwise indicate that he might commit suicide. Any negligence in failing to prevent the suicide could not be the basis for a federal civil rights claim, which requires actual knowledge of a substantial risk of harm and then deliberate indifference to that risk. Lambert v. City of Dumas, No. 99-1081, 187 F.3d 931 (8th Cir. 1999). [Defenses: Qualified Immunity].
Native American prisoner stated a claim for retaliatory transfer; lawsuit claimed that he was transferred to another facility because of his practice of his Native American religion and his free speech activities in complaining about restrictions on religious practice in the prison.
A Native American prisoner who belongs to the Lakota tribe filed numerous grievances with the prison's chaplain, complaining that he was not being allowed to practice his religion. Some of the complaints were "incomprehensible," so the chaplain personally visited with the prisoner about them. Complaints included problems with the prison pass system, which sometimes prevented the prisoner from attending the available sweat lodge, the fact that the sweat lodge faced east rather than west as his Lakota religion required, and the denial of certain items of religious significance.
The prisoner was later transferred to another facility. In his federal civil rights lawsuit, he asserted that he had been denied the right to practice his religion, and that his transfer was motivated by his role as a leader of an American Indian Folklore Group and his encouraging of other inmates to file grievances against a wide variety of prison practices. Prison officials pointed to the prisoner allegedly encouraging others to engage in unauthorized gatherings and his alleged involvement in a drug smuggling/money laundering conspiracy among prisoners at the facility.
The trial court found no violation of religious freedom and rejected the argument that the transfer was in retaliation for protected First Amendment activities. Upholding the rejection of the prisoner's religious freedom/equal protection claims, a federal appeals court noted that the plaintiff had not shown that "other inmates following other religions have not been similarly limited, in the interest of legitimate penological goals such as prison security."
However, the appeals court also found that there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether or not the prisoner's transfer had been in retaliation for his practice of his Native American religion and his exercise of his free speech rights in complaining about various restrictions on Native American religious practices. Further proceedings on that issue were therefore ordered. Rouse v. Benson, #98-2707, 193 F.3d 936 (8th Cir. 1999).
Text: <http://www.wulaw.wustl.edu/8th.cir>. [Cross-reference: Religion].
African-American prisoner's claim that he was racially segregated by only being placed in two-person cells with other African-American inmates, and that this was done deliberately as a policy by California state correctional authorities, stated a claim for violation of equal protection.
An African-American prisoner in California sued a past director of the state department of corrections and the present director, claiming that they enforced an unconstitutional policy of racial segregation in inmate housing.
The prisoner's lawsuit claimed that he was confined to a two-man cell "upon the basis of his skin color," and that this caused him to be "subjected to racial assault by other inmates." The lawsuit further claimed that the defendants authorized the wardens of other California prisons to segregate inmate housing according to race, "segregatively confining 'Blacks' in a two-man cell only therefore, prohibiting Black inmates from being 'celled' with 'White' or 'Mexican' inmates." The lawsuit also claimed that this policy was "not related to a legitimate penological interest and caused racial tension and riots among different ethnic groups."
Other claims made in the lawsuit were that the defendants were aware that racially dividing inmates in housing "breeds enmity and racial tension," but that they had an interest in enforcing a segregation policy "because prison officials are paid higher wages during a racial crisis that involves inmates rioting." Further, it asserted that procedures to eradicate racial segregation were not instituted despite a "1994 federal order to stop housing inmates based on their color or ethnicity, but rather place them in the first available cell."
Overturning a trial court ruling, a federal appeals court found that this complaint, "although inartfully stated," was sufficient to constitute a claim for racial discrimination in violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. "Racial segregation, which is unconstitutional outside prisons, is unconstitutional within prisons, save for 'the necessities of prison security and discipline," the court stated, quoting Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972). The appeals court stated that, "with leave to amend," it was also possible that the prisoner might be able to state a claim "for violation of his Eighth Amendment rights insofar as his personal safety has been jeopardized by defendants' policy of racial segregation." Johnson v. State of California, #98-55302, 207 F.3d 650 (9th Cir. 2000).
A requirement that a prisoner classified as a sex offender, based on alleged conduct for which he was never convicted, did not constitute invalid after the fact enhancement of his punishment; prisoner was, however, entitled to a hearing to challenge the label when he had not earlier been required to participate in a treatment program.
A Colorado prisoner who was serving a thirty-nine year sentence for aggravated robbery and attempted theft was classified as a "sexual offender" two years after beginning his sentence, based on the "Sex Offender Component" of a risk assessment management program. He was classified as someone who had "committed a sex offense but was not convicted of a sex offense charge." This was based on charges of first degree sexual assault involving rape and sodomy, which the prisoner contended involved consensual sex. The alleged victim of the offense, who had been living with the prisoner, dropped the charges, purportedly to avoid having to testify.
The prisoner refused to participate in a sex offender treatment program in the prison, and received a three day reduction in his earned time credits based on this refusal. The prisoner filed a lawsuit challenging his classification as a sexual offender as a violation of his due process rights. He also claimed that it was invalid as an ex post facto (after the fact) enhanced punishment.
A federal appeals court found that the requirement that the prisoner participate in a sex offender treatment program was not an ex post facto enhanced punishment violation. The treatment program did not increase his punishment, since "he possesses no vested right in a particular parole date or parole hearing eligibility date." It did not "criminalize conduct that was legal before its passage." Further, "in rehabilitative matters, prison officials may consider any history established in the inmate's record which it may determine requires treatment."
At the same time, the appeals court ruled that the prisoner had a right to procedural due process before being required to participate in the treatment program under these circumstances. While the prisoner was labeled a sex offender for five years without admitting that status and without participating in a treatment program or losing earned time credits, the department of corrections then required him to admit to that conduct and enter a treatment program, or else lose some of his earned time credits. While the department asserted that it was mandatory that it assign the label of sex offender to the prisoner, "it has whatever discretion it chooses in deciding what conduct satisfies the consequences of that label."
The department's actions provided the prisoner with a "liberty interest in the consequences of the mandatory label which it then arbitrarily removed without affording him any opportunity to a hearing to challenge the label. We think those consequences are a benefit which cannot be taken away without some process." Chamers v. Colorado Dept. of Corrections, #97-1023, 20 F.3d 1237 (10th Cir. 2000).
INDEX OF CASES CITED
Page numbers in [brackets] refer to the print edition.
Chamers v. Colorado Dept. of Corrections, #97-1023, 20 F.3d 1237 (10th
Connecticut v. AFSCME, Council 4, Local 387, #16121, 747 A.2d 480 (Conn. 2000).
Feliciano v. Servicios Correccionales, 79 F. Supp. 2d 31 (D. Puerto Rico 2000).[106-107]
Freeman v. Francis, #98-4288, 196 F.3d 641 (6th Cir. 1999).
French v. Duckworth, #97-3075, 178 F.3d 437 (7th Cir. 1999).
Hooper v. Harris, 512 S.E.2d 312 (Ga. App. 1999).
Johnson v. State of California, #98-55302, 207 F.3d 650 (9th Cir. 2000).[109-110]
Jolly v. Knudsen, #99-1928, 205 F.3d 1094 (8th Cir. 2000).[104-105]
Knowlin v. Thompson, #97-3463, 207 F.3d 907 (7th Cir. 2000).[101-102]
Lambert v. City of Dumas, No. 99-1081, 187 F.3d 931 (8th Cir. 1999).[107-108]
Lewis v. Sheahan, 35 F. Supp. 2d 633 (N.D. Ill. 1999).
Miller v. French, #99-224, 120 S. Ct. 2246 (2000).[99-100]
Moore v. New York State Office of Mental Health, 705 N.Y.S.2d 701 (A.D. 2000).[105-106]
Nicholas v. Miller, #98-2768, 189 F.3d 191 (2nd Cir. 1999).[102-103]
Rouse v. Benson, #98-2707, 193 F.3d 936 (8th Cir. 1999).[108-109]
Tworivers v. Lewis, No. 97-15844, 174 F.3d 987 (9th Cir. 1999).
White-Bey v. Corrections Dept., 608 N.W.2d 833 (Mich. App. 1999).
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