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A Civil Liability Law Publication
for officers, jails, detention centers and prisons
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(Published as VOLUME 2001 NUMBER 298)
Defenses: Statute of Limitations
Prison Litigation Reform Act
Prisoner Assault: By Inmates
Prisoner Assault: By Officer
INDEX OF CASES CITED
DEFENSES: STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
"Continuing violation" of jail officials allegedly refusing to provide medical treatment for prisoner's hernia meant that statute of limitations did not start to run until the last day on which they refused to do so or the date that the inmate left jail; prisoner could claim damages back to the first day of such refusal.
A prisoner was held in a county jail in Illinois awaiting trial from January 1994 until sometime after June 6, 1996, and filed a lawsuit on June 5, 1998, asserting that he was denied medical care for his hernia during his incarceration. He claimed that a doctor recommended surgery for a ruptured hernia but that the jail refused to act on the recommendation.
The trial court dismissed the lawsuit as barred by the statute of limitations. The trial court assumed that the statute of limitations, which is two years in Illinois, began to run as soon as the plaintiff discovered that he had a medical problem that required attention, and that this was more than two years before he sued.
A federal appeals court disagreed, ruling that the action actually accrued on the last date that the jail officials allegedly refused to treat the inmate's medical condition or on the date that the inmate left the jail. The refusal to provide medical care "continued for as long as the defendants had the power to do something about his condition, which is to say until he left the jail. Every day that they prolonged his agony by not treating his painful condition marked a fresh infliction of punishment that caused the statute of limitations to start running anew."
Based on this "continuing violation," the appeals court also ruled, the prisoner could seek damages from the first day that he could prove that jail officials refused to provide him with necessary medical care, even if that was longer ago than two years from the date of the filing of the lawsuit. Heard v. Sheahan, No. 00-2908, 253 F.3d 316 (7th Cir. 2001).
Text: <www.kentlaw.edu/7circuit/>. [Cross-reference: Medical Care].
Prisoner with impaired hearing could pursue injunctive remedies against state Department of Corrections under federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) on claim that it should have provided a sign-language interpreter during disciplinary hearings and administration of medical care.
A Missouri prisoner with impaired hearing sued the state Department of Corrections and prison officials, claiming disability discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), Rehabilitation Act, and a state statute, based on the failure to provide a sign- language interpreter during disciplinary proceedings, the administration of medical care and certain other prison proceedings.
A federal appeals court ruled that even though the state Department of Corrections was protected by the Eleventh Amendment from damage claims, this immunity did not prohibit the plaintiff from seeking injunctive relief in federal court against a state prison official in her official capacity. Claims against other individual prison officials named in the lawsuit who no longer had control or authority over the prison in which the inmate was presently incarcerated, however, were moot.
The court also ruled that if the prisoner wanted to pursue his Rehabilitation Act claim against the state Department of Corrections, he would have to show that the state waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity with respect to Sec. 504 of the statute in order to receive federal funds and that the waiver was valid. If he could show that, he would be able to seek damages, as well as injunctive relief. Randolph v. Rodgers, No. 00-1897, 253 F.3d 342 (8th Cir. 2001).
Text: <www.wulaw.wustl.edu/8th.cir>. [Cross-references: Medical Care; Prisoner Discipline].
Arbitrator's award reinstating correctional officer who used physical violence against inmate and failed to report it did not violate public policy.
A correctional officer in Illinois had a fight with an inmate and failed to report it. A hearing officer found that the officer violated rules concerning the use of force and documentation of such incidents and ordered suspension pending discharge. The warden then concurred and the officer was fired. The officer and his union filed a grievance under a collective bargaining agreement.
The arbitrator found that the officer had punched the inmate after he was called a "crack head" by the prisoner, and a fight ensued. The arbitrator found, however, that discharge was not an appropriate penalty, in light of the fact that the officer had 16 years of seniority, satisfactory evaluations in all areas except attendance, and there was no evidence of prior problems. He also found that there was no premeditation in the use of force, and he ordered the officer reinstated without loss of seniority, but with no back pay.
An intermediate Illinois appeals court upheld this result, rejecting arguments that the arbitrator's award violated public policy. It found that no statute or contractual provision required an automatic discharge for such conduct, and the risk of a repetition of such misconduct was low in this case. The arbitrator, it was clear, made a rational finding that the employee could capably return to and perform his duties without posing a risk to public safety and welfare. Illinois, State of, v. AFSCME, Council 31, AFL-CIO, No. 5-99-0688, 749 N.E.2d 472 (Ill. App. 2001).
State of New York was not liable for prisoner's injury in prison yard from stray bullet fired by teenagers in nearby woods where hunting took place.
While standing in a prison courtyard, a New York inmate was injured when he was struck by one of a rapid series of .22 caliber bullets fired at the facility's water tower by teenagers in a wooded area approximately one-half mile away. The injured prisoner sued the State for failure to take sufficient measures to protect inmates from such stray gunfire.
Upholding the dismissal of the claim, an intermediate state appellate court ruled that it was not foreseeable that shots would be fired at the facility after dark far from the yard which would injure a prisoner there. There was no evidence that prior shooting incidents in the area had ever actually resulted in bullets entering the prison or causing injury to people inside. The mere awareness that hunting often took place in the nearby woods, combined with the state's use of "standard procedures for warning off shooters" was insufficient to impose liability. The state took "minimal protective measures commensurate with the foreseeable dangers." Melendez v. State of New York, 725 N.Y.S.2d 113 (A.D. 2001).
Text: <www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/Decisions.htm>. [Cross-reference: Prisoner Death/Injury].
Officer properly shot detainee in the arm after he obtained possession of another officer's gun and had already shot that officer and another prisoner.
A detainee who made two suicide attempts was taken to a hospital and then brought back to a cell in the station where he was handcuffed to the "suicide wall." He managed to obtain some matches and lit his shirt on fire, but the fire was quickly extinguished. When an officer distributed lunch to him later, he was able somehow to remove the officer's gun from his holster and began firing the weapon. The officer and another prisoner were shot before another officer shot him in the arm, causing him to drop the weapon.
The detainee sued the city, alleging violation of his constitutional rights under federal and state law, as well as claims for inadequate medical care.
A federal appeals court rejected the argument that excessive force was used against the plaintiff. There was a clear need for the use of force when the officer shot the detainee in the arm, and the force was "proportionate to the need and considering the circumstances," the plaintiff's injury was "relatively minor." There was no evidence that the officer acted in bad faith or that his actions were taken "maliciously or sadistically for the very purpose of inflicting harm." The court also found no violation of the detainee's right to medical care. Garcia v. City of Boston, No. 00-2369, 253 F.3d 147 (1st Cir. 2001).
Officer was not entitled to qualified immunity on prisoner's claim that he retaliated against him for complaining about his threats to harm him by telling gun tower to shoot prisoner if he moved and then subjected prisoner to discipline for not returning to his cell.
A Michigan prisoner filed a complaint with a unit manager's office accusing a correctional officer of threatening his life. The officer allegedly overheard this complaint and request for a transfer and then retaliated against him by calling the gun tower officer, telling him that the prisoner refused to go back to his cell and instructing the officer there to shoot him if he moved. He then allegedly wrongfully issued a major misconduct report against the prisoner for refusing to lock-in, resulting in the prisoner being placed in administrative segregation for several days.
The prisoner sued the officer for violating his First Amendment rights by this alleged retaliatory conduct. The trial court ruled that the officer was not entitled to qualified immunity on these claims. It further ruled that determinations in prison disciplinary hearings that the prisoner violated a valid order by the prison officer to return to his cell did not bar the prisoner from relitigating the issue in a federal civil rights lawsuit. Johnson v. Freeburn, 144 F. Supp. 2d 817 (E.D. Mich. 2001).
Federal appeals court rules that male prisoners have a fundamental constitutional right to procreate; prisoner serving a life sentence could pursue federal civil rights claim over denial of request that he be allowed to send his semen out of prison for artificial insemination of his wife.
A federal appeals court, acting on the lawsuit of an inmate serving a life sentence in California, has ruled that male prisoners have a fundamental constitutional right to procreate. The prisoner had argued that he should be allowed to ship his semen out of prison for the artificial insemination of his wife. The appeals court overturned the dismissal of his federal civil rights lawsuit over the denial of this request.
No other federal appeals court had previously recognized such a right, and a dissenting judge in the three-judge panel stated that the majority had "invented" a right to procreate "from prison via FedEx." Based on modern procreation techniques, which are possible without actual sexual relations, the court majority said that procreation is "not inherently inconsistent with one's status as a prisoner."
The plaintiff prisoner's life sentence, with no possibility of parole, is on charges of making terrorist threats, discharging a firearm and using narcotics. He had asked that prison officials permit him to provide a semen specimen to a laboratory via a packet sent by the lab containing a plastic receptacle and a postage-paid return mailer. The prison denied his request, ruling that the procedure was not medically necessary and that the prison would not violate any of his constitutional rights in preventing it.
The appeals court noted that the U.S. Supreme Court had previously established in Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1978), that the right to marry survives incarceration. "We conclude that the fundamental right to procreate survives incarceration. The exercise of that" by the plaintiff is, however, "subject to restriction based on legitimate penological interests."
The appeals court rejected the argument that allowing the male prisoner to ship his semen out of the prison would necessarily require also the recognition of a female prisoners right to be artificially inseminated. "The two sexes are not similarly situated," and "we cannot ignore the biological differences between men and women," since men cannot do what women can do--conceive and give birth to a child.
The appeals court also noted that the prisoner had offered to pay for medical supervision of the procedure. The court ordered further proceedings to consider whether "legitimate penological interests exist that would justify a total ban" on the prisoner's exercise of "his procreative rights during his period of incarceration." Gerber v. Hickman, #00-16494, 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 19671 (9th Cir.).
Failure to honor pretrial detainee's request for a tuberculosis skin test did not amount to deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs; jail officials could properly limit such testing to prisoners with symptoms or who were known to have come into contact with an infected individual.
A pretrial detainee in a Mississippi county jail asked that he be administered a tuberculosis skin test when three nurses were sent to the facility to do such tests on convicted state inmates held there. The request was denied on the basis of his pre-trial detainee status. When he was transferred to another facility eight months later, he tested positive for tuberculosis. He sued the sheriff and various state and county correctional officials for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. He argued that if he had been tested earlier, he could have avoided exposure to the disease or received preventative medical treatment that would have "allayed his mental anguish."
A federal appeals court upheld judgment for the defendants, finding that a policy of testing only those inmates who showed tuberculosis symptoms or were known to have come into contact with an infected individual was not deliberate indifference. At the time the plaintiff was denied a tuberculosis skin test, they did not know of any diagnosed active cases that could have infected him. "To prove deliberate indifference, a pretrial detainee must show that the state official knew of and disregarded an excessive risk to the inmate's health or safety." The lack of mandatory skin tests for all pretrial detainees did not amount to deliberate indifference to their serious medical needs. Gibbs v. Grimmette, No. 98-60644, 254 F.3d 545 (5th Cir. 2001).
Private corporation providing medical care to detainees in county correctional facility was not to be treated as a "municipality" in detainee's federal civil rights lawsuit; plaintiff could seek punitive damages and need not show a policy or custom of the corporation caused the alleged deprivation to establish liability.
A former detainee in a county correctional facility sued, among other defendants, a private corporation which provided medical care to detainees there under a contract with the police department. The lawsuit asserted a federal civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 for inadequate medical care for his injured shoulder. The corporation argued that it should be treated as a "municipality" for purposes of the lawsuit, so that it could only be held liable on the basis of an official policy or custom causing the alleged deprivation. It further argued, on that basis, that it could not be sued for punitive damages.
A federal trial court rejected these contentions. While the company was a "state actor" for purposes of federal civil liability, being fully vested with state authority to fulfill the duty of providing essential medical care to prisoners, it "clearly does not meet the criteria needed to be considered a municipality under Sec. 1983." An award of punitive damages against it would not punish taxpayers in the way such an award would affect a municipality. Instead, punitive damages would be assessed against the corporation, which would itself bear the burden of payment.
Accordingly, the plaintiff did not need to show a policy or custom by the corporation to impose liability, and could seek an award of punitive damages. Genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether the medical care provided to the prisoner were inadequate, including a dispute over whether the prisoner saw a doctor right after the injury, or only a month later. Segler v. Clark County, 142 F. Supp. 2d 1264 (D. Nev. 2001). [Cross-reference: Damages: Punitive; Private Prisons].
PRISON LITIGATION REFORM ACT: SIMILAR STATE LAWS
Wisconsin state statute required prisoner to exhaust available administrative remedies before suing in state court to challenge prison regulations prohibiting possession of pornographic materials and cassette tapes/players; no exceptions to the statute existed for any court actions challenging conditions of confinement.
A Wisconsin prisoner filed a lawsuit in state court challenging the constitutionality of correctional regulations prohibiting prisoners from having pornographic materials, cassette tapes, and tape players. The state trial court dismissed the complaint based on the plaintiff's failure to show that he had exhausted administrative remedies as required by a state equivalent of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) , W.S.A. 801.02(7)(b).
The Supreme Court of Wisconsin upheld this result, finding that the state PLRA applied to all court proceedings in state court where a prisoner challenges a condition in their facility of incarceration. To the extent that this conflicted with procedures set forth in another state statute, such as one providing for declaratory judgments, the PLRA governed. The court also rejected the argument that a common law exception to the statute for "futility" existed, since the plain language of the statute did not include the possibility of any such exception. Hensley, State Ex Rel, v. Endicott, #00-0076, 629 N.W.2d 686 (Wis. 2001).
PRISONER ASSAULT: BY INMATE
Supervisor who ordered cell isolation of inmate who previously assaulted male prisoner dressed as a woman was not liable for subsequent assault; supervisor was not deliberately indifferent to risk of future assaults and could not have reasonably foreseen that another officer would let the assailant out of his cell after the isolation was ordered.
An Ohio male prisoner who had been diagnosed with a gender identity disorder, had feminine characteristics, and looked and dressed as a woman was put in a protective custody unit for protection from other prisoners. The prisoner was nevertheless ultimately attacked by another prisoner in the protective custody unit, a prisoner with a history of attacking other inmates.
The attack took place when the female looking prisoner walked by the other inmate's cell. The attacked prisoner reported the attack and the assailant's threat to "kill" him later. Prison staff members were informed of this and told of the need to monitor the situation and keep the two prisoners apart. The assailant later sought and received permission to leave his cell to get a mop to clean it, and while doing so entered the unlocked cell of the female-looking prisoner and again attacked him, using the mop handle. An officer on duty rushed to the cell but was unable to stop the assault alone until assistance arrived.
The injured prisoner sued a number of prison officials alleging failure to protect in violation of the Eighth Amendment. A federal appeals court has ruled that the supervisor on duty when the prisoner was assaulted was not deliberately indifferent to the risk of harm from assault, and was therefore entitled to qualified immunity. While the assault had not been prevented, the supervisor had ordered the cell isolation of the assailant, taking precautions to attempt to prevent such incidents, and could not have reasonably foreseen that another officer would allow the assailant to leave his cell after isolation had been approved. Obtaining a mop was not a permissible reason for a request to leave one's cell under the facility's normal procedures. Doe v. Bowles, No. 00-3159, 254 F.3d 617 (6th Cir. 2001).
Appeals court overturns award of $725,000 to prisoner allegedly beaten by other inmates because he was arrested on rape charges; trial court abused its discretion by failing to define for jury the term "housing area," which was essential to its determination whether a sufficient amount of supervision was provided where the inmate was housed.
A New York county jail inmate sued the county and sheriff's department, alleging that they failed to protect him from being beaten by other prisoners because he had been arrested for sexual assault.
He was placed in protective custody under a warden's order following his arrest for rape, but declined the option of a 22-hour lockdown in his cell, which would have afforded him even more protection. He failed a suicide screening test required by state law, and therefore was assigned to a mental observation ward. While sex offenders in the protective custody ward are segregated from the general inmate population, sex offenders in the mental observation ward are allowed to mix with other mental observation inmates. He was allegedly assaulted twice while there.
A jury found individual correctional officers not liable but awarded the plaintiff prisoner $900,000 in damages against the county and sheriff of claims for both negligence and a policy of deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of inmate violence in violation of his civil rights. The trial court later reduced the award to $725,000.
A federal appeals court has vacated the award and ordered a new trial. The trial court failed to define for the jury the crucial term "housing area," the appeals court found. The definition of this term was "essential" to the jury's ability to determine whether the county acted negligently or was deliberately indifferent to the prisoner's physical safety. Applicable regulations, such as the state Minimum Standards and Regulations for the Management of County Jails and Penitentiaries, which were relied on heavily by the plaintiff, specify "the appropriate level of correctional officer supervision required within each 'housing area' contained within" the jail.
These standards talked about the need for immediate availability to prisoners of the facility staff responsible for the care and custody of the prisoners, including the conducting of supervisory visits at 15-minute intervals, and "in any facility housing area in which more than 20 inmates are housed, the continuous occupation of a security post within such housing area."
The appeals court found that the jury's "confusion regarding the 'housing area' was apparent when, during deliberations, it repeatedly requested a definition of that term." The appeals court ruled that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to define the term. Arnold v. County of Nassau, #00-7248, 252 F.3d 600 (2nd Cir. 2001).
PRISONER ASSAULT: BY OFFICER
Correctional officer was liable for $1,000 in compensatory damages and $500 in punitive damages for striking prisoner in the face three times following a verbal argument about proper sign-in procedures.
A New York inmate sued a correctional officer for allegedly striking him across the face three times while they were arguing about the proper sign-in procedure at the facility. He claimed that he was not disrespectful to the officer or provoke him in any way. The officer denied striking the prisoner.
Following a bench trial, a federal district court found that officer did assault the prisoner in a wanton and malicious manner, and that the officer's actions were objectively unreasonable. Because the prisoner's physical injuries were minor however, he was entitled to only $100 in damages for them, along with $900 for emotional pain and suffering. The court also ruled, however, that the plaintiff prisoner would be awarded $500 in punitive damages against the officer for exhibiting a "wanton disregard" of the plaintiff's rights. Romaine v. Rawson, 140 F. Supp. 2d 204 (N.D.N.Y. 2001).
Determination that prisoner assaulted another inmate in the shower was supported by substantial evidence contained in detailed misbehavior report.
A prisoner found guilty of violating prison rules against fighting challenged the disciplinary determination. An intermediate New York appellate court upheld the determination that the plaintiff prisoner had violated prison rules, finding that it was supported by "substantial evidence," including a detailed misbehavior report indicated that the "victim reported that she was attacked" by the plaintiff while in the shower. The report included the correction officer's statement that there were visible scratches on the victim's neck and chest, which was corroborated by a medical report. While the officer who wrote the report "did not witness the event, he was authorized to issue the misbehavior report" since the record showed that he "ascertained the facts of the incident" from the victim and the alleged assailant. Haynes v. Andrews, 725 N.Y.S.2d 115 (A.D. 2001).
Trial judge's award of $1.8 million in damages for suicide of pre-trial detainee in federal jail overturned; suicide after six months of incarceration was not foreseeable when prisoner had no known prior history of suicide attempts or thoughts; award of $1.6 million for pain and suffering while hanging to death was excessive when no reasoning for the award was offered by the court.
A federal appeals court overturned a trial judge's award of $1.8 million in damages for the suicide of a man who hung himself in his cell in a federal jail, following six months of incarceration while awaiting trial for extortion.
The plaintiffs argued that jail officials were negligent in failing to take preventive actions after other prisoners told them that the decedent should be seen by a psychiatrist because of various behavior, which included picking at open sores all over his body until they "bled so copiously that they stained his clothes and bedsheets." But the appeals court found that the suicide was not foreseeable. The lawsuit was brought against the U.S. government under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. Secs. 1346(b), 2671-80.
The appeals court noted that the prisoner had undergone an initial psychological screening upon incarceration which revealed no history of psychiatric disorders or suicide attempts and no suicidal thoughts. Under these circumstances, jail officials could not be expected to foresee the suicide attempt.
The appeals court further noted that statistics showed that jail inmates are "much more likely to commit suicide than free persons are--in fact, nine times as likely." The same statistics show, however, that 12.9% of jail suicides occur within the first three hours of confinement, 32.8% within the first 24 hours, 62.1% within the first two weeks, 72.8T within the first month, 89.2% within the first four months, and 97.4 within the first seven months. "The likelihood of suicide is highest between 2 and 14 days of confinement, and only 10.8% of suicides occur after 5 months." Accordingly, at the point when the prisoner killed himself, "the statistical likelihood of suicide was diminishing rapidly."
No evidence has been offered, the court stated, that a prisoner who has no history of suicide attempts or even suicidal thoughts "should be considered a suicide risk merely because, months after his imprisonment began, he displays symptoms of a possible psychiatric disturbance."
The appeals court also criticized the trial judge for awarding $1.6 million in damages for the pain and suffering that the prisoner suffered during the period of several minutes in which he remained alive before strangling while hanging from the noose that he had made out of a bedsheet and suspended from an exposed pipe that ran beneath the ceiling of his cell. The other $200,000 in damages were for the loss to his family resulting from his death. The appeals court noted that the trial judge did not explain his reasoning for the amount of damages awarded for pain and suffering, especially in light of the fact that this was far higher than the amount ($300,000 to $600,000) requested by the Plaintiff. Jutzi-Johnson v. United States, #00- 2411, 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 19655 (7th Cir.).
Text: <www.kentlaw.edu/7circuit/>. [Cross-references: Damages: Compensatory; Federal Tort Claims Act].
Washington state and county reach $5.5 million settlement with family of man stabbed outside ballgame by former prisoner released from county jail eleven days earlier despite hospital's recommendation that he be civilly committed as dangerous to others.
A $5.5 million settlement has been reached in a wrongful death lawsuit over the stabbing of a man at a baseball game by a former prisoner released from a county jail eleven days earlier rather than being civilly committed following a hospital report that he was physically dangerous. The decedent was stabbed with a butcher's knife as he left the ball game. The two men did not know each other, and the assailant simply sat on a park bench nearby after the stabbing, until police arrived and arrested him.
The lawsuit claimed that the prisoner had been in a "violent state" while in the county jail. He had been kept in a separate cell by himself because he was thought to be a threat to officers and other inmates. The lawsuit asserted that he was "obviously mentally ill." Before his release, he was sent to a state hospital for a competency exam, and assaulted two staff members there even while he was in restraints.
The hospital recommended civil commitment of the prisoner as a physical threat to others, but did not refer him to the appropriate county mental health professional to initiate the civil commitment hearing. The prisoner had also stabbed a staff member at the same hospital years before and was placed on supervision after pleading guilty, but he was never assigned to a worker because the Department of Corrections "lost his file." He was released from his most recent confinement, on misdemeanor theft charges, in part because the trial judge and prosecutor were never informed of this prior conviction, and therefore dropped the charges, after which his release occurred.
In the settlement of the lawsuit, the county will pay $2 million to the decedent's family and the state will pay $3.5 million. Stevenson v. State of Washington, No. 98-2-09351-OSEA (Super. Ct., King Co., Wash., May 16, 2001), reported in The National Law Journal, p. A12 (June 11, 2001).
Brief isolation of prisoner who objected, on religious grounds, to providing a blood sample for intake screening did not violate his rights; further proceedings to determine, however, whether conditions in isolation were more severe than required to serve legitimate interest in insuring other prisoners' health and safety.
A N.Y. prisoner sued the city and various officials for damages allegedly suffered when he was placed in medical isolation for seven days after he refused to give a blood sample at an initial medical screening, claiming religious objections. He also complained of not being provided a vegetarian diet also sought on a religious basis.
The trial court noted that the prisoner actually refused to give the blood sample out of an "affirmative desire to be placed in isolation in order to avoid being put in the 'dangerous environment' of the general population." The court found that the relatively brief placement of the prisoner in isolation as a consequence of his refusal to submit a blood sample did not violate his First Amendment rights. Further, the limited isolation served legitimate interests in insuring the health and safety of other prisoners and "minimally intruded" on the inmate.
Further proceedings will determine whether restrictions on shower and telephone access and imposition of keeplock on the prisoner during the seven day period were more severe and pervasive in scope than appropriate to serve these interests, however, and whether this was based on the prisoner's assertion of his religious beliefs. Another factual issue to be determined is whether his request for a vegetarian diet was based on religious beliefs, rather than his health concerns. Davis v. City of New York, 142 F. Supp. 2d 461 (S.D.N.Y. 2001).
Sexual offender's constitutional rights were not violated when he was terminated from rehabilitative program under which he could earn good time credits, based on further misconduct during incarceration.
A Vermont prisoner serving a sentence for lewd-and-lascivious behavior with a child began to participate in the correctional facility's "Cognitive Self Change" program, which allowed him to earn up to ten days of discretionary good time credits per month for successful participation. After three other prisoners claimed that he had engaged in sexual behavior and made inappropriate sexual comments to them, he was notified of these charges and given an opportunity to address them before the program's treatment team.
The team determined that the prisoner should be removed from the program for a minimum of 30 days, and provided him with an assignment to complete prior to seeking readmission. The prisoner sued, arguing that he had a constitutionally protected liberty interest in the program and that he was denied procedural due process prior to being removed from the program. Specifically, he argued that he should have been given advance written notice of the hearing, given an opportunity to confront and cross-examine his accusers, and that the team should have used a "preponderance of the evidence" standard in determining whether he was guilty of the alleged infractions.
The Supreme Court of Vermont rejected these claims, finding that the prisoner had no protected liberty interest in participation in the program, and therefore was not entitled to due process before being removed from it. Because the award of good time credits for participation in the program was discretionary, whether he would actually earn such credits if he successfully participated in it was "speculative," so his removal from the program did not "inevitably affect the duration of his sentence." Removing him from it did not impose an "atypical-and-significant hardship on him," so that no liberty interest was involved. And the result under the Vermont state Constitution, the court ruled, "is the same." Conway v. Gorczyk, No. 99-553, 765 A.2d 463 (Vt. 2000).
Nebraska state statute mandating parental notification of juvenile detention did not impose liability on county and sheriff's deputies, based on failure to do so, for juvenile's subsequent suicide after his release from custody.
The estate of a 14-year-old detainee who committed suicide after being detained sued the county and sheriff's deputies The plaintiff argued that sheriff's deputies had a duty, under a state statute, Neb. Rev. Stat. Sec. 43-250, to provide notification of the youth's detention, and that failure to do so should result in liability for the suicide.
The minor was ultimately given a citation and released. He was accused of taking stereo equipment from a friend's car. The officers who released him knew that his parents were out of town and that he was alone, but did not finding it unusual or unreasonable for a 14-year-old boy to be left alone overnight in rural Nebraska. The boy allegedly shot himself to death.
The Supreme Court of Nebraska upheld summary judgment for the defendants. The state statute for parental notification of juvenile detainees was intended to ensure that the juveniles' due process rights were not violated, and there was no indication that it was intended to prevent injury suffered by the juvenile or impose liability for such incidents. In this case, the deputies were not put on notice by the juvenile's behavior that he was likely to commit suicide. While he appeared a bit "depressed," he made no statements and engaged in no conduct that indicated that he was a danger to himself or others. Claypool v. Hibberd, #S-99-1223, 626 N.W.2d 539 (Neb. 2001).
Text: <http://court.nol.org/opinions/opinindex.htm>. [Cross- references: Prisoner Suicide].
INDEX OF CASES CITED
Page numbers in [brackets] refer to the print edition.
Arnold v. County of Nassau,
#00-7248, 252 F.3d 600 (2nd Cir. 2001).[153-154]
Claypool v. Hibberd, #S-99-1223, 626 N.W.2d 539 (Neb. 2001).[158-159]
Conway v. Gorczyk, No. 99-553, 765 A.2d 463 (Vt. 2000).[157-158]
Davis v. City of New York, 142 F. Supp. 2d 461 (S.D.N.Y. 2001).
Doe v. Bowles, No. 00-3159, 254 F.3d 617 (6th Cir. 2001).
Garcia v. City of Boston, No. 00-2369, 253 F.3d 147 (1st Cir. 2001).
Gerber v. Hickman, #00-16494, 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 19671 (9th Cir.).[150-151]
Gibbs v. Grimmette, No. 98-60644, 254 F.3d 545 (5th Cir. 2001).
Haynes v. Andrews, 725 N.Y.S.2d 115 (A.D. 2001).
Heard v. Sheahan, No. 00-2908, 253 F.3d 316 (7th Cir. 2001).
Hensley, State Ex Rel, v. Endicott, #00-0076, 629 N.W.2d 686 (Wis. 2001).
Illinois, State of, v. AFSCME, Council 31, AFL-CIO, No. 5-99-0688,
749 N.E.2d 472 (Ill. App. 2001).
Johnson v. Freeburn, 144 F. Supp. 2d 817 (E.D. Mich. 2001).[149-150]
Jutzi-Johnson v. United States, #00-2411, 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 19655 (7th Cir.).[155-156]
Melendez v. State of New York, 725 N.Y.S.2d 113 (A.D. 2001).[148-149]
Randolph v. Rodgers, No. 00-1897, 253 F.3d 342 (8th Cir. 2001).[147-148]
Romaine v. Rawson, 140 F. Supp. 2d 204 (N.D.N.Y. 2001).[154-155]
Segler v. Clark County, 142 F. Supp. 2d 1264 (D. Nev. 2001).[151-152]
Stevenson v. State of Washington, No. 98-2-09351-OSEA
(Super. Ct., King Co., Wash., May 16, 2001),
reported in The National Law Journal, p. A12 (June 11, 2001).[156-157]
Page numbers in [brackets] refer to the print edition.
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