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Eleventh Circuit Reverses/Affirms Denial of Qualified Immunity in Retaliation Case

On June 22, 2007, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part a district court’s denial of qualified immunity for four Georgia prison officials accused of retaliation.

Danny Hicks sued Warden Ralph Battle, deputy warden Arthur Gordon, Regional Director Jimmy Sikes, and Health Services Administrator James Taylor for retaliation after Hicks’ security level was increased following the filing of several grievances.

The court of appeals held that qualified immunity was properly denied to Battle and Gordon because Hicks had alleged facts which, if proven, demonstrated a First Amendment violation. In particular, the court noted that Battle and Gordon increased Hicks’ security level a month after his first grievance was filed despite the fact that: (a) Hicks’ security level had been set at minimum for approximately thirty years …; (b) prison officials had reviewed Hicks’ file in 2002 and recommended that his security level remain the same; (c) he had 13 years of clear conduct; and (d) Battle and Gordon had previously determined that maintaining Hicks’ security level at minimum was proper.

The court reversed the district court’s denial of qualified immunity for Sikes and Taylor, holding neither was alleged to have been personally involved in increasing Hicks’ security level.

See: Hicks v. Ferrero, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 15722 (11th Cir. 2007).

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Related legal case

Hicks v. Ferrero