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Louisiana Court Of Appeals Overturns Strip Tier Cell InjunctionOverturns

Louisiana Court Of Appeals Overturns Strip Tier Cell Injunction

By Matt Clarke

On June 20, 2007, a Louisiana state court of appeals overturned a district court’s granting of an injunction against prison officials placing the prisoner into a strip tier cell (STC) without his having committed a new disciplinary infraction.

Kevin Peterson, a Louisiana state prisoner, was incarcerated at the David. Wade Correctional Center when be was convicted of a major disciplinary infraction for throwing human feces at prisoner orderlies and a nurse. As a result of the disciplinary conviction, he was placed in a strip tier cell for 30 days. STC prisoners wear paper gowns and have no items in the cell. Peterson alleged denial of “basic human necessities,” including clothing, soap, footwear, bedding and dental hygiene necessities causing an adverse effect on his health. He also alleged that he was held in the strip tier cell beyond the 30 days provided for in posted “Policy # 53,” not because he committed a new disciplinary infraction, but because prison officials decided that he had a documented pattern of misconduct. STC incarceration for more than 30 days is not allowed under “Policy 53.”

Peterson sought a preliminary injunction. By the time of the hearing, Peterson had been released from the STC. Hearing evidence showed that STC prisoners were allowed to use a toothbrush and toothpaste once a day and were allowed a mattress at night. Nonetheless, the trial court granted an injunction against prison officials placing Peterson in a STC unless he committed a new disciplinary infraction. The trial court rejected Peterson’s claim that “Policy 53” was invalid because it had not been promulgated under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The trial court also ordered prison officials to investigate whether Peterson had lost 60 days in a previous disciplinary proceeding because of a false report by a guard who was allegedly later fired for similar false reports. Prison officials appealed.

By the time of the appeal, Peterson had been released from prison. He did not file an appeal brief.

Noting Peterson’s extensive litigation history, the court of appeals agreed with the district court that ”Policy 53” did not have to be promulgated under the APA because it was a policy for a single institution, not an entire state department. It also held that there was no basis for issuing the injunction because Peterson was not in the STC at the time of the hearing and prison officials agreed not to place him in such a cell again absent a new disciplinary infraction. It further held that the trial court lacked jurisdiction, to hear the loss of good time issue as La. R.S. 15:571,15 requires actions regarding good time to be filed in East Baton Rouge Parish. Therefore, the court of appeals reversed and vacated the judgment of the trial court and assessed costs against Peterson.

See: Peterson. v. Michael, La, App. 2 Cir., 960 So.2d 1260 (2007).

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Related legal case

Peterson. v. Michael