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California Prison Officials Pay $10,000 to Settle Prisoner’s Retaliation, Conditions Suit

In April 2010, California state prisoner Charles Chatman accepted an offer of judgment from the defendant prison officials he had sued in federal court for allegedly retaliating against him in violation of the First Amendment because he filed grievances about prison conditions, and for allegedly subjecting him to conditions of confinement violative of the Eighth Amendment. Under the terms of the offer, Chatman received $10,000 and his suit was dismissed with prejudice.

On December 9, 2002, while housed at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, a lock-up order was issued for Chatman and a dozen other prisoners due to their alleged participation in a disturbance three days earlier.

All of the prisoners – except Chatman – received disciplinary reports. Prior to being rehoused in administrative segregation, Chatman, along with the other prisoners, was forced to stand outside for 30 minutes in the wind and freezing temperatures while wearing only boxer shorts. Subsequently, Chatman was housed in a cell that was flooded from a leak in the toilet. He remained in that cell without footwear for 15 days, and became seriously ill.

Chatman filed suit in 2003, alleging that the sole reason for his placement in administrative segregation was to retaliate against him for filing grievances and contacting government officials to complain about prison conditions. He further argued that exposing him to freezing temperatures and then placing him in a flooded cell violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment.

The defendants moved for summary judgment. In 2009, the magistrate judge made findings and recommendations, later accepted by the district court judge, requiring at least one defendant to answer each of Chatman’s claims. The offer of judgment followed a year later. See: Chatman v. Tyner, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Cal.), Case No. 1:03-cv-06636-AWI-SMS.

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Related legal case

Chatman v. Tyner