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Second Circuit: Jail Can Deny Paralegals with Prior Felonies Privileged Visits

On May 13, 2003, the Second Circuit court of appeals held that a New York jail could deny privileged visitation rights to paralegals with prior felony convictions.

Rogers Hicks and John Ives are paralegals with prior felony convictions that were denied privileged access to their clients being held in the Erie County Holding Center. They filed civil rights actions in federal district court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that requiring them to go through the same visitation procedure as the general public violated various constitutional rights, including the Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection. Granting defendants' motion for summary judgment, the district court held that the policy was rationally related to the legitimate penological interest of security and therefore did not violate the Equal Protection Clause. The court also held that the lack of an opportunity to rebut adverse inference violated plaintiffs' due process rights. The district court granted plaintiffs $15,550 in attorney fees. Plaintiffs and defendants appealed.

The Second Circuit held that the policy did not violate the due process or equal protection clauses as neither plaintiff denied having been convicted of a felony and the policy was related to legitimate penological interests. There was no requirement to have a procedure for rebutting adverse inferences because denying privileged visits on the basis of a prior felony conviction was a lawful policy. Therefore, plaintiffs did not prevail on any of there claims and were not entitled to attorney fees. The part of the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment was affirmed and the part denying summary judgment was reversed. The case was returned to the district court with instructions to enter judgment for the defendants.

See: Hicks v. Erie County, 65 Fed.Appx. 746 (2d Cir. 2003)

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Related legal case

Hicks v. Erie County