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$115,000 Settlement in BOP Excessive Use of Restraints Suit

The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has agreed to pay $115,000 to resolve an excessive force lawsuit against five BOP employees.

While incarcerated at the U.S. Penitentiary (USP) in Lee, Virginia, Michael Montgomery was placed in four-point restraints and ambulatory restraints for a combined total of over 39 hours.

Proceeding pro se, Lee sued numerous USP Lee staff under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), alleging excessive force based on the prolonged used of restraints.

Montgomery later obtained counsel and asked for leave to amend. Through his amended complaint, he sought to assert claims against five USP Lee employees: Warden Bryan Bledsoe, Lt. Deborah Peltier, Lt. Carlos Lopez, Lt. David Grieve and Lt. Glenn Friss.

According to Montgomery’s amended complaint, Warden Bledsoe personally “authorized his subordinates to place and hold Montgomery unnecessarily in four-point restraints for 19 hours and then in ambulatory restraints for an additional 30 hours, in order to punish him.”

The claims against the four lieutenants related to their decision to keep Montgomery in restraints even though he “no longer posed any threat to good order in the prison.”

The defendants opposed Montgomery’s amended complaint, arguing, among other things, that the amendment would be futile because the impropriety of the prolonged use of ambulatory restraints was not clearly established at the time of the incident.

The district court, however, refused to deny the amendment on grounds of futility. “I find that the proposed Second Amended Complaint contains sufficient allegations so that at this stage I cannot determine that its filing would be clearly futile,” the court stated.

Additionally, the district court rejected an attempt to exclude Warden Bledsoe from the amended complaint, holding that “Montgomery ha[d] made sufficient allegations of Warden Bledsoe’s responsibility for use of restraints against an inmate for lengthy periods of time and his personal involvement in the use of restraints in this case so as to foreclose defendants’ argument that the claims against him are based solely on the doctrine of respondent superior.”

The court dismissed the case with prejudice on May 24, 2010 after the parties agreed to settle the lawsuit for $115,000. Montgomery’s counsel, Lonnie Nunley III of Hunton & Williams, received $15,000 of the settlement in attorney fees, with the remainder going to Montgomery. See: Montgomery v. Johnson, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Vir.), Case No. 7:05-cv-00131-JPJ-PMS.

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Related legal case

Montgomery v. Johnson