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10th Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Oklahoma Conditions-of-Confinement § 1983 Lawsuit

10th Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Oklahoma Conditions-of-Confinement § 1983 Lawsuit

In an unpublished order, the Tenth Circuit has affirmed the dismissal of a pro se civil rights complaint alleging that the conditions of confinement during a 7.5-week lockdown in an Oklahoma prison were so harsh and punitive that they were unconstitutional.

Stephen Burnett was a prisoner at the Cimarron Correctional Facility when, in April 2010, the Warden ordered a facility-wide lockdown to deal with widespread gang activity. One month later, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Burnett filed suit for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that normal medium-security activities such as rehabilitation programs, education classes, library use, and religious services had been unnecessarily suspended.

The lockdown was lifted less than two months after it had been initiated. In September 2010, Burnett was transferred to Davis Correctional Facility, where he experienced two other lockdowns.

The magistrate judge assigned to the case found that Burnett's claims were moot because, on the one hand, the lockdown at Cimarron had ended and, on the other hand, Burnett had been transferred to another facility. He also denied Burnett's request to add the Davis Warden as a defendant because, accepting the allegations of the complaint as true, it nonetheless failed to allege the sort of atypical and significant hardship necessary, pursuant to Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995), to trigger due process protections.

On appeal, the Tenth Circuit agreed with the magistrate judge's findings. See: Burnett v. Jones, 454 Fed.Appx. 655 (10th Cir. 2011) (unpublished).

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Related legal case

Burnett v. Jones