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Ninth Circuit Reinstates Lawsuit Over Snitch Jacketing

by Matthew Clarke

On October 24, 2107, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit brought by a federal prisoner who complained that prison authorities were deliberately indifferent to her safety and violated the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, by identifying her as an informant to other prisoners.

Jeremy V. Pinson, an Arizona federal prisoner, filed a federal lawsuit against unknown federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) officials and the BOP complaining that she was attacked after the officials told other prisoners that she was an informant.

The district court granted summary judgment and dismissed the lawsuit after concluding defendants were not deliberately indifferent to her safety because the prisoners who were told she was an informant were housed at another prison and the attack was not motivated by said information.

Pinson appealed.

The Ninth Circuit held that viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Pinson, she "raised a triable dispute as to whether defendants were deliberately indifferent to her safety when they identified her as an informant, and whether this identification was the cause of the attacks and threats she suffered."

The court held that the district court properly dismissed the Bivens claim against the BOP because, as a federal agency, it is not a proper party to a Bivens action. However, the district court failed to address the claim that the BOP violated the Privacy Act by improperly disclosing her records without her consent. Therefore, the court reversed the judgment of the district court on the Bivens claim against all defendants except the BOP and remanded the case for the district court to consider that claim and the Privacy Act claim against the BOP in the first instance.

See: Pinson v. Unknown Party, 9th Cir., No. 36-16744

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Related legal case

Pinson V. Unknown Party