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Articles by David Reutter

Michigan Prisoner’s Corizon Suit Dismissed Due to “Morass of Irrelevancies”

by David M. Reutter

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a prisoner’s civil rights complaint because it was filled with “pages of irrelevant and unspecific allegations.” The Court said that in drafting a complaint, a “plaintiff must not append so many limbs and outward flourishes to ...

Third Circuit: Gratuitous Use of Force on Prisoner Negates Qualified Immunity Defense

by David M. Reutter

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the grant of summary judgment in a lawsuit against a guard at New Jersey’s Cumberland County Jail (CCJ). The Court held the guard was not entitled to qualified immunity because it was clearly established at the time of the ...

$750,000 Settlement in South Carolina Pretrial Detainee’s Suicide by Southern Health Partners

by David M. Reutter

On June 17, 2021, Southern Health Partners paid $750,000 to resolve a lawsuit alleging it failed to take proper steps in caring for a pretrial detainee who entered South Carolina’s Marlboro County Jail with a prescription drug addiction.

Roy Locklear, 30, had a history of drug abuse and addiction, specifically pain medications and cocaine. A bench warrant was issued for Locklear on January 15, 2013, after he tested positive on five straight drug screens in the prior month. South Carolina Department of Law Enforcement Agent Brian Truex began working to take Locklear into custody on October 23, 2014. He made contact with Locklear’s father on about October 30 and learned of Locklear’s severe drug addiction.

Later that evening, Locklear contacted Agent Truex. After some discussion, Locklear agreed to turn himself in only to Agent Truex because “he didn’t trust the local officers as they had lied to him before and he was scared of them.” He was taken into custody on November 5, 2014. Truex told Locklear’s mother at that time that the situation was an “opportunity for [Locklear] to get his life straight.”

On the way to Marlboro County Jail, Locklear said he was tired ...

Preliminary Injunction Bars Arkansas from Confiscating Prisoners’ COVID Stimulus Money

by David M. Reutter

An Arkansas federal district court issued a preliminary injunction that bars the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) from carrying out a state law that confiscates prisoners’ stimulus money and distributes it to the state.

The Court’s September 3, 2021, order was issued in a lawsuit brought by ADC prisoner Anthony Lamar. As the COVID-19 virus hit the United States, Congress responded to the halting of the economy by passing the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) on March 27, 2020. For purposes of Lamar’s lawsuit, the most noticeable part of the CARES Act was a $1,200 payment to every American adult with an income below $75,000. Those payments were commonly known as stimulus checks.

Congress passed two more stimulus bills in the next year. The December 27, 2020, Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) included a $600 stimulus payment or tax credit. Then, on March 11, 2021, Congress approved a $1,400 stimulus payment or tax credit with the American Rescue Plan Act.

Prisoners fell under the definition of persons eligible to receive stimulus checks. The Internal Revenue Service originally declined to send stimulus payments to prisoners, but a California federal district court entered a permanent ...

Georgia Sheriff Suspended After Indictment on Federal Civil Rights Charges

by David M. Reutter

Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill was suspended by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp following the review of a federal civil rights indictment that charged Hill with ordering excessive use of force against detainees.

Kemp’s June 2, 2021 administrative order was issued after a commission he ordered in May released its report. The commission’s members were charged with determining whether the indictment “relates to and adversely affects the administration of the office of Clayton County Sheriff such that the rights and interests of the public are adversely affected.”

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, Hill ordered staff at the Clayton County Jail on four separate occasions in 2020 to strap pretrial detainees into a restraint chair “for a period exceeding that justified by any legitimate nonpunitive government purpose.”

A superseding indictment was filed in July for a fifth incident in which a man was allegedly placed in a restraint chair with a spit hood, punched in the face, and left for several hours.

The latest indictment describes Hill ordering the prisoner to be placed in the chair, and being present when the hood was placed on the prisoner’s ...

Kentucky’s Prison HCV Policy of Monitoring Without Treatment Constitutional

by David M. Reutter

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, in an unpublished opinion, held that the Kentucky Department of Corrections (KDOC) policy of refusing to provide Direct-Acting Antivirals (DAAs) to all prisoners infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) is constitutional. The Court found that because KDOC provides regular monitoring of those prisoners’ condition, it is not deliberately indifferent to their serious medical needs.

The Court’s July 6, 2021, opinion was issued in a class action suit brought about by 1,200 KDOC prisoners, which is about 10% of its population, who are infected with HCV. They alleged that KDOC’s HCV policy violates their Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

KDOC screens prisoners for HCV and tests for antibodies in prisoners who have certain risk factors or request it.

If a prisoner tests positive for HCV, KDOC “(1) evaluates the inmate for signs and symptoms of liver disease, (2) obtains additional laboratory tests, (3) calculates the inmate’s APRI score (which is used to assess the degree of liver fibrosis, if any), (4) offers vaccines for Hepatitis A, influenza, and pneumococcal, and (5) educates the inmate about chronic HCV.” The prisoner is then assigned one of three priority levels. Only level one receives ...

Hackers Breach Thousands of Security Cameras

by David M. Reutter

An international group of hackers gained access to the security cameras at 68 organizations that use Silicon Valley start-up Verkada, Inc. They got into cameras at schools, prisons, police departments, hospitals, and other companies.

The incident was reported in March 2021 after a hacker identified as Tillie Kottmann contacted Bloomberg News with details about the hack. Kottman said the breach was carried out by an international hacker collective. The intent behind the breach was to show the pervasiveness of video surveillance and the ease with which such systems can be compromised.

Kottman’s press release took credit for hacking Intel Corporation and Nissan Motor Company. The group’s reasons for hacking are “lots of curiosity, fighting for freedom of information and against intellectual property, a huge dose of anti-capitalism, a hint of anarchism—and it’s also just too much fun not to do it.”

The hack “exposes just how broadly we’re being surveilled, and how little care is put into at least securing the platforms used to do so, pursuing nothing but profit,” Kottmann said. “It’s just wild how I can see the things we always knew were happening, but we never got to see them.”

According to Kottman, ...

HRDC Prevails Over Wellpath as Vermont Supreme Court Rules Private Contractor Must Release Public Records

by David M. Reutter

The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that under the Public Records Act (PRA) when “the state contracts with a private entity to discharge the entirety of a fundamental and uniquely governmental obligation owed to its citizens, that entity acts as an ‘instrumentality’ of the State.” That conclusion led the Court to find that Wellpath was required under the PRA to release “any records relating to legal actions and settlements arising” from the care it provided to Vermont prisoners.

The Court’s September 3, 2021 order was issued in an appeal by the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), the publisher of PLN. From 2010 to 2015, Correct Care Solutions, now known as Wellpath LLC, held a contract with the Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC) to provide medical care to every person in DOC’s custody. The contract paid Wellpath over $91 million.

In 2015, HRDC sent Wellpath a PRA request seeking public records relating to all payouts for claims, lawsuits, or contracts arising from Wellpath’s provision of services under that contract. Wellpath declined to provide the requested documents, asserting that as a private entity it was not subject to the PRA. HRDC sent another request for those documents in ...

Second Circuit Reversed Dismissal of Former BOP Prisoner’s FTCA Claim Against Dentist

by David M. Reutter

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of a former federal prisoner’s complaint brought pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The court concluded that a state rule that requires an affidavit of merit to state a claim for medical negligence does not apply in federal proceedings.

The court’s August 25, 2021 opinion was issued in an appeal brought by Royce Corley. Acting pro se, Corley filed an FTCA complaint in federal court against a dentist and dental hygienist at FCI Danbury in Connecticut.

Corley alleged that on November 14, 2016, a dental hygienist damaged a filling in his wisdom tooth and broke a cap on one of his front teeth during a cleaning. A few weeks later, the cap on the front tooth fell off, exposing his chipped front tooth. Over the next few months, the dentist refused to replace the cap or repair the filling. The dentist attempted to extract the wisdom tooth on March 13, 2017, “in a painful procedure that caused the tooth to break into several pieces that were not entirely removed during the procedure.” The tooth remained in pieces, causing severe pain, bleeding, and infection along with ...

Indiana Prisoner Entitled to Credit Time During Period of Erroneous Liberty

by David M. Reutter

The Indiana Supreme Court held that a prisoner who was erroneously released early “is entitled to credit time as if he were still incarcerated during the period he was erroneously at liberty.”

The court’s June 21, 2021 opinion was issued in an appeal brought by Jordan Allen Temme. He pled guilty in 2017 to several charges under two different case numbers. Temme was sentenced to a total of nine years with the sentences running consecutive to one another on the two case numbers. His projected release date was December 2020.

Five of the nine years were for felony offense to be served in the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC). The other offenses were misdemeanors. Upon intake into IDOC, prison officials erroneously awarded 450 days of jail credit that were supposed to be credited to the misdemeanor offenses. That resulted in Temme being released to the Vanderburgh County Jail (VCJ) after serving only ten months of his felony sentences. He was also discharged from parole supervision.

After arriving at VCJ, Temme was again awarded the 450 days of credit. Although he raised questions that release date was too early, Temme was released on July 4, 2019, with ...