Skip navigation

Prison Legal News: November, 2002

Issue PDF
Volume 13, Number 11

In this issue:

  1. Prisoners, Politics, Money and the Census (p 1)
  2. Supreme Court Holds No Immunity for Alabama Hitching Post (p 6)
  3. Attorney Ghost Writing Must Be Disclosed (p 7)
  4. The Parents' Project Advocacy for Incarcerated Fathers: What's Missing? (p 8)
  5. From the Editor (p 9)
  6. Michigan Visiting Ruling Upheld (p 10)
  7. A Sentence of Their Own (p 11)
  8. New York's Revised "Son of Sam" Law Leads to $100 Million Verdict Against Cop Killer (p 12)
  9. Illinois Jail Guards Acquitted in Killings; California Jail Guard Acquitted in Beating (p 12)
  10. $275,000 Awarded in Stun Belt Settlement (p 13)
  11. No Fundamental Right to Fee Waiver for Civil Rights Action (p 14)
  12. Bureau of Justice Statistics Analyzes Parole Trends (p 14)
  13. Virginia Sheriff Investigated for Misuse of Prisoner Funds (p 15)
  14. Pennsylvania Jail Settles Retaliation Suit for $10,000 (p 16)
  15. Escapes Plague Texas Jails (p 16)
  16. PLRA Attorney Fee Cap and Local Cost Recovery Rules Upheld in New York Hepatitis C Case (p 17)
  17. Texas Extends 6th Amendment Right to Prisoners: Confidential Attorney Calls Allowed (p 18)
  18. Ingram v. Scott Reversed: TDCJ-ID in Compliance with Section 501.008 (p 18)
  19. Settlement Agreement Reached in Wisconsin Supermax Suit (p 19)
  20. $32,500 Florida Jail Accident Settlement (p 20)
  21. PLRA Attorney Fee Cap Applies to Fees on Fees (p 20)
  22. $1 Damages and $1.50 Attorney Fees in Guard Brutality Suit (p 21)
  23. New York Prisoner's Denial of Exercise Claim Set for Trial (p 23)
  24. Washington Pretrial Detainees Have Right to Access Courts (p 24)
  25. District Court Sets Prisoner's "Deliberate Indifference" Hepatitis C Claims for Trial (p 24)
  26. Prison Disciplinary Boards Not "Courts" for Habeas Corpus Purposes (p 25)
  27. Prison Guards Can Be Liable for Prisoner Suicide (p 26)
  28. Administrative Exhaustion Required But Unprejudiced; Dismissal and Equitable Tolling (p 26)
  29. Defendants' Convenience Justifies Transfer of Venue (p 27)
  30. Plaintiff's Disability Impacts Venue (p 27)
  31. Advocacy Groups Challenge Arizona Internet Communications Ban (p 28)
  32. Judge Approves $9.6 Million Settlement in DC Jail Employees' Sexual Harassment Suit (p 29)
  33. News in Brief (p 30)
  34. Mexico Bars Extradition of Criminals Facing Life Sentences (p 32)

Prisoners, Politics, Money and the Census

It's a standing joke that the Texas economy has been grounded in the 3 C's: cattle, crude, and convicts. But while Texas gets most of the publicity for its massive prison build-up, the human-warehousing trend is literally sweeping the countrysideand it is extremely profitable. Colorado, Kentucky, Georgia, and ...

Supreme Court Holds No Immunity for Alabama Hitching Post

by David M. Reutter

The U.S. Supreme Court has reversed an Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that held government officials are entitled for qualified immunity unless there exists previous case law that is "materially similar" to the facts at issue. The Supreme Court held that there need only ...

Attorney Ghost Writing Must Be Disclosed

The Tenth Circuit has held that participation by an attorney in drafting otherwise pro se appellate briefs is per se substantial legal assistance and must be acknowledged by the attorney's signature. The case arose as a landowner's dispute wherein Arthur Duran sued Dean Carris claiming Carris' land development ...

The Parents' Project Advocacy for Incarcerated Fathers: What's Missing?

Denise Johnston & Michael Carlin

T.L. had a son with a woman who lived in another part of his home state. He had little contact with the woman after the baby's birth, and never met her family. When his son was 3 months of age, T.L. was arrested. Two years later, facing a life sentence, T.L. has attempted to write and call the boy's mother without success. There is no one by her name living in the city where they met.

I.G. was sentenced to 10 years in a state prison; their mother refused to bring his children to the prison to visit, but I.G. had weekly telephone calls with his daughters. Then, during the second year of his sentence, I.G.'s daughters and their mother moved to another part of the country without leaving a ...

From the Editor

Subscribers should soon receive PLN's annual fund-raiser mailing. If you can afford to make a donation to help sustain and expand PLN's work, please do so. PLN relies almost exclusively on reader support to continue publishing. Subscriptions account for only a portion of the income needed to keep ...

Michigan Visiting Ruling Upheld

In an opinion as strongly worded as the District Court opinion it reviewed, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a Federal District Court ruling striking down the Michigan Department of Corrections (DOC) severe visiting restrictions as unconstitutional. PLN reported the District Court decision in the June 2002 issue ...

A Sentence of Their Own

Directed and Produced by Edgar A. Barens (2001), 64 minutes, VHS video, $125

Review by Hans Sherrer

Produced in the form of a home video, A Sentence of Their Own documents the negative impact of a man's 1996 seven-year prison sentence on his wife and son. The most obvious ...

New York's Revised "Son of Sam" Law Leads to $100 Million Verdict Against Cop Killer

New York's Revised "Son of Sam" Law Leads to $100 Million Verdict Against Cop Killer

by Lonnie Burton

The 2001 revisions to New York's so-called "Son of Sam" law, which now allows crime victims to sue their perpetrators and confiscate their money anytime they receive in excess of ...

Illinois Jail Guards Acquitted in Killings; California Jail Guard Acquitted in Beating

Sgt. Patricia Pultz and deputies Lawrence Koscianski and William Spatz of the Cook County, Ill. sheriff's dept. were acquitted on March 12, 2002 in the murder of Louis Schmude. Prosecutors allege Schmude's death on May 7, 2000, was the result of a beating by the guards on May ...

$275,000 Awarded in Stun Belt Settlement

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals partially reversed a preliminary injunction order that had enjoined the Los Angeles County Sheriff from using a stun belt on prisoners. After remand, a settlement for $275,000 and a change in policy was reached.

Ronnie Hawkins, a prisoner in the L.A. County ...

No Fundamental Right to Fee Waiver for Civil Rights Action

No Fundamental Right to Fee Waiver for Civil Rights Actions

The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has upheld the PLRA's three strikes rule, and overturned a case which found that rule unconstitutional. The opinion in this case contains combined appeals brought by the defendants sued by Arkansas ...

Bureau of Justice Statistics Analyzes Parole Trends

The Bureau of Justice Statistics has issued a report analyzing changes in parole and the resulting effects. The report compared the two types of parole releases (discretionary and mandatory) and their effects on parole populations in the United States. Discretionary parole is release determined by a parole board. Mandatory parole ...

Virginia Sheriff Investigated for Misuse of Prisoner Funds

When prisoners at the Richmond, Virginia jail buy goods from the inmate store, the profits were supposed to be used for the benefit of the prisoners. Instead, an investigation has revealed that Richmond's sheriff, Michelle B. Mitchell, has been spending the money on social club memberships, photographs of herself ...

Pennsylvania Jail Settles Retaliation Suit for $10,000

In April, 2000, the Schuylkill County Prison in Pennsylvania, paid $10,000.00 to settle a law suit filed by pro se prisoner, Michael Andrew Spina. Spina complained that he was retaliated against by jail officials and other staff for filing a previous law suit against the prison. Spina also ...

Escapes Plague Texas Jails

A rash of escapes have plagued Texas jails over the past year. On January 28, 2002, four prisoners used a homemade knife to overpower two guards and force their way out of Montague County jail near the Texas/Oklahoma border. The four were eventually captured together eight days later in ...

PLRA Attorney Fee Cap and Local Cost Recovery Rules Upheld in New York Hepatitis C Case

by John E. Dannenberg

The U.S. District Court (S.D. N.Y.) upheld the Constitutionality of the Prison Litigation Reform Act's (PLRA) attorney fee cap limitations and applied local rules to cost recovery, limiting fee recovery to $22,500 and costs to $3,001 in a prisoner 42 ...

Texas Extends 6th Amendment Right to Prisoners: Confidential Attorney Calls Allowed

On December 14, 2001, Texas finally released its stranglehold on the right to confidential phone calls between prisoners and attorneys. Texas had been the only state that monitored attorney phone calls. Even then the American Civil Liberties Union had to pry every last finger off the receiver.

In a letter ...

Ingram v. Scott Reversed: TDCJ-ID in Compliance with Section 501.008

by Matthew T. Clarke

On appeal following remand, a Texas court of appeals has held that the instructions on a grievance form bring TDCJ-ID into compliance with the requirement in section 501.008, Texas Government Code, that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Institutional Division (TDCJ-ID) provide procedures to assist prisoners ...

Settlement Agreement Reached in Wisconsin Supermax Suit

by John E. Dannenberg

Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) officials settled the 42 USC § 1983 class action civil rights suit brought by seriously mentally ill prisoners housed in the Boscobel, WI Supermax state prison by agreeing not to house the mentally ill there, by substantially reducing "barbaric" conditions and by ...

$32,500 Florida Jail Accident Settlement

On October 30, 2001, the Broward County jail in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, settled a prisoner's work accident suit for $32,500. Edward Beal, 47, a prisoner at the county jail was assigned to a jail work program at the Dania Beach facility. While cutting trees, Beal fell seven to ...

PLRA Attorney Fee Cap Applies to Fees on Fees

by John E. Dannenberg

In a case of first impression, the Fifth Circuit US Court of Appeals ruled that the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) fee cap limiting recovery of a prevailing prisoner plaintiff's attorney fees to 150% of a $2 nominal damages award also applied to attorney fees ...

$1 Damages and $1.50 Attorney Fees in Guard Brutality Suit

by John E. Dannenberg

The Eighth Circuit US Court of Appeals affirmed the award of $1 nominal damages for guard brutality in violation of the Eighth Amendment and limited the prevailing prisoner plaintiff's attorney fees to $1.50

Robert Foulk, a state prisoner at the Moberly, MO Correctional Center ...

New York Prisoner's Denial of Exercise Claim Set for Trial

The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York has denied summary judgment in part to high-ranking officials of the New York Department of Correctional Services (DOGS) and to a prisoner plaintiff and has set for trial the prisoner's claim that DOCS officials denied him meaningful ...

Washington Pretrial Detainees Have Right to Access Courts

The Washington State Court of Appeals held that Washington prisoners have a greater right to access to the courts than the federal constitution provides, and that right extends to pro se pretrial detainees.

Matthew Silva was charged with taking a car without permission and attempting to elude police. He remained ...

District Court Sets Prisoner's "Deliberate Indifference" Hepatitis C Claims for Trial

A Connecticut Federal District Court has ordered that a state prisoner's Eighth Amendment claims arising from Connecticut Department of Corrections (CDOC) officials' deliberate indifference of his severe medical conditions be severed and that some of the claims proceed to trial. The court deferred ruling on the claims not ordered ...

Prison Disciplinary Boards Not "Courts" for Habeas Corpus Purposes

Prison Disciplinary Boards not "Courts" for Habeas Corpus Purposes

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held conclusively that prison disciplinary boards lacking a true judicial review process are not "courts" within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. §2254(d), as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty ...

Prison Guards Can Be Liable for Prisoner Suicide

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed and remanded the dismissal of a 42 U.S.C. §1983 suit against Wisconsin prison officials. In so ruling, the court held that prison guards can be held liable under Eighth Amendment "deliberate indifference" claims for failing to take reasonable steps to ...

Administrative Exhaustion Required But Unprejudiced; Dismissal and Equitable Tolling

The 5th Circuit court of appeals, in accord with a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, held that administrative exhaustion is required in all prisoner cases, regardless of the relief sought. It held that cases pending at the time of this decision should be dismissed without prejudice and with the ...

Defendants' Convenience Justifies Transfer of Venue

California Department of Corrections (CDC) defendants successfully moved to transfer the original venue of a prisoner's civil rights lawsuit to another district - based upon convenience.

Lisa Williams, a prisoner at Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) near Fresno, CA sued prison officials for alleged sexual abuse she suffered at ...

Plaintiff's Disability Impacts Venue

A federal district court in New York held that a plaintiff's physical disabilities were relevant in deciding which court should hear his case. Ambroz Nikac is a wheelchair bound paraplegic who was arrested on federal weapons and stolen property charges. He spent ten months in the Westchester county jail ...

Advocacy Groups Challenge Arizona Internet Communications Ban

On July 18, 2002, the Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty(CCADP), Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty(CUADP) and Stop Prisoner Rape(SPR), filed a federal law suit against Terry L. Stewart Director of the Arizona Department Of Corrections(ADOC) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ...

Judge Approves $9.6 Million Settlement in DC Jail Employees' Sexual Harassment Suit

In January 2002 U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth gave final approval for disbursement of $9.6 million from the settlement of a class-action sexual harassment lawsuit brought by female employees of the Washington D.C. Department of Corrections.

The case, which began with a 14-page handwritten complaint by ...

News in Brief

Brazil: On September 15, 2002, the state of Sao Paulo closed the notorious Catandiru prison in Sao Paulo. The 46 year old prison had been Latin America's largest, with more than 8,000 prisoners held in a space designed for 3,250. Its long history of violence included a ...

Mexico Bars Extradition of Criminals Facing Life Sentences

A ruling by the supreme court of Mexico has blocked the extradition of more than 70 murderers, drug smugglers and organized crime figures who face life sentences in U.S. prisons.

The high court's decision, handed down in October 2001 and published two months later, flows from an interpretation ...