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Prison Legal News: September, 1997

Issue PDF
Volume 8, Number 9

In this issue:

  1. U.S. Supreme Court: No Immunity for Private Prisons (p 1)
  2. ADA Applies to State Prisons (p 3)
  3. Pro Se Tips and Tactics (Consent Decrees) (p 4)
  4. Second Circuit Affirms IFP Provisions (p 6)
  5. Sixth Circuit Explains PLRA Again (p 6)
  6. PLRA Applies to Juveniles, Retroactive on Attorney Fees (p 6)
  7. PLRA Forbids Dismissal of Suits Without Paid Fees (p 7)
  8. Gun Law Threatens Police, Military, Prisons (p 8)
  9. A Matter of Fact (p 9)
  10. BOP Mutiny Convictions Affirmed (p 10)
  11. Vacant Judgeships Cripple Federal Judiciary (p 10)
  12. DC Women Prisoners' Suit Reversed (p 11)
  13. Alabama Phone System Upheld (p 11)
  14. Pepper Spray too Dangerous for DOC Training? (p 12)
  15. Former Mississippi Guards Lose Sentencing Appeal (p 12)
  16. Disciplinary Segregation Can Create Liberty Interest (p 13)
  17. New York Jail Overcrowding Unconstitutional (p 14)
  18. Prisoners Held Beyond Release Date Sue (p 14)
  19. Montana Paying for 1991 Prison Uprising (p 14)
  20. Supreme Court Strikes Down RFRA as Unconstitutional (p 15)
  21. Attorney Fee Award in Nominal Damage Case Affirmed (p 16)
  22. Detainee Awarded $64,000 in Guard Attack (p 16)
  23. Farmer Loses at Jury Trial (p 16)
  24. Iowa Grievance Retaliation Suit Set for Trial (p 17)
  25. Indiana ADA Verdict Affirmed (p 17)
  26. Fact Finding of Segregation Conditions Required in Disciplinary Suit (p 18)
  27. Failure to Remove Sutures States Claim (p 18)
  28. Nebraska Women's Court Access Case Reversed (p 18)
  29. Consent Decrees Enforceable on Its Own Terms (p 19)
  30. Jail Assault Requires Trial (p 19)
  31. Reliable Evidence Required at Disciplinary Hearing (p 20)
  32. Court Reduces Jury Award in Beating Suit (p 20)
  33. Sandin Analyzed for New York Prisoners (p 20)
  34. News in Brief (p 21)
  35. New Jersey Prisoners Have Liberty Interest in Parole (p 22)
  36. No Right to TV or Radio (p 22)

U.S. Supreme Court: No Immunity for Private Prisons

The U.S. supreme court, in a five to four ruling, held that employees of privately owned and operated prisons are not entitled to qualified immunity from suit. In the January, 1997, issue of PLN we reported McKnight v. Rees, 88 F.3d 417 (6th Cir. 1996) where the court ...

ADA Applies to State Prisons

A federal district court in California held that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12131-34 and the Rehabilitation Act (RA), 29 U.S.C. § 794, apply to state prisons and the California Department of Corrections (CDC) must comply with their respective provisions. CDC prisoners and parolees ...

Pro Se Tips and Tactics (Consent Decrees)

What A Consent Decree Is

This column discusses so-called "consent decrees" in prison cases. I briefly address the advantages of trying to get a consent decree in certain cases, and current issues regarding consent decrees. This column assumes that either you have filed a case under 42 U.S.C ...

Second Circuit Affirms IFP Provisions

The court of appeals for the second circuit held that the filing fee provisions of the PLRA, which require that prisoners ultimately pay all filing fees in civil litigation, are constitutional. The court agreed with the fourth, sixth and eleventh circuits, which have already upheld the PLRA's In Forma ...

Sixth Circuit Explains PLRA Again

In the June, 1997, issue of PLN we reported In Re Prison Litigation Reform Act, 105 F.3d 1131 (6th Cir. 1997) where the chief judge of the sixth circuit issued an administrative order to guide judges in that circuit on how to implement the PLRA. This case involves the ...

PLRA Applies to Juveniles, Retroactive on Attorney Fees

The court of appeals for the fourth circuit held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) applies to lawsuits brought by juvenile detainees and its cap on attorney fees ($112.50 an hour) applies to work performed before the PLRA's April 26, 1996, enactment. This ruling involves only the ...

PLRA Forbids Dismissal of Suits Without Paid Fees

The court of appeals for the fifth circuit held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) does not require dismissal of a prisoner's civil rights suit because he had not yet paid the fees arising from a prior lawsuit. Gary Walp, a Texas state prisoner, filed suit under 42 ...

Gun Law Threatens Police, Military, Prisons

In September, 1996, an acrimonious 104th Congress, faced with government "shut-down," passed the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997. The budget battle garnered so much attention that little notice was given to a "rider" attached to the bill that poses a threat to the job security of the nation's ...

A Matter of Fact

1996 study of juvenile homicide arrests (National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, and the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice) revealed that six states: Florida, Michigan, Illinois, New York, Texas, and California accounted for 56 percent of juvenile homicide arrests in 1993. The report also cited four cities -- Los Angeles ...

BOP Mutiny Convictions Affirmed

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit affirmed the convictions of three federal prisoners convicted of mutiny in a federal prison pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1792. The convictions stem from the October, 1995, BOP uprisings after congress refused to ratify changes to the nation's discriminatory crack ...

Vacant Judgeships Cripple Federal Judiciary

The administration of federal justice is being slowly strangled by politics. A political face-off between a republican-dominated U.S. senate judiciary committee and a spineless democratic president is choking the federal courts.

There are 98 unfilled judgeships in federal courts nationwide out of 844 positions, a 12 percent vacancy rate ...

DC Women Prisoners' Suit Reversed

In the December, 1995 and June, 1996, issues of PLN we reported Women Prisoners of the District of Columbia DOC v. District of Columbia, 877 F. Supp. 634 (DC DC 1995) and 899 F. Supp. 659 (DC DC 1995) in which a federal district court in the District of Columbia ...

Alabama Phone System Upheld

The court of appeals for the eleventh circuit held that a lower court had erred in finding that a telephone calling list of ten people violated prisoners' first amendment rights. Freddie Pope, an Alabama state prisoner, filed suit challenging a prison policy limiting to ten the number of people Alabama ...

Pepper Spray too Dangerous for DOC Training?

In September of 1996, Paul M. Sullivan, health compliance officer for the North Carolina Department of Labor sent a letter to Mr. Franklin Freeman of the North Carolina Department of Correction (DOC). An alert reader obtained a copy of this letter and forwarded it to PLN's editors, who have ...

Former Mississippi Guards Lose Sentencing Appeal

On November 17, 1991, Larry Floyd escaped from the Mississippi State Penitentiary (MSP) at Parchman. He was captured the following day in an abandoned house near the prison. Upon his capture he was beaten by several MSP guards while others looked on.

A 1994 grand jury indicted eleven then-current or ...

Disciplinary Segregation Can Create Liberty Interest

In two separate rulings, the court of appeals for the second circuit held that in Sandin v. Connor, 115 S.Ct. 2293 (1993) [PLN, Aug. 1995] the supreme court did not create a blanket rule that disciplinary segregation alone, without the loss of good time, could never implicate a liberty ...

New York Jail Overcrowding Unconstitutional

A federal district court in New York held that overcrowding in the Erie County jail violated the eighth amendment rights of convicted prisoners and the fourteenth amendment rights of pretrial detainees housed in the jail. Bernard Zolnowski, a pretrial detainee, filed suit challenging jail conditions. The suit was then converted ...

Prisoners Held Beyond Release Date Sue

Four civil rights attorneys filed suit against Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block and other officials for falsely imprisoning thousands of people each year by holding them beyond their scheduled release dates. "We intend to seek an injunction under the taxpayer action and force Sheriff Block to stop this wasteful ...

Montana Paying for 1991 Prison Uprising

The state of Montana agreed to pay $60,000 to the parents of a prisoner killed during a 1991 uprising at the maximum security Deer Lodge prison. It was the second settlement among 13 state court cases filed against prison officials. In January 1995, the state agreed to pay $150 ...

Supreme Court Strikes Down RFRA as Unconstitutional

On June 25, 1997, the United States supreme court struck down as unconstitutional the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb. In 1993 the RFRA was enacted by congress in response to the supreme court ruling in Employment Division, Dept. of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith ...

Attorney Fee Award in Nominal Damage Case Affirmed

The court of appeals for the eighth circuit affirmed an award of $6,005.40 in attorney fees and costs to a prisoner who was awarded one dollar in nominal damages after a jury trial. Ali Muhammad, an Arkansas state prisoner, filed suit claiming his right to due process was ...

Detainee Awarded $64,000 in Guard Attack

A federal district court in Iowa denied jail guards' motion for a new trial on a detainee's jury verdict awarding $64,000 in an excessive force suit. Jeffrey Schultz was arrested and booked into the Woodbury county jail. During the booking Schultz was shackled, placed in a headlock, attacked ...

Farmer Loses at Jury Trial

In the July, 1994, issue of PLN we reported Farmer v. Brennan, 114 S.Ct. 1970 (1994), where the supreme court held that prisoners have an eighth amendment right to be protected by prison officials from rape or attack by other prisoners.

Farmer proceeded to the supreme court following summary ...

Iowa Grievance Retaliation Suit Set for Trial

A federal district court in Iowa held that an Iowa DOC practice of punishing prisoners who filed grievances may violate the first amendment. The court also held that a higher standard of proof than the "some evidence" standard, was required before prisoners could be punished for their complaints. Several Iowa ...

Indiana ADA Verdict Affirmed

In the March, 1996, issue of PLN we reported Love v. Westville Correctional Center, 896 F. Supp. 808 (ND IN 1995) where the court granted the plaintiff a new trial on his Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, claim. After a new trial the jury awarded ...

Fact Finding of Segregation Conditions Required in Disciplinary Suit

In two separate cases the court of appeals for the eighth circuit held that lower courts had improperly dismissed suits filed by Missouri state prisoners who had claimed they were denied due process when they were placed in segregation. Roman Hemphill and Robert Driscoll filed suit claiming their right to ...

Failure to Remove Sutures States Claim

A federal district court in Maryland held that a prisoner raised a genuine issue of material fact, requiring a trial, because prison doctors did not remove wire sutures from his abdomen. Nicholas Jones, a Maryland state prisoner, underwent hernia surgery. Afterwards, suture wires remained in his abdomen causing him recurring ...

Nebraska Women's Court Access Case Reversed

In the August, 1996, issue of PLN we reported Klinger v. Nebraska DOC, 909 F. Supp. 1329 (D NE 1995) which held that women prisoners in Nebraska were denied their right of access to the courts when the prison law library consisted only of "a disorganized pile of books stored ...

Consent Decrees Enforceable on Its Own Terms

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit held that a consent decree that incorporated state law requirements on prison officials did not violate the eleventh amendment and could be enforced on its own terms. In 1992 Indiana state prisoners filed suit challenging numerous aspects of the Maximum Control Complex ...

Jail Assault Requires Trial

The court of appeals for the sixth circuit held that whether a prisoner's question to a guard about what would happen if he assaulted another prisoner, required a trial to determine if the guard was liable when the questioner then assaulted another prisoner.

William Street was detained in the ...

Reliable Evidence Required at Disciplinary Hearing

A federal district court in Indiana granted a habeas corpus petition after finding a prisoner was denied the ability to present exculpatory evidence at a prison disciplinary hearing. Monte McPherson, an Indiana state prisoner, was infracted and found guilty of having sex with another prisoner. McPherson lost 90 days of ...

Court Reduces Jury Award in Beating Suit

A federal district court in New York entered a jury verdict awarding compensatory and punitive damages to a prisoner beaten and tranquilized by guards, it then reduced the punitive damage award. Donovan Blissett, a New York state prisoner, filed suit claiming his eighth amendment rights were violated when prison guards ...

Sandin Analyzed for New York Prisoners

A federal district court in New York held that a trial was required to determine if a prisoner's due process rights were violated at a disciplinary hearing. The significance of this case lies not so much with the court's ruling as with its exhaustive and detailed analysis of ...

News in Brief

AK: On July 2, 1997, Allen Compton, chief justice of the Alaska supreme court resigned after being privately reprimanded by the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct. The allegations giving rise to the reprimand were not made public. Compton remains on the court as an associate justice.

CA: As part of ...

New Jersey Prisoners Have Liberty Interest in Parole

A federal district court in New Jersey held that New Jersey parole statute N.J.S.A. § 30:4-123-53(a) creates a due process liberty interest in parole release. Hubert Watson filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming his due process rights were violated when he was impermissibly ...

No Right to TV or Radio

A federal district court in Mississippi upheld a state statute prohibiting prisoners from using televisions or radios. In the January, 1995, issue of PLN we reported the enactment of Miss. Code Ann. § 47-5-124 which states: "No convict incarcerated in a state correctional facility or a private correctional facility may be ...