Sunday, November 8, 2015

Inmate wins civil rights appeal

The jailhouse is no picnic, which is why it's the house of punishment. But too much punishment violates the Constitution. The inmate wins his appeal.

I am always amazed when an inmate wins an appeal. Many people hate inmates and do not think they should have any rights. But if you think about it, many of the first ten Amendments to the Constitution (the Bill of Rights) have to do with criminal procedure and the rights of convicted persons, including the Eighth Amendment. It is true that some inmates are litigation machines who file lawsuit after lawsuit,with nothing to lose. But some of them do have a case, at least on paper. This is one of them.

The case is Lewis v. Swicki, a aummary order decided on October 27. The case was dismissed for failure to state a claim, which means the judge threw it out before the parties could take depositions and other discovery. But the complaint actually alleges a civil rights violation. Plaintiff says the correction officers did not prevent another inmate from assaulting him. Plaintiff was stabbed by an inmate who had slipped out of his handcuffs. According to Lewis, defendants knew the stabber had threatened to harm plaintiff "in the near future."

The Court of Appeals (Sack, Droney and Stanceu [D.J.]) says it does not matter that plaintiff was stabbed a few months after the attacker had threatened him. The Supreme Court said in Farmer v. Brennan (1994) that the plaintiff only needs to show that the jailers failed to act despite a substantial risk of serious harm to the inmate.The case returns to the district court to give plaintiff a chance to re-plead his Complaint to further develop his claim.

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