Judgment for prison employees affirmed

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of prison employees in an inmate's Eighth Amendment violations suit, finding the inmate's lack of cooperation in providing details of threats against him prohibited the officials from protecting him from an attack by another inmate.

In Curtis L. Dale v. Pamela Poston, et al., No. 06-2847, Curtis Dale appealed summary judgment in favor of the defendants, several prison employees in Terre Haute, arguing they didn't reasonably respond when he requested a transfer out of the Terre Haute maximum security prison to a medium security prison in Illinois.

Dale was in prison on drug convictions and as a part of his plea agreement, he was to provide testimony against people involved in the drug trade. Several inmates began to suspect he was testifying and was a "snitch" because he would leave the prison for periods of time. When he would return from testifying he would be held in a Special Housing Unit (SHU) until prison employees could determine if there were any potential dangers against him because of his testimony.

Dale requested a transfer to the Illinois prison, but was denied because he didn't provide detailed information about who was threatening him or how he was being threatened. When questioned, he was vague and illusive, and refused housing in the SHU, but believed just reporting the threat was enough to have him transferred. Dale was later attacked by a fellow inmate who accused him of being a snitch.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals had to use the facts from the government in this case instead of facts from Dale because the District Court found Dale's "statement of facts" violated the court's local rule. Dale's own attorney admitted that even if the District Court erred in disregarding Dale's statement of facts, any error was harmless, wrote Judge Terence Evans.

Dale's Eighth Amendment violation claims against the prison employees fail the deliberate indifference test. Even though Dale's claim passes the first prong - knowing there is a risk - it failed the second prong - actual knowledge of impending harm. The prison employees questioned Dale about his statements alluding to threats from other inmates, but he refused to offer details and refused to be housed in the SHU, wrote Judge Evans. In fact, the prison employees did almost the exact opposite of deliberate indifference and they couldn't have segregated Dale against his will.

"We will not create this sort of constitutional Catch 22 - where prison officials violate the Eighth Amendment if they don't segregate a prisoner but violate the Due Process Clause if they do," he wrote.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.