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Judgment for prison employees affirmed

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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.

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  1. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  2. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  3. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

  4. Duncan, It's called the RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION and in the old days people believed it did apply to contracts and employment. Then along came title vii.....that aside, I believe that I am free to work or not work for whomever I like regardless: I don't need a law to tell me I'm free. The day I really am compelled to ignore all the facts of social reality in my associations and I blithely go along with it, I'll be a slave of the state. That day is not today......... in the meantime this proposed bill would probably be violative of 18 usc sec 1981 that prohibits discrimination in contracts... a law violated regularly because who could ever really expect to enforce it along the millions of contracts made in the marketplace daily? Some of these so-called civil rights laws are unenforceable and unjust Utopian Social Engineering. Forcing people to love each other will never work.

  5. I am the father of a sweet little one-year-old named girl, who happens to have Down Syndrome. To anyone who reads this who may be considering the decision to terminate, please know that your child will absolutely light up your life as my daughter has the lives of everyone around her. There is no part of me that condones abortion of a child on the basis that he/she has or might have Down Syndrome. From an intellectual standpoint, however, I question the enforceability of this potential law. As it stands now, the bill reads in relevant part as follows: "A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion . . . if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome." It includes similarly worded provisions abortion on "any other disability" or based on sex selection. It goes so far as to make the medical provider at least potentially liable for wrongful death. First, how does a medical provider "know" that "the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion SOLELY" because of anything? What if the woman says she just doesn't want the baby - not because of the diagnosis - she just doesn't want him/her? Further, how can the doctor be liable for wrongful death, when a Child Wrongful Death claim belongs to the parents? Is there any circumstance in which the mother's comparative fault will not exceed the doctor's alleged comparative fault, thereby barring the claim? If the State wants to discourage women from aborting their children because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, I'm all for that. Purporting to ban it with an unenforceable law, however, is not the way to effectuate this policy.

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