Prison Law Stories You May Have Missed from the Past Few Months: Federal Litigation Edition
Since the blog is nearing the half-year mark, I thought I’d do a few posts over the next few weeks rounding up older stories that newer readers may have missed. I’ll start with some federal appellate decisions that I’ve found interesting this year, circuit by circuit. (Unfortunately not every circuit is covered. As so often happens, the Eighth Circuit gets left out and the Fifth and Ninth Circuits get some extra attention.) Feel free to comment on which cases you find the most troubling. For my money, the First Circuit opinion has yet to be beat for the facts, then maybe the recent Fifth Circuit Katrina case for the law.
- First Circuit: Puerto Rico Prisoner Forced to Undergo Abdominal Surgery, or, the Case of the Nonexistent Contraband Cell Phone. In what still gets my vote for most appalling prison case to come down the pike in 2010, a Puerto Rico inmate was forced to undergo abdominal surgery to remove a supposed (never found) contraband cell phone although a sniff search, strip search, naked metal detector scan, two bowel movements, two rectal exams, and a series of lab tests had all failed to uncover the cell phone in question. And that, the First Circuit held, just might be a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
- Second Circuit: New York Prison Violated First Amendment when It Punished a Prisoner for Distributing a Pamphlet. OK, that wasn’t my original headline, but my original headline was confusing. Anyway, basically the Second Circuit invalidated a catch-all contraband policy that said (more or less) “prisoners can only have what the prison says they can have,” without being more specific.
- Fifth Circuit: Hurricane Trumps a Never-charged Arrestee’s Fourteenth Amendment Claim. In the aftermath of Katrina, James Terry was arrested in his own home (ostensibly for looting), then held in a maximum-security prison for seven months with no charges. According to the Fifth Circuit, the warden who held him is entitled to qualified immunity because there was no exact precedent for the situation, Hurricane Katrina never having happened before.
- Fifth Circuit: Louisiana Prisoner Sentenced to Eight Years of… Barbecuing Chicken, Waxing Floors at the Mayor’s Church, and Renting Moon Bounces for the Police Chief’s Side Business. I don’t have much more to add. Anyway, the Fifth Circuit found this arrangement problematic but not unconstitutional.
- Sixth Circuit: When Parole Boards Get Tougher, It Doesn’t Violate the Ex Post Facto Clause. Michigan’s parole board has all but stopped granting parole in recent years; the Sixth Circuit says that’s OK.
- Seventh Circuit: No Dragons in the Dungeon. The circuit of Posner upholds a Wisconsin state prison rule banning inmates from any and all Dungeons & Dragons activity and paraphernalia.
- Ninth Circuit: Yes, California, You’re Still in Federal Receivership. The latest in the ongoing prison overcrowding litigation in the Golden State, headed to the Supreme Court this fall.
- Ninth Circuit: San Francisco County Jail’s Blanket Strip Search Policy Is Reasonable. But at least we got this gem of an Alex Kozinski quote out of the lawsuit: “I’m convinced that airport searches would be far more intrusive if upper and middle-class Americans were exempt.”
- Tenth Circuit Partially Reinstates Lawsuit over Oklahoma Inmate’s Access to Halal Meat. The claim was brought under RLUIPA, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.