Dolan v St. Tammany Parish et al
ORDER AND REASONS granting 58 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Chief Judge Sarah S. Vance on 2/28/14. (jjs, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
HELEN DOLAN, in her capacity
as natural tutrix for J.D.D.
PARISH OF ST. TAMMANY, ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
On December 9, 2012, Helen Dolan filed this section 1983
civil rights suit on behalf of her minor son J.D.D. against St.
Tammany Parish, Sheriff Rodney Strain, Washington Parish Sheriff
Randy Seal, Tommie Sorrell, Damon Mitchell, Jason Mire, Walter
Reed, and Ysonde Boland.1 All defendants save Sheriff Strain have
since been dismissed from the case.2 Plaintiff's only remaining
claim is that Strain subjected J.D.D. to unconstitutional
conditions of confinement in the St. Tammany Parish Jail between
July 27, 2012 and July 31, 2012.
Defendant now moves the Court for summary judgment on that
claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.3 After due
consideration, the Court finds that plaintiff has presented no
evidence suggesting (1) that defendant was personally responsible
R. Doc. 1.
On June 26, 2013, the Court dismissed defendants Walter
Reed, Ysonde Boland, and St. Tammany Parish from the case. R.
Doc. 38. On January 20, the parties jointly stipulated to dismiss
with prejudice all claims against Sheriff Seal, Sorrell, Mire,
and Mitchell. R. Doc. 55.
R. Doc. 58.
for the alleged constitutional violations suffered by J.D.D., or
(2) that St. Tammany Parish Jail had in place a general practice
that led to those constitutional violations. Accordingly, the
Court GRANTS defendant's motion and dismisses this case.
This action arises out of the arrest, confinement, and
prosecution of plaintiff Helen Dolan's seventeen year-old son,
J.D.D. On July 25, 2012, deputies with the Washington Parish
Sheriff's Office allegedly went to the Dolan home to place J.D.D.
into custody pursuant to a warrant issued in connection with
investigation into an alleged sexual battery.4 The deputies
allegedly took J.D.D. to the Bogalusa police station,
interrogated him, and then obtained an arrest warrant.5 J.D.D.
was then booked into the Washington Parish Jail.6
On July 27, 2012, J.D.D. was transported to the St. Tammany
Parish Jail, where he remained until July 31, 2012.7 Plaintiff
has alleged that J.D.D.'s treatment while at the jail violated
his civil rights. In J.D.D.'s affidavit, he states that "on
several occasions [he] was removed from the rest of the general
population of inmates and put into a small (3 ft. by 3 ft.)
R. Doc. 1 at 4.
Id. at 5-7.
Id. at 7.
R. Doc. 73-2 at 1.
booking cage or 'squirrel cage' for a minimum of several hours
each time."8 During the remainder of the time J.D.D. was in the
jail, he was in a "larger holding cell" with other inmates.9 In
that cell was a telephone that detainees could use to call family
or friends; J.D.D. stated that he called his parents from the
telephone "as often as [he] was able to."10 According to J.D.D.,
on one occasion he was confined to a booking cell along with two
other inmates "for several hours," and the resulting physical
restriction caused him to suffer serious knee injuries.11 He also
claims that he was forced to wear tight-fitting jail clothes
called "hot pants" that "exposed [his] private parts."12 Finally,
J.D.D. states that he was denied his prescription ADHD medication
during his incarceration and suffered withdrawal symptoms and
mental distress as a result.13 According to plaintiff, she tried
to give J.D.D.'s medication to jail officials, but they refused
to accept it.14 Plaintiff also stated that she received a call
from another inmate, Kent Burrows, who told her "that J.D.D had
Id. at 1-2.
Id. at 2.
Id. at 3.
Id.; see also R. Doc. 58-3 at 5 (initial booking form
for J.D.D. listing "Dexedrine" as a medication he was taking at
the time of his arrest).
R. Doc. 73-3 at 2.
asked him to call [her] to let [her] know that J.D.D. had been
put in a squirrel cage and would be unable to call [her] for some
The affidavit of Gregory Longino, warden of St. Tammany
Parish Jail, describes the nature of pretrial detention at the
jail. According to Longino, the jail has four adult male holding
cells designed to house pretrial detainees.16 Longino avers that
he does not specifically recall J.D.D., but that "it is likely he
remained in holding because it was anticipated that he would be
bonding out."17 With regard to the "squirrel cages," Longino
avers that in July 2012, the jail was using the 3' x 3' booking
cells to hold detainees "for brief periods of time while their
booking information was being processed and their personal
property (wallets, jewelry, etc.) [was] inventoried."18 The time
a detainee would spend in the booking cell, according to Longino,
ranged from "about a half-an-hour to several hours at a time."19
He stated that "J.D.D. could have been, and very likely was,
briefly held in a booking cage" while jail officials processed
his booking information and inventoried his belongings.20
R. Doc. 58-4 at 4.
Id. at 5.
Id. at 6.
Id. at 5.
Sheriff Strain, for his part, has averred that he had no
knowledge of any of the facts regarding J.D.D.'s arrest or
incarceration at St. Tammany Parish Jail until this lawsuit was
filed.21 Plaintiff has presented no evidence tending to rebut
Summary judgment is warranted when "the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ.
P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322–23
(1986); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir.
1994). When assessing whether a dispute as to any material fact
exists, the Court considers "all of the evidence in the record
but refrain[s] from making credibility determinations or weighing
the evidence." Delta & Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness
Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 398–99 (5th Cir. 2008). All reasonable
inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, but
"unsupported allegations or affidavits setting forth 'ultimate or
conclusory facts and conclusions of law' are insufficient to
either support or defeat a motion for summary judgment." Galindo
v. Precision Am. Corp., 754 F.2d 1212, 1216 (5th Cir. 1985); see
also Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.
R. Doc. 58-5 at 2.
If the dispositive issue is one on which the moving party
will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party "must
come forward with evidence which would 'entitle it to a directed
verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.'" Int'l
Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1264–65 (5th
Cir. 1991). The nonmoving party can then defeat the motion by
either countering with evidence sufficient to demonstrate the
existence of a genuine dispute of material fact, or "showing that
the moving party's evidence is so sheer that it may not persuade
the reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in favor of the
moving party." Id. at 1265.
If the dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party
will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may
satisfy its burden by merely pointing out that the evidence in
the record is insufficient with respect to an essential element
of the nonmoving party's claim. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. The
burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, who must, by
submitting or referring to evidence, set out specific facts
showing that a genuine issue exists. See id. at 324. The
nonmovant may not rest upon the pleadings, but must identify
specific facts that establish a genuine issue for trial. See,
e.g., id.; Little, 37 F.3d at 1075 ("Rule 56 'mandates the entry
of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon
motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of an element essential to that party's
case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial.'" (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322)).
"[T]he qualified-immunity defense 'shield[s] [government
agents] from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct
does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights of which a reasonable person would have known.'" Behrens
v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 305 (1996) (second and third
alterations in original) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S.
800, 818 (1982)). "If a party moves for summary judgment and
asserts a defense of absolute or qualified immunity in good
faith, the burden shifts to the other party to rebut it."
Disraeli v. Rotunda, 489 F.3d 628, 631 (5th Cir. 2007) (citing
Beck v. Tex. State Bd. of Dental Exam'rs, 204 F.3d 629, 633–34
(5th Cir. 2000)). In order to do so, the plaintiff may not simply
rely on allegations in the pleadings, but must produce competent
summary judgment evidence raising a genuine issue of material
fact. Morales v. Boyd, 304 F. App'x 315, 318 (5th Cir. 2008).
Specifically, "[t]he plaintiff must identify in the record a
factual basis for the conclusion '(1) that the defendant violated
the plaintiff's constitutional rights and (2) that the violation
was objectively unreasonable.'" Id. (quoting Bolton v. City of
Dallas, Tex., 472 F.3d 261, 265–66 (5th Cir. 2006)). The movant,
on the other hand, can support its motion by relying solely on
the pleadings. Disraeli, 489 F.3d at 631.
The Call Logs Attached to Longino's Affidavit
At the outset, the Court resolves a dispute over the logs
purporting to reflect the telephone calls plaintiff made from the
jail's holding cell while he was confined there. Longino avers
that "[i]n the four days that J.D.D. was held at the Jail, he
made a total of at least 69 telephone calls from the holding
cell."22 Defendant has attached a "summary of the dates and times
of those calls" to that affidavit.23 Defendant argues that these
call logs conclusively show that J.D.D. did not in fact spend any
significant time in one of the booking cells because "he would
have had to have been put in the booking cage, then taken out and
put in a holding cell long enough to make one of his 66 or so
phone calls and then returned to the booking cage, only to be
removed again to a holding cell a few minutes or hours later so
as to place another one of the phone calls."24
Plaintiff responds that these call logs are unreliable
because they are unverified and "materially wrong."25
R. Doc. 58-4 at 5.
See R. Doc. 58-6.
R. Doc. 58-2 at 12.
R. Doc. 73-1 at 5.
plaintiff notes that the logs show several gaps of several hours
in between calls, which is consistent with J.D.D.'s statement
that he was put in a booking cell for several hours at a time.
The Court finds that both these arguments have merit. First,
the call logs are inconsistent with the content of the call
recordings that defendant has submitted to the Court. For
example, the recordings contain several calls to the number 985294-4901 that are not listed on the call log.26 In light of this
and other discrepancies, the Court is not satisfied that the call
logs are an accurate summary of the telephone calls J.D.D. made
while in jail. Cf. Fed. R. Evid. 901(a) ("To satisfy the
requirement of authenticating or identifying an item of evidence,
the proponent must produce evidence sufficient to support a
finding that the item is what the proponent claims it is.").
"Unauthenticated documents are improper as summary judgment
evidence." King v. Dogan, 31 F.3d 344, 346 (5th Cir. 1994)
(citing Duplantis v. Shell Offshore, Inc., 948 F.2d 187, 192 (5th
Cir. 1991)). Accordingly, the Court will not consider the call
logs in deciding this motion.
Moreover, even if the Court were to accept the call logs as
reliable, plaintiff is correct that it is still possible that
J.D.D. was kept in a booking cell for several hours in between
phone calls. Defendant has presented sworn testimony that the
Compare R. Doc. 58-6 at 2 with R. Doc. 58 Ex. E.
jail has never had a practice of moving a prisoner back and forth
between the holding cell and a booking cell, but J.D.D. has
stated that he was in fact so moved. And "summary judgment is not
a procedure for resolving a swearing contest." Jackson v.
Duckworth, 955 F.2d 21, 22 (7th Cir. 1992) (citing Chandler v.
Baird, 926 F.2d 1057 (11th Cir. 1991)). Accordingly, for purposes
of this motion, the Court must accept plaintiff's version of
J.D.D.'s Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies
The Court next addresses defendant's argument that J.D.D.'s
suit must be dismissed because he did not comply with the
exhaustion provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42
U.S.C. § 1997e(a) . This argument is meritless. As plaintiff
correctly points out, the PLRA applies only in suits filed by
prisoners. Janes v. Hernandez, 215 F.3d 541, 543 (5th Cir. 2000).
J.D.D. was not a prisoner when this complaint was filed, and thus
the exhaustion requirement of the Act does not apply to him. See
id.; Greig v. Goord, 169 F.3d 165, 167 (2d Cir. 1999)
("[L]itigants . . . who file prison condition actions after
release from confinement are no longer 'prisoners' for purposes
of § 1997e(a) and, therefore, need not satisfy the exhaustion
requirements of this provision.").
Plaintiff's Claims Against Strain
Having resolved these preliminary matters, the Court can
address the merits of plaintiff's contention that Strain
subjected J.D.D. to unconstitutional conditions of confinement by
(1) having him placed in a booking cell for long periods of time
and (2) denying him adequate food, clothing, and medical care.27
Plaintiff has sued the Sheriff in both his individual capacity
and his official capacity. The Court finds plaintiff has not
presented sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment on her
claims that Strain is liable in either capacity for the wrongs
allegedly suffered by J.D.D, because (1) there is no evidence
that Strain was personally involved in J.D.D.'s treatment while
at the jail; and (2) the only policy, custom, or practice of St.
Tammany Parish to which J.D.D. was subjected -- the practice of
placing pretrial detainees in booking cells upon their arrival at
the jail -- is not a constitutional violation. Even assuming that
J.D.D.'s account of his treatment at the jail is accurate,
plaintiff has presented no evidence that St. Tammany had a policy
or practice of repeatedly placing detainees in a booking cell for
long periods of time or withholding food, clothing, or medical
care from detainees.
R. Doc. 1 at 9-12, 20-21; see also R. Doc. 73-2
(affidavit of J.D.D.).
Individual Capacity Standard
A plaintiff suing a governmental official in his individual
capacity "must allege specific conduct giving rise to a
constitutional violation." Oliver v. Scott, 276 F.3d 736, 741
(5th Cir. 2002). "It is not enough to allege that government
officials with no direct contact with a plaintiff are responsible
for acts of their subordinates." Anderson v. Pasadena Indep. Sch.
Dist., 184 F.3d 439, 443 (5th Cir. 1999); see also Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009) ("Government officials may not be
held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of their
subordinates under a theory of respondeat superior . . . .
[V]icarious liability is inapplicable to . . . § 1983 suits . . .
."). Instead, "[p]ersonal involvement is an essential element of
a civil rights cause of action." Thompson v. Steele, 709 F.2d
381, 382 (5th Cir. 1983) (citing Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 262,
371-72 (1976)); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676 ("[A] plaintiff
must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the
official's own individual actions, has violated the
Official Capacity Standard
A suit against a government official in his official
capacity is the same as a suit against the government entity of
which the official is an agent, and victory in such a suit
imposes liability on the entity that he represents. See Burge v.
Parish of St. Tammany, 187 F.3d 452, 468 (5th Cir. 1999) (quoting
McMillian v. Monroe Cty., Ala., 520 U.S. 781, 785 n.2 (1997)).
Here, that entity is St. Tammany Parish. Under Monell v.
Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), a parish is a
"person" subject to suit under section 1983. See id. at 690. A
local government entity may be sued "when execution of a
government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or
by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent the
official policy, inflicts the injury that the government as an
entity is responsible for under § 1983." Id. at 694.
Municipal liability under section 1983 requires proof of
three elements: "(1) an official policy (or custom), of which (2)
a policymaker can be charged with actual or constructive
knowledge, and (3) a constitutional violation whose 'moving
force' is that policy or custom." Pineda v. City of Hous., 291
F.3d 325, 328 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing Piotrowski v. City of
Hous., 237 F.3d 567, 578 (5th Cir. 2001)). An "official policy"
is defined as "a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or
decision that is officially adopted and promulgated by the
[government entity] . . . or by an official to whom the [entity]
ha[s] delegated policymaking authority," but it also encompasses
"[a] persistent, widespread practice of . . . officials or
employees which although not authorized by officially adopted and
promulgated policy is so common and well-settled as to constitute
a custom that fairly represents [the entity's] policy." Cuzzo v.
Tangipahoa Parish Council, 279 F.3d 273, 289 (5th Cir. 2002)
(alterations in original). The "moving force" element means that
the "plaintiff must show direct causation" -- that is, "that
there was 'a direct causal link' between the policy and the
James v. Harris Cty., 577 F.3d 612, 617 (5th Cir.
2009) (quoting Piotrowski, 237 F.3d at 580)).
Inadequate medical treatment and "hot pants"
Even assuming the truth of every statement contained in
plaintiff's affidavits, there is absolutely no evidence that
Strain was personally involved in the decision to withhold
J.D.D.'s ADHD medication from him or the decision to make him
wear "hot pants." Indeed, Strain's uncontroverted affidavit
reflects that Strain had no knowledge of the circumstances
surrounding J.D.D.'s detention until plaintiff brought this
lawsuit. There is also no evidence in the record that Strain, the
jail, or the parish had an official policy or custom of
withholding medication from pretrial detainees or forcing
prisoners to wear uncomfortable, humiliating clothing.
Accordingly, plaintiff's claims against Strain based on these
alleged harms cannot succeed. See Manton v. Strain, Civil Action
No. 09-0339, 2010 WL 4364552, at *7, 9 (E.D. La. Oct. 21, 2010)
(plaintiff could not state a claim against Strain for
unconstitutional conditions of confinement because "there [was]
no indication that Strain was personally involved in
[plaintiff]'s alleged mistreatment," and because plaintiff had
presented no evidence "related to policies or customs in the St.
Tammany Parish jail").
Confinement in a booking cell
Plaintiff has also presented no evidence that Strain was
personally involved in the decision to place J.D.D. in a booking
cell. But she contends that the jail's use of the booking cells
"was a policy, procedure and custom maintained by the Sheriff,
despite admonishments of 'constitutional deficiencies'" by the
DOJ.28 In support of this contention, she notes that, on July 12,
2012, after investigating the conditions of confinement in the
St. Tammany Parish Jail, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a
letter to the parish detailing certain constitutional
deficiencies in the jail's treatment of prisoners.29 The letter
expresses the DOJ's conclusion "that conditions of confinement at
St. Tammany violate the constitutional rights of prisoners" based
on the following findings:
St. Tammany fails to provide adequate medical
health screenings and assessments, treatment, and
medication management for its prisoners with mental
illness. . . .
St. Tammany provides grossly inadequate suicide
prevention care. Prior to and during [the]
R. Doc. 73-1 at 2.
See R. Doc. 73-4.
investigation, these practices included placing
prisoners with mental illnesses in booking cages
("squirrel cages"). . . . [W]e routinely found
instances where booking cages were used to house
prisoners with suicidal ideation, regardless of
other available housing options. . . .
Many of St. Tammany's Licensed Practical Nurses
("LPNs"), who are primarily responsible for
conducting initial medical screenings and initial
and periodic evaluations of suicidal prisoners,
have not been trained to identify or treat suicidal
St. Tammany fails to provide adequate suicide
prevention training to Jail staff.
St. Tammany's quality assurance program, including
the means by which it examines suicide prevention
and the Jail's response to suicide attempts and
completed suicides, is inadequate.30
Plaintiff contends that, because of this letter, defendant
"cannot deny his awareness of squirrel cage confinement of
inmates, and the manner [in which] the squirrel cages were used
in his jail."31 In other words, according to plaintiff, the DOJ
letter shows (1) that the jail had a policy or practice of using
booking cells; (2) that the policy is unconstitutional; and (3)
that defendant knew of the policy and its constitutional
The Court finds this argument unpersuasive. The DOJ letter
addressed only St. Tammany's treatment of mentally ill prisoners.
It attacked the constitutionality of using the booking cells "for
housing prisoners with suicide ideation,"32 not the
R. Doc. 73-4 at 1-3.
R. Doc. 73-1 at 20.
R. Doc. 73-4 at 1.
constitutionality of using them for holding temporary detainees.
Plaintiff has never alleged that J.D.D. suffered harm based on
the jail's failure to properly manage or treat symptoms of mental
illness, and there is no evidence in the record to that effect.
Thus, the policies of the jail concerning mentally ill prisoners
-- specifically, the practice of placing suicidal prisoners in
booking cells -- were not the "moving force" behind the
constitutional violations allegedly suffered by J.D.D. See James,
577 F.3d at 617 (5th Cir. 2009) (in order for municipality to be
liable in a section 1983 suit based on an official policy, "a
plaintiff must show direct causation, i.e. that there was 'a
direct causal link' between the policy and the violation"
(quoting Piotrowski, 237 F.3d at 580)).
The DOJ letter's only relevance to this suit is that it
suggests that Strain was aware that the St. Tammany Parish Jail
had booking cells that were used to house temporary detainees
like J.D.D. And indeed, Longino admitted in his affidavit that in
July 2012 the jail routinely used booking cells to confine
detainees while their booking information was processed and their
belongings inventoried.33 Thus, it is evident that the jail had
in place a policy or practice of placing detainees in booking
cells upon their arrival to the jail, and that J.D.D. was
subjected to this policy. Since, as explained above, there is no
R. Doc. 58-4 at 5.
evidence that J.D.D. suffered harms flowing from any other policy
or custom of the St. Tammany Parish Jail, any constitutional
claim against Strain must rest on the premise that the use of the
booking cells to hold pretrial detainees is, by itself, a
constitutional violation. See Thompkins v. Belt, 828 F.2d 298,
304 (5th Cir. 1987) (noting that supervisory liability exists in
section 1983 suits only when a supervisor "overt[ly]" and
"personal[ly] participat[es] in the offensive act" or
"implement[s] a policy so deficient that the 'policy itself is a
repudiation of constitutional rights' and is 'the moving force of
the constitutional violation'" (alterations in original)
(internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Grandstaff v. City of
Borger, 767 F.2d 161, 169, 170 (5th Cir. 1985))). The Court now
turns to the validity of that premise.
The Fifth Circuit has held that "when a pretrial detainee
attacks general conditions, practices, rules, or restrictions of
pretrial confinement," such as the policy at issue here, courts
should determine the constitutionality of those conditions using
the test enumerated by the Supreme Court in Bell v. Wolfish, 441
U.S. 520 (1979). Hare v. City of Corinth, Miss., 74 F.3d 633, 643
(5th Cir. 1996); see also Shepherd v. Dallas Cty., 591 F.3d 445,
452 (5th Cir. 2009) (plaintiff challenging "an explicit policy or
restriction," or a "de facto policy, as evidenced by a pattern of
acts or omission sufficiently extended or pervasive," must
satisfy the Bell test (internal quotation marks omitted)). In
Bell, the Court explained that, "under the Due Process Clause, a
detainee may not be punished prior to an adjudication of guilt in
accordance with due process of law." 441 U.S. at 535.
Accordingly, pretrial detainees have a Fourteenth Amendment right
to avoid "conditions [that] amount to punishment." Id.34 The
Court adopted the following test to determine whether a given
practice amounts to improper punishment of a pretrial detainee:
[I]f a particular condition or restriction of pretrial
detention is reasonably related to a legitimate
governmental objective, it does not, without more, amount
to "punishment." Conversely, if a restriction or
condition is not reasonably related to a legitimate goal
-- if it is arbitrary or purposeless
-- a court
permissibly may infer that the purpose of the
governmental action is punishment that may not
constitutionally be inflicted upon detainees qua
detainees. Courts must be mindful that these inquiries
spring from constitutional requirements and that judicial
answers to them must reflect that fact rather than a
court's idea of how best to operate a detention facility.
Bell, 441 U.S. at 539 (footnotes omitted) (citations omitted).
"[T]his test is deferential to jail rulemaking; it is in essence
The parties have relied on the Eighth Amendment in
their arguments regarding whether J.D.D.'s conditions of
confinement were constitutional, but the Eighth Amendment is not
strictly applicable to this case. "[T]he State does not acquire
the power to punish with which the Eighth Amendment is concerned
until after it has secured a formal adjudication of guilt in
accordance with due process of law." Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S.
651, 671-672, n.40. Thus, "Eighth Amendment scrutiny is
appropriate only after the State has complied with the
constitutional guarantees traditionally associated with criminal
prosecutions." Id. Where, as here, a pretrial detainee challenges
the conditions of confinement, "the pertinent constitutional
guarantee is the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,"
id., which "requires that a pretrial detainee not be punished,"
Bell, 41 U.S. at 535 n.16.
a rational basis test of the validity of jail rules." Hare, 74
F.3d at 646. If a challenged practice meets Bell's "reasonable
relationship" test, it will be upheld so long as it comports with
other constitutional guarantees. Bell, 441 U.S. at 536-37; see
also Hare, 74 F.3d at 639 (noting that the state owes both
prisoners and pretrial detainees the duty to "provide for [their]
basic human needs -- e.g., food, clothing, shelter, medical care,
and reasonable safety" (quoting DeShaney v. Winnebago Cty. Dep't
of Soc. Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 200 (1989))). Put differently, "a
detainee challenging jail conditions must demonstrate a pervasive
pattern of serious deficiencies in providing for his basic human
needs; any lesser showing cannot prove punishment in violation of
the detainee's Due Process rights." Shepherd, 591 F.3d at 454.
The Court finds that St. Tammany Parish Jail's policy of
using booking cells to house detainees while their booking
information is processed is reasonably related to a legitimate
penological goal. Undoubtedly, the jail must put detainees
somewhere when they first arrive at the facility, while their
belongings are inventoried and their booking information
processed. Accordingly, the Court finds that the use of booking
cells meets the deferential test set forth in Bell. Cf. Collins
v. Ainsworth, 382 F.3d 529, 546 (5th Cir. 2004) (finding that
jail officials' "inability to get judges out to the jail late on
Sunday to post bond" and "bad weather conditions" were
"legitimate, practical concerns" that sufficiently justified the
overcrowding of the jail under Bell).
Moreover, the policy does not unconstitutionally deprive the
detainees of basic human needs. Although remaining in a ninesquare-foot booking cell is likely not comfortable, plaintiff has
not shown that it subjects detainees to "genuine privations and
hardship over an extended period of time," Bell, 441 U.S. at 542,
or a deprivation of "basic human needs," Hare, 74 F.3d at 650.
This is true for two primary reasons.
First, according to Longino's affidavit, detainees were held
in booking cells for only a few hours.35 While J.D.D. claims to
have been left in a booking cell for several hours on many
different occasions, plaintiff has presented no evidence that the
jail had a policy or practice of using the booking cells in such
a manner. See Thompkins, 828 F.2d at 305 (noting that a sheriff
"cannot be held liable on the theory that he implemented an
unconstitutional policy" when the plaintiff's only evidence is
"that the system may have failed in the one particular instance"
of which the plaintiff complains). The short length of time
detainees generally spent in booking cells militates against a
finding that the practice in question is unconstitutional. See
Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 686-87 (1978) ("[T]he length of
confinement cannot be ignored in deciding whether the confinement
R. Doc. 58-4 at 6.
meets constitutional standards. A filthy, overcrowded cell and a
diet of 'gruel' might be tolerable for a few days and intolerably
cruel for weeks or months."); Smith v. Copeland, 87 F.3d 265, 269
(8th Cir. 1996) (noting that "the length of time a prisoner is
subjected to harsh conditions is a critical factor in [the]
analysis"); cf. Payton v. Gusman, Civil Action No. 12-2578, 2013
WL 5530280, at *6 (E.D. La. Oct. 7, 2013) ("Short-term sanitation
problems, although admittedly unpleasant, do not amount to
constitutional violations." (collecting cases)).
Second, while the booking cells are undoubtedly small,
plaintiff has presented no evidence that their use resulted in
"unsanitary or unsuitable conditions amounting to punishment,"
Collins, 382 F.3d at 545. Cf. Davis v. Scott, 157 F.3d 1003,
1004-06 (5th Cir. 1998) (inmate confined for three days in a
"crisis management cell" that was "'just filthy,' with 'blood on
the walls and excretion on the floors and bread loaf on the
floor'" had not suffered a "sufficiently extreme deprivation" to
state an Eighth Amendment claim);
Hamilton v. Lyons, 74 F.3d 99,
106 (5th Cir. 1996) (pretrial detainee "denied visitation,
telephone access, recreation, mail, legal materials, sheets, and
showers for a three-day period" could not show a constitutional
violation); Smith v. Copeland, 87 F.3d at 269 (pretrial detainee
who had to "endure the stench of [his] own feces and urine' for .
. . four days" because of an overflowed toilet in his cell had
not suffered a constitutional violation). The Court finds that
confinement in the booking cells for a few hours is significantly
less onerous than the conditions detailed in Davis, Hamilton, and
Smith. (Again, plaintiff presents evidence that J.D.D. himself
was placed in a booking cell with two other individuals on one
occasion, but that evidence, even if accurate, does not establish
that the jail had a policy of overfilling the booking cells, or
that any such policy resulted in unsafe or unsuitable conditions
for many prisoners. Cf. Thompkins, 828 F.2d at 305.)
The cases in which courts have found Eighth or Fourteenth
Amendment violations based on jail conditions have involved
deprivations significantly more severe than those at issue here.
See Sheperd, 591 F.3d 445 (plaintiff who demonstrated that jail
routinely failed to diagnose, monitor, and treat patients with
chronic illnesses and failed to give over half of the inmates
their prescription medication had shown that conditions of
confinement amounted to punishment in violation of Bell); Gates
v. Cook, 376 F.3d 323, 338 (5th Cir. 2004) (placement in "cells
[that] were 'extremely filthy' with crusted fecal matter, urine,
dried ejaculate, peeling and chipping paint, and old food
particles on the walls" was unconstitutional because "living in
such conditions would present a substantial risk of serious harm
to the inmates"); McCord v. Maggio, 927 F.2d 844, 846 (5th Cir.
1991) (plaintiff forced to live and sleep for an extended period
in a cell filled with sewage and foul water had been subjected to
cruel and unusual punishment). Plaintiff has simply failed to
present evidence that St. Tammany Parish Jail's practice of using
booking cells deprived pretrial detainees of the basic
necessities of life in a manner similar to the practices
described in the foregoing cases.
In sum, the Court concludes that defendant is not liable for
any of the harms allegedly suffered by J.D.D. because the
evidence shows that (1) defendant was not personally involved in
any aspect of the arrest or incarceration of J.D.D. and (2) the
only policy, practice or custom of the jail to which J.D.D. was
subjected is not unconstitutional. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS
defendant's motion for summary judgment.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this 28th day of February, 2014.
SARAH S. VANCE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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