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SAMARITAN NEWSLETTER – 03.25. 2024

The Law Office of Tom Norrid

SAMARITAN PROJECTS LLC

P.O. Box 9244

Springfield, MO 65801-9244

417-236-1179

 

The SAMARITAN-PROJECTS prepares post-conviction and compassionate release motions along with appeals under the direction of Attorney Tom Norrid. The Samaritan-Projects’ newsletter reports every winning district court and court of appeals case for the week in review. These cases will not be on the BOP LEXIS computer for 4 to 6 weeks. The Project charges reasonable rates to retrieve cases, documents, docket sheets, transcripts, etc., from PACER. Have your friends place the Project on Corrlinks so they can receive the Newsletter.

 

The “SAMARITAN PROJECTS COMPASSIONATE RELEASE ISSUES AND CITATIONS MANUAL” is available. The Manual contains all the winning issues and supporting cases on compassionate release. To keep it simple, the book is approximately 190 pages and sent priority legal mail. The cost is $75.00. To order, have your outside contact call Eddie at 417 818 1938 or Rusty at 417 901 3000, or BP-199 the Project.

 

CR.RIS/STAFF ASSAULT. The District of Montana granted a CR.RIS motion in United States v. Ras Matta, 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51657 (D. Mont. Mar. 22, 2024). Matta filed a motion under 18 USC 3582(c)(1)(A) to reduce his 36-month drug sentence. The Government did not oppose but rather took no position on the matter because of the complicated nature of the defendant's request and the BOP response to the Government's requests. The following facts were alleged by the defendant and uncontroverted by the Government. On Jan. 27, 2023, the defendant was temporarily housed at USP Atlanta while being moved between BOP facilities en route to his current designated facility FCI Butner. The defendant was uncuffed and locked inside a large holding cell with many other inmates for several hours. After a period of a few hours, BOP officers began inciting violence against the defendant from other inmates by announcing the defendant was an informant. The officers eventually allowed the defendant to be attacked by his fellow inmates. After that attack, two BOP officers handcuffed the defendant and removed him from the cell. The officers then "started striking [the defendant] full force in the face and the back of the head," knocking him unconscious. At this point the defendant noticed his broken finger and asked for medical attention although the record does not demonstrate that BOP officers broke his finger. The Government has taken "no position" on the application of this provision because the "BOP has been consulted and is presently investigating these claims, and this is the only information that can be provided." In the absence of any evidence or information to the contrary, the Court found the abuse suffered by the defendant constitutes an extraordinary and compelling reason for early release. As the defendant's BOP medical records elucidate he clearly suffered injuries that required medical intervention. It is undisputed by the Government that the injury was suffered at the hands of BOP correctional officers. Sentence reduced to time served.

 

CR.RIS/FAMILY CIRCUMSTANCES/REHABILITATION/SEXUAL ABUSE. The Southern District of California granted a CR.RIS motion in United States v. Alejandra Naranjo, 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47731 (S.D. Calif. Mar. 18, 2024). On Dec. 19, 2019, Naranjo plead guilty to one count of Importation of Methamphetamine in violation of 21 USC 952 and 960. In March of 2020, the Court sentenced Naranjo to 78 months. Naranjo has a projected release date of Aug. 17, 2025. Naranjo has made efforts to rehabilitate while incarcerated. Naranjo battled with an addiction to methamphetamine since she was first introduced to the substance at twelve years old. Naranjo has also repaired her relationship with her family whom she is set to live with upon release. She intends to be the primary caretaker for her father who suffers from "end stage renal disease, for which he requires dialysis" as well as "hypertension, diastolic heart failure, and a fistula." Naranjo moved for time served under 3582(c)(1)(A) based on the sexual abuse she suffered while incarcerated and her father's medical needs. Under policy statement USSG 1B1.13(b)(3)(c), as amended, a defendant has demonstrated extraordinary and compelling circumstances upon a showing that "the incapacitation of the defendant's parent" renders the defendant "the only available caregiver for the parent." Sentence reduced to time served.

 

APPEAL/CR.RIS/404(b). The Fourth Circuit vacated and remanded a CR.RIS case in United States v.  Nathaniel Richardson, 2024 U.S. App. LEXIS 6618 (4th Cir. Mar. 20, 2024). In this case the Fourth Circuit considered whether a district court can reduce a sentence for both covered and noncovered offenses under the First Step Act if they were sentenced as a package. Richardson was originally sentenced to two concurrent terms of life imprisonment for conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and heroin and for engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise. After the passage of the First Step Act, Richardson sought a sentence reduction. The district court reduced the sentence for the crack cocaine distribution offense but left the sentence for the continuing criminal enterprise offense undisturbed. The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings. The appellate court held that the district court has the discretion to reduce both covered and noncovered offenses under the First Step Act if they function as a package. The court reasoned that since district judges often sentence on multiple counts as an interconnected process they should be given the discretion to reconfigure the sentencing plan to ensure it remains adequate to satisfy the statutory sentencing factors. The court further noted the sentencing package doctrine is applicable here because when one count of a package is remanded the district judge must be given the discretion to review the efficacy of what remains in light of the original plan. The case was remanded to the district court to decide whether the counts functioned as a package, and if so, to resentence accordingly.

 

2255/IAC/DISCOVERY. The Eastern District of Virginia granted discovery in a 2255 case in United States v. Marcus Moody, 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50196 (E.D. Va. Mar. 20, 2024). Before the Court was Moody's "Motion to Compel Attorney Tyrone Johnson to Surrender the Case File in No. 4:19-cr-51." On June 6, 2022, the petitioner filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 USC 2255 based on alleged ineffective assistance of counsel. On Sept. 26, 2022, the petitioner filed the instant motion to compel, seeking access to the complete case file kept by his former counsel, Tyrone C. Johnson. The motion alleges that the petitioner requested the file twice but received no response from Attorney Johnson. Rule 6(a) of the Rules Governing 2255 Proceedings provides that a petitioner may engage in discovery only "if, and to the extent that, the judge in the exercise of [their] discretion and for good cause shown grants [the petitioner] leave to do so, but not otherwise." United States v. Roane, 378 F.3d 382, 402 (4th Cir. 2004). "Good cause for discovery exists when a petition . . . establishes a prima facie case for relief." The Court found that the petitioner had made a prima facie case for relief under 28 USC 2255. Specifically, the petitioner's allegations under Ground One related to Attorney Johnson's advice regarding the Government's plea offer which lead the Court to believe it is possible that the contents of Attorney Johnson's case file could help the petitioner demonstrate that he is entitled to relief. Thus, the petitioner showed good cause for the discovery. Attorney Johnson was ordered to provide a complete and accurate copy of his entire case file in this matter to counsel for the petitioner and to the Government within 10 days after this Opinion and Order was entered.

 

AMENDMENT 821. The Middle District of Tennessee granted an 821 motion in United States v. Michael Calloway, 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51336 (M.D. Tenn. Mar. 21, 2024). The Joint Motion for Sentence Reduction under 18 USC 3582(c)(2) seeks to reduce Calloway sentence from 180 months to 160 months. Calloway sought this reduction due to the United States Sentencing Commission's Amendment 821, Subpart A, that retroactively reduces status points for defendants who have 7 or more criminal history points. Calloway pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of ammunition and felon in possession of firearms, in violation of 18 USC 922(g)(1). Sentence reduced to 150-months.

 

AMENDMENT 821. The Southern District of Florida granted an 821 motion in United States v. Julian Mercado-Castillo, 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47912 (S.D. Fla. Mar.19, 2024). On Dec. 17, 2018, Mercado-Castillo was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 70 months after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to import controlled substances in violation of 21 USC 963. He is a zero point offender. Sentence reduced to 57-months.

 

AMENDMENT 821. The Southern District of New York granted an 821 motion in United States v. Tracii Hutsona, 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47884 (S.D. N.Y. Mar. 19, 2024).  The Court agreed with the Probation Department and the defendant she is eligible for a reduction in light of Amendment 821. The Government gives short shrift to defendant's impressive post-sentencing conduct, and ignores completely the other arguments made by defendant in her motion, most notably the fact the BOP has not been able to fulfill the Court's recommendation of enrolling her in the Residential Drug Abuse Program. Sentence reduced to 42-months.

 

AMENDMENT 821. The Western District of Michigan granted an 821 motion in United States v. Joseph Favorite, 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47759 (W.D. Mich. Mar. 19, 2024). The defendant plead guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 USC 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2), and was sentenced to a 120-month term. Part A of Amendment 821, which now appears in the guidelines at 4A1.1(e), limits the criminal history impact of "status points." Sentence reduced to 108-months.

 

AMENDMENT 821. The District of Colorado granted an 821 motion in United States v. Clifford Lewis, 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47388 (D. Colo. Mar 15, 2024). The Court considered the joint motion brought under 18 USC 3582(c)(2) along with the factors set out in 18 USC 3553(a) and under USSG 1B1.10, and found that: (1) the defendant's original guideline range has been lowered by Amendment 821 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines which has been made retroactive by the United States Sentencing Commission pursuant to 28 USC 994(u); (2) the defendant is eligible for relief under 18 USC 3582(c)(2) and USSG 1B1.10; and (3) the amended guideline range as reflected in the motion is correctly calculated. It was ordered the motion be granted and that the proposed amended sentence was accepted. The previously imposed sentence of 64 months was reduced to 51 months.

 

AMENDMENT 821. The District of Colorado granted an 821 motion in United States v. Robert Guerena, 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46604 (D. Colo. Mar 15, 2024). The Court considered the parties motion brought under 18 USC 3582(c)(2), along with the factors set out in 18 USC 3553(a) and under USSG 1B1.10, and found that: (1) the defendant's original guideline range has been lowered by Amendment 821 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines which has been made retroactive by the United States Sentencing Commission pursuant to 28 USC 994(u); (2) the defendant is eligible for relief under 18 USC 3582(c)(2) and USSG 1B1.10; and (3) the amended guideline range as reflected in the motion is correctly calculated. It was ordered that the motion be granted and the parties amended sentence was accepted. The previously imposed sentence of 51 months was reduced to 41 months.

 

AMENDMENT 821. The District of Colorado granted an 821 motion in United States v. Rhyan Littlejohn-Conner, 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47389 (D. Colo. Mar 15, 2024). The Court considered the parties motion brought under 18 USC 3582(c)(2), along with the factors set out in 18 USC 3553(a) and under USSG 1B1.10, and found that: (1) the defendant's original guideline range has been lowered by Amendment 821 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines which has been made retroactive by the United States Sentencing Commission pursuant to 28 USC 994(u); (2) the defendant is eligible for relief under 18 USC 3582(c)(2) and USSG 1B1.10; and (3) the amended guideline range as reflected in the motion is correctly calculated. It was ordered that the motion be granted and the parties proposed amended sentence was accepted. The previously imposed sentence of 84 months was reduced to 70 months.

 

AMENDMENT 821. The District of Colorado granted an 821 motion in United States v. Lance Lee, 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47390 (D. Colo. Mar 15, 2024). The Court considered the parties' joint motion brought under 18 USC 3582(c)(2), along with the factors set out in 18 USC 3553(a) and under USSG 1B1.10, and found that: (1) the defendant's original guideline range has been lowered by Amendment 821 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines which has been made retroactive by the United States Sentencing Commission pursuant to 28 USC 994(u); (2) the defendant is eligible for relief under 18 USC 3582(c)(2) and USSG 1B1.10; and (3) the amended guideline range as reflected in the motion is correctly calculated. It was ordered the motion be granted and the proposed amended sentence was accepted. The previously imposed sentence of 30 months was reduced to 24 months.

 

APPEAL/SENTENCE. The Fourth Circuit vacated and remanded United States v. Kelvin Jackson, 2024 U.S. App. LEXIS 6398 (4th Cir. Mar. 18, 2024). Jackson plead guilty to being a felon in possession of firearms. He challenged a special condition of his supervised release that permits warrantless searches of his property, person, and papers. The court concluded the district court’s imposition of this condition was procedurally unreasonable and it vacated the search condition and remanded for resentencing.

 

APPEAL/SENTENCE. The Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded United States v. Myron Henderson, 2024 U.S. App. LEXIS 6616 (4th Cir. Mar. 20, 2024). Henderson appealed his conviction and 110-month sentence imposed following his guilty plea to distribution of methamphetamine within 1000 feet of a protected location in violation of 21 USC 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C); 860. On appeal, Henderson’s counsel filed a brief pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738(1967), stating there were no meritorious grounds for appeal but questioning the validity of Henderson’s guilty plea and the reasonableness of his sentence. Henderson filed a pro se supplemental brief in which he disputed the district court’s drug weight calculation. The court directed the parties to file supplemental briefs addressing whether the district court adequately explained its sentencing decision including its reasons for rejecting Henderson’s argument regarding his difficult upbringing. The court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. Counsel argued Henderson experienced a difficult upbringing punctuated by his father’s absence and his mother’s struggles with mental illness and drug addiction. 18 USC 3553(a)(1) (providing that court should consider “history and characteristics of the defendant”). Counsel also submitted character letters from Henderson’s brother, daughter, and pastor, the latter of whom eloquently described the challenging environment in which Henderson grew up. Though the district court stated it had considered all of the 3553(a) factors it did not address Henderson’s arguments or explain why his difficult upbringing did not warrant a downward variance. Because nothing in the record demonstrated the court actually considered these arguments the court concluded the sentencing explanation was inadequate and Henderson’s sentence was procedurally unreasonable.

 

APPEAL/SENTENCE. The Fifth Circuit vacated and remanded for resentencing United States v. Clarence Santiago, 2024 U.S. App. LEXIS 6774 (5th Cir. Mar. 21, 2024). In a case before the Fifth Circuit Santiago appealed both his conviction and sentence related to drug trafficking and firearms charges. Santiago and his co-conspirators were selling marijuana from a hotel room when they were robbed at gunpoint by previous buyers which lead to a shootout. Santiago was apprehended and confessed to his involvement in the crime. Santiago plead guilty to four separate charges but later moved to withdraw his plea arguing that the presentence investigation report recommended he be improperly punished for attempted first-degree murder. The district court sentenced Santiago to 360 months a decision he appealed on multiple grounds. The Court of Appeals found no reversible error in Santiago's plea but held that the district court erred in calculating the guideline range for sentencing. The court noted Santiago and his co-conspirators were under threat during the shootout which may have been an act of self-defense rather than attempted murder. Given this the Court of Appeals found the district court committed clear error by applying an attempted-murder cross-reference without considering Santiago's potential self-defense. The court affirmed Santiago's conviction but vacated the sentence and remanded the case for resentencing.

 

APPEAL/SENTENCE. The Sixth Circuit vacated and remanded for resentencing United States v. Ricardo Alvarado, 2024 U.S. App. LEXIS 6410 (6th Cir. Mar. 18, 2024). Alvarado was convicted of possessing a firearm by an individual with a felony conviction under 18 USC 922(g)(1). The district court sentenced him to 104 months after applying a four-level sentencing enhancement for reckless endangerment. Alvarado appealed both the conviction and sentence. He argued that his conviction violates the Second Amendment under the standard articulated in New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Bruen, 597 U.S. 1 (2022), an issue he raised for the first time on appeal, and the evidence did not support a sentencing enhancement for reckless endangerment. The court affirmed Alvarado’s conviction but vacated his sentence and remanded for resentencing. Tennessee courts and the Sixth Circuit have reversed reckless endangerment determinations unsupported by evidence the defendant’s gunfire placed a bystander in the zone of danger. A violation of Tennessee’s reckless endangerment statute accrues when—and only when—the defendant’s reckless conduct places a member of the public in the zone of danger. Absent a finding that an identifiable bystander was in fact subject to a reasonable probability of death or serious bodily injury a violation cannot attach. The court vacated Alvarado’s sentence and remanded for resentencing without the reckless endangerment enhancement.

 

APPEAL/SPECIAL ASSESSMENT. The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded United States v. Jason Wesely, 2024 U.S. App. LEXIS 6587 (8th Cir. Mar. 20, 2024). The Eighth Circuit reviewed two cases where the district courts did not impose a $5,000 special assessment fee mandated by the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act on defendants Jason Wesely and Jesus Diaz-Figueroa. The Act stipulates that non-indigent individuals convicted of sexual exploitation of a child must pay this fee but both defendants were deemed indigent. The Court of Appeals assessed the financial situations of both defendants. In Wesely's case the court upheld the original decision and concluded the district court did not err in recognizing Wesely's indigence. At the time of sentencing Wesely had minimal assets and was facing uncertain future income largely due to prison time and potential suspension of his military disability benefits. In contrast the appellate court reversed and remanded the district court's decision regarding Diaz-Figueroa. At the time of sentencing, Diaz-Figueroa had a net worth of approximately $120,000 even when accounting for court-ordered restitution. Given his positive net worth the Court of Appeals concluded the district court's finding of Diaz-Figueroa's indigence was clearly erroneous. Thus, the court concluded that Diaz-Figueroa was not indigent and should have been required to pay the $5,000 special assessment.

 

APPEAL/1983/PEPPER SPRAYED. The Eleventh Circuit vacated and remanded Benjamin Boston v. Haralson County Jail, 2024 U.S. App. LEXIS 6405 (11th Cir. Mar. 18, 2024). Boston is a pro se prisoner who appealed the district court’s sua sponte dismissal without prejudice of his complaint against jail officials for failure to comply with the court’s orders and for failure to prosecute. Also he appealed the district court’s denial of his motion for reconsideration of that dismissal order. Boston filed suit under 42 USC 1983 against three jail officials and the Haralson County Jail on July 1, 2021. He alleged while an inmate at the Jail in Georgia, Officers John Doe, Jane Doe, and Sergeant Gates tazed him six times and pepper sprayed him even though he was compliant and handcuffed behind his back. Boston asserted violations of the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. On July 20, 2021, the magistrate judge granted Boston leave to proceed in forma pauperis and ordered him to file an amended complaint containing the addresses of all defendants or other identifying information for them such as physical characteristics. On Aug. 11, 2021, Boston amended his complaint and identified the defendants as Sgt. Gates, a Black woman; Officer John Doe, a white man; and Officer Jane Doe, a white woman. All were employed at the Jail. In October of 2021, the district court dismissed the Eighth Amendment claims and the claims against the Jail but allowed the excessive force claims under the Fourteenth Amendment to proceed against the officers. As to the two officers that Boston named fictitiously the district court reasoned Boston could uncover their names through discovery. The district court dismissed Boston’s second amended complaint and in that pleading Boston had named three officers who worked at the Jail. Two of them—Officers Goodman and Savage—were defendants who had previously been named as Officers Jane Doe and John Doe. Even if the dismissal might have been appropriate as to Sgt. Gates, it is unclear as to why the entire second amended complaint should have been dismissed when the Doe defendants were identified by name. Vacated and remanded.

 

APPEAL/1983/DELIBERATE INDIFFERENCE. The Fourth Circuit vacated and remanded Daniel Phoenix v. Amonette, 2024 U.S. App. LEXIS 6397 (4th Cir. Mar. 18, 2024). The Fourth Circuit addressed a case where an inmate with celiac disease sued a doctor for depriving him of a gluten-free diet. The district court granted summary judgment to the doctor because the plaintiff did not have an expert witness to testify about the standard treatment for celiac disease or the causal link between the doctor’s conduct and the plaintiff’s alleged harm. The appeals court held that no expert testimony was needed to avoid summary judgment in this case. The court found the plaintiff had presented sufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute of material fact about the doctor's knowledge of his celiac disease and the excessive risk it posed by failing to respond reasonably even without an expert. The court also clarified that expert testimony is not necessary to establish an Eighth Amendment claim of deliberate indifference. The court held that while determining whether medical professionals responded reasonably to a particular risk can involve an examination of the relevant standard of care, the fact that expert testimony may be necessary in some cases does not mean it was in this one. The court vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings.

 

APPEAL/IMMIGRATION/DETENTION. The Second Circuit reversed and remanded United States v. Saba Rosario Ventura, 2024 U.S. App. LEXIS 6831 (2d Cir. Mar. 22, 2024). The case in question involves Saba Rosario Ventura who was initially detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement after the district court ordered his release on bail pending his criminal trial. The district court later dismissed the indictment against Ventura arguing that ICE had detained him in bad faith aiming to circumvent the bail order. The case was appealed to the Second Circuit which previously remanded the case to the district court to clarify whether it had found that ICE's detention of Ventura was a direct violation of a federal court order releasing him under the Bail Reform Act. On remand the district court reasserted its claim that ICE's detention of Ventura was pretextual and in bad faith not for removal but to detain him pending his criminal trial. However, the Court of Appeals disagree with the finding no substantial evidence to support the district court's assertion. The Court of Appeals noted the district court's finding were based on legal arguments rather than factual evidence. It also noted even if ICE disagreed with the district court's assessment of Ventura's risk of flight it was not enough to prove that ICE's detention was pretextual. The Court of Appeals ultimately reversed the district court's orders concluding the finding of ICE's pretextual and bad faith detention of Ventura was clearly erroneous given the lack of factual evidence.

 

APPEAL/1983/ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES. The Sixth Circuit vacated and remanded Kyle Richards v. Perttu, 2024 U.S. App. LEXIS 6506 (6th Cir. Mar. 19, 2024). Richards appealed the district court's decision to dismiss his civil rights suit under 42 USC 1983. The lawsuit was dismissed because Richards reportedly failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. The plaintiff alleged sexual harassment, retaliation, and destruction of property by Resident Unit Manager Thomas Perttu. Specifically, Richards claimed Perttu prevented him from filing grievances related to the alleged abuse by destroying or ripping them up. Perttu moved for summary judgment arguing Richards had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 USC 1997e(a). The district court denied the motion due to questions of fact. After an evidentiary hearing a magistrate judge recommended the district court find that Richards had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Richards appealed alleging errors by the district court, bias by the magistrate judge, and the need for a free transcript of the evidentiary hearing. The Sixth Circuit addressed whether the district court should have ordered an evidentiary hearing to decide the disputed questions of fact intertwined with the exhaustion issue. The Court of Appeals found that the Seventh Amendment requires a jury trial when the resolution of the exhaustion issue under the PLRA would also resolve a genuine dispute of material fact regarding the merits of the plaintiff’s substantive case. Therefore, the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded the case for further proceedings.

 

APPEAL/1983/RELIGIOUS DIET. The Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded Ricky Pendleton v. Jividen, 2024 U.S. App. LEXIS 6624 (4th Cir. Mar. 20, 2024). Pendleton is an inmate in the West Virginia prison system who follows the "Sufi Original Traditions" of Islam. His religious beliefs require a diet that promotes "compassion and harmlessness to living creatures," which he interprets to mean a diet of "vegetables, fruits and certain fish." In 2014, prison officials introduced a new diet program for those with religious dietary restrictions. However, the program only offered one "religious special diet" designed to meet the needs of all faiths by following the rules of the most diet-restrictive ones. This diet uses soy as its primary protein source, which Pendleton's body had problems digesting. Pendleton requested a religious accommodation, but this request was denied. He filed two grievances, which were also denied. Pendleton then filed a pro se complaint against three prison officials. The district court dismissed Pendleton’s complaint by concluding he had not adequately alleged he was being forced to consume any foods forbidden by his religion. The Fourth Circuit vacated and remanded the district court's judgment. The court held Pendleton had plausibly alleged that prison officials imposed a substantial burden on his religious practice by forcing him to choose between a Government-provided benefit (the diet) and his religious convictions. The court also rejected the argument Pendleton could obtain a meat-free and soy-free diet by obtaining test results showing he has a medically significant allergy to soy. The court concluded Pendleton need not produce documentation of his alleged soy allergy to survive a motion to dismiss. Instead, it was enough that he had plausibly alleged he cannot digest soy and he suffered gastrointestinal distress after switching to the religious special diet. The court also held that Pendleton’s Free Exercise Clause claim and his motion to be severed from the prison’s diet program should be reconsidered by the district court.

 

APPEAL/1983. The Third Circuit remanded Troy Moore v. Walton, 2024 U.S. App. LEXIS 6713 (3d Cir. Mar. 21, 2024). In a case before the Third Circuit Moore who is a prisoner sued Correctional Officer Saajida Walton under 42 USC 1983 alleging she violated his Eighth Amendment rights. The claim was based on an incident where a toilet in Moore’s prison cell exploded and Walton refused to let him out of his cell to clean up for over eight hours. Moore originally filed the complaint under a misspelled version of Walton’s name. The correct spelling was not provided until after the statute of limitations for his claim had expired. The district court granted summary judgment to Walton based on the statute of limitations. The Circuit Court held the district court misapplied the relation back analysis under Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 15(c)(1)(C) by failing to consider the period for service provided by Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 4(m). It held Rule 15(c)(1)(C)’s reference to “the period provided by Rule 4(m)” includes any extensions for service granted under Rule 4(m) for good cause. The case was remanded to the district court to determine whether Walton received notice of the action by a certain date and, if so, whether Moore could demonstrate the absence of prejudice—the final element necessary to satisfy the relation back inquiry. If all these conditions were met the district court would then need to consider the merits of Moore’s Eighth Amendment claim.

 

APPEAL/1983/EIGHTH AMENDMENT. The Fifth Circuit vacated and remanded Michael Garrett v. Lumpkin, 2024 U.S. App. LEXIS _____ No. 22-40754 (5th Cir. Mar. 22, 2024). The case involves Michael Garrett a prisoner in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system for over thirty years who contended the prison's schedule allows him only three and a half hours of sleep per night with a maximum of two and a half hours of continuous sleep. According to Garrett this sleep deprivation constitutes a violation of the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. He sued the Department after his complaints were ignored by prison officials. The Southern District of Texas dismissed Garrett's claim reasoning he failed to demonstrate a direct causal relationship between his health issues and his sleep deprivation. The court also held the prison officials actions did not constitute deliberate indifference as the schedule was based on legitimate penological purposes. Upon appeal, the Fifth Circuit found the district court had applied incorrect legal standards. The appellate court held that to establish a violation of the Eighth Amendment a prisoner need only show a substantial risk of serious harm not actual harm. Furthermore, the court clarified that the prison’s penological purpose has no bearing on whether an inmate has shown “deliberate indifference” for purposes of an Eighth Amendment claim. The case was vacated and remanded to the district court to apply the correct legal standards.

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