Jail Officials Learn the Hard Way - They Can (and Will) be Sued for Violating Prisoners' Civil Rights

January 25, 2013
By Parker Scheer LLP on January 25, 2013 10:52 AM |

Enoh Johnson filed a pro se complaint against the Plymouth County Sheriff for alleged violations of his civil rights that occurred when he was detained at the Plymouth Correctional Facility. Johnson sought monetary damages, and requested appointment of counsel as well as a copy of his medical records.

Plaintiff's Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of Fees was granted in June 2012. At this time the District Court also informed Johnson of the pleading deficiencies in his original complaint - that though he alleged he was injured by the actions of one or more correctional officers, none of these individuals were named in the complaint. Further, though the Plymouth County Sheriff was the named defendant in the complaint, the complaint made no allegations that the Sheriff was personally involved in any of the incidents described in the complaint.

Plaintiff then filed an amended complaint adding Superintendent Norton and Social Worker Smethurst as defendants.

After a preliminary screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1915(e), the District Court held that the amended complaint could be served on defendants Norton and Smethurst. However, due to the insufficiency of the allegations against the Sheriff, the claims against him were dismissed.

The Court also denied Johnson the right to counsel. A civil plaintiff lacks a constitutional right to free counsel unless the plaintiff is indigent and exceptional circumstances exist such that denial of counsel will result in fundamental unfairness impinging on the party's due process rights. Desrosiers v. Moran, 949 F.2d 15, 23 (1st Cir. 1991). No exceptional circumstances warranting the appointment of counsel exist at this time.

In regards to the plaintiff's request for his medical records, the Court advised him to first request the records by letter. If the medical records were not forthcoming, he could formally request the documents through a subpoena.

If you or a family member has been charged with criminal activity, please contact Parker | Scheer LLP for a free consultation with one of our experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers.