This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota, Department of Corrections, et al.,
Dr. Virginia Mandac, et al.,
Filed June 12, 2007
Toussaint, Chief Judge
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Marsha Eldot Devine, Assistant Attorney General, 1100 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2128 (for appellants)
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge
Because appellants, in their official capacities, are immune from section 1983 claims for monetary damages, we reverse in part. Because appellants, in their individual capacities, are not immune from respondent’s section 1983 claims except for his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment claims, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand. Because appellants, in their official capacities, are not immune from section 1983 claims for injunctive relief, we affirm in part. Because appellants do not have official immunity, we affirm in part.
argue that respondent cannot maintain an action for monetary damages against
them in their official capacities. We
agree. Issues of statutory
interpretation are reviewed de novo.
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.
42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2000).
“[N]either a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities
are ‘persons’ under § 1983.” Will v.
argues that appellants, in their individual capacities, are liable for monetary
damages under section 1983 for violating his rights under the First, Fifth,
Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments.
Appellants argue that qualified immunity bars respondent’s section 1983
claims against them in their individual capacities. “[S]tate officials sued in their individual
capacities . . . are ‘persons’ within the meaning of § 1983.” Hafer v. Meb, 502
denying summary judgment on immunity grounds is immediately appealable.” Mumm v.
Mornson, 708 N.W.2d 475, 481 (
immunity shields government officials from civil liability if ‘their conduct
does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of
which a reasonable person would have known.’”
A. Failure to Protect
“[A] prison official violates the
Eighth Amendment only when two conditions are met. Farmer
v. Brennan, 511
The alleged deprivation here is appellants’
refusal to provide for respondent’s general safety. Respondent has been targeted by prison gangs
and subjected to extortion and assaults.
Respondent is forced either to live in solitude, where he is still not
safe, or to live in the general prison population, where he is subject to
assault and extortion. Viewed in the
light most favorable to respondent, see Mumm, 708 N.W.2d at 481, appellants’
alleged disregard for respondent’s safety denies respondent “the minimal civilized
measure of life’s necessities.” Farmer, 511
Respondent’s numerous altercations with prison gangs, along with his written and verbal requests to be relocated, indicate a substantial risk of harm. Furthermore, respondent notified the corrections officers of this risk of harm. While the state argues that corrections officers cannot know when assaults on an inmate will occur, in this case, there is an alleged pattern of threats and assaults. A prison official may not
escape liability for deliberate indifference by showing that, while he was aware of an obvious, substantial risk to inmate safety, he did not know that the complainant was especially likely to be assaulted by the specific prisoner who eventually committed the assault. The question under the Eighth Amendment is whether prison officials, acting with deliberate indifference, exposed a prisoner to a sufficiently substantial risk of serious damage to his future health, . . . and it does not matter whether the risk comes from a single source or multiple sources, any more than it matters whether a prisoner faces an excessive risk of attack for reasons personal to him or because all prisoners in his situation face such a risk.
The second prong is that “the law
regarding the right allegedly violated ‘was clearly established.’” Mumm,
708 N.W.2d at 483. Although the
Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons, “[b]eing violently assaulted
in prison is simply not part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay for their
offenses against society.” Farmer,
511 U.S. at 832, 834, 114 S. Ct. at 1976, 1977 (quotations and citations
omitted) “The [Eighth] Amendment imposes
duties on [prison] officials, who must provide humane conditions of
confinement; prison officials must ensure that inmates receive adequate food,
clothing, shelter, and medical care, and must take reasonable measures to
guarantee the safety of the inmates.”
B. Failure to Provide Medical Care
Appellants also argue that they
are immune from respondent’s Eighth Amendment claim for failure to provide
medical care. The government is obligated
“to provide medical care for those whom it is punishing by incarceration.” Estelle
v. Gamble, 429
The parties agree that respondent’s eye injury is objectively serious. The remaining question is whether appellants acted with deliberate indifference to respondent’s medical needs. The only indifference respondent claims is appellants’ decision not to let him have an MRI. The facts indicate that respondent’s treating doctor recommended an MRI but another doctor felt an MRI was unnecessary and would not authorize the test. Based on respondent’s allegation that appellants denied him medical treatment recommended by his physician, appellants’ actions rise to the level of deliberate indifference. Because respondent’s injury was objectively serious and he raises a genuine issue of material fact regarding appellants’ alleged deliberate indifference, summary judgment is not appropriate on this claim.
C. Sixth Amendment Claim
argue that they are immune from respondent’s Sixth Amendment claims. To establish a Sixth Amendment violation, an
inmate must show that some deficiency actually hindered the inmate’s efforts to
pursue a legal claim. Lewis v. Casey, 518
D. First Amendment Claim
Respondent also asserts that appellants have violated his First Amendment rights because they retaliated against him for filing this action. Respondent alleges that, shortly after he initiated this action against appellants, they confiscated his legal paper work and prevented him from contacting his attorney. To prevail on a retaliatory-discipline claim, appellants need to show only that there was “some evidence” supporting their decision to discipline respondent, and, if the contested discipline was imposed for an actual violation of prison rules, the retaliatory discipline claim must fail. Goff v. Burton, 91 F.3d 1188, 1191 (8th Cir. 1996); see also Cornell v. Woods, 69 F.3d 1383, 1389 (8th Cir. 1995).
Appellants have not indicated what evidence, if any, indicates that the alleged seizure of respondent’s legal documents was related to violations of prison rules, and neither respondent nor the district court directly addressed this issue. We, therefore, remand this issue to the district court for further consideration, noting that, if the seizure was related to a rule infraction, summary judgment would be appropriate.
E. Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment Claims
Respondent’s Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment claims regarding equal protection and due process fail because none of the deprivations respondent has suffered depart significantly from the ordinary incidents of prison life and he is not part of a recognized suspect class. See Moorman v. Thalacker, 83 F.3d 970, 972 (8th Cir. 1996) (due process); see also Rouse v. Benson, 193 F.3d 939, 942 (8th Cir. 1999) (stating “in prison cases, courts will ordinarily defer to the expert judgment of prison authorities, due to the difficulty of running a prison and the commitment of the task to the responsibility of the legislative and executive branches”).
Because respondent has failed to demonstrate constitutional violations on his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment claims, the first prong of the qualified-immunity analysis requiring a constitutional violation is not met, and appellants are immune.
argues that he is entitled to injunctive relief. “Of course a state official in his or her
official capacity, when sued for injunctive relief, would be a person under §
1983 because official capacity actions for prospective relief are not treated
as actions against the State.” Will,
argue that common-law immunity bars respondent’s negligence claim. A party may appeal immediately from an order
that denies official immunity.
The question of whether official
immunity exists may be appropriately resolved on summary judgment. See
is a common-law doctrine that provides that “a public official charged by law
with duties which call for the exercise of his judgment or discretion is not
personally liable to an individual for damages unless he is guilty of a willful
or malicious wrong.” Elwood, 423 N.W.2dat 677(quoting Susla v. State, 311
When a party
alleges that an official is not entitled to official immunity because the
official acted maliciously or willfully, this court “must determine whether a
genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether [the official’s] actions
could constitute a willful or malicious wrong.”
Rico v. State, 472 N.W.2d 100,
(1) that the conduct was ‘objectively’ legally reasonable, that is, legally justified under the circumstances; (2) that the conduct was ‘subjectively’ reasonable, that is, taken with subjective good faith; or (3) that the right allegedly violated was not clearly established, that is, that there was no basis for knowing the conduct would violate the plaintiff’s rights.
The prison officials’ alleged conduct rises to the level of deliberate indifference and violates the Eighth Amendment; therefore, their conduct was neither objectively reasonable or subjectively reasonable. In addition, the right that the officials allegedly violated was clearly established. Respondent has raised a genuine issue of material fact regarding the issue of malice; therefore, appellants are not immune.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
 Pursuant to the district court’s protective order dated March 31, 2005, many of the documents and facts of this case have been sealed and are confidential.