Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Ninth Circuit Revives Suit By Victim of Los Angeles County Jail Beating
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A man now serving a life-without-parole sentence in state prison is entitled to a new trial in his suit against Los Angeles County over a beating he received at the county jail in 1999, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.
Salvador Solis contends that he was placed in the jail’s “gang module” after he refused to become an informant for the Sheriff’s Department’s “Operation Safe Jail.”
U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner granted summary judgment in favor of the county, saying Solis failed to prove the existence of an alleged policy of retaliating against inmates who refuse to “snitch.”
The judge allowed the self-represented plaintiff to proceed to a bench trial by videotaped deposition on his claim against a single jailer who allegedly made the decision to place him in the gang module despite knowing that he would be endangered because he is a former member of the Mexican Mafia.
Klausner ruled in favor of the jailer, Miguel Beltran, who denied ever having come into contact with Solis.
But Judge Stephen Reinhardt, writing for the Ninth Circuit, said that Klausner erred in granting summary judgment on inadequate notice, denying Solis a jury trial despite timely demand, and failing to explain why the plaintiff’s request for appointment of counsel was denied.
The Ninth Circuit appointed Michael H. Dore, Leila C. Orr, and Mark E. Weber of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to represent Solis on appeal, pro bono. Ali Reza Sabouri of the Office of the County Counsel represented the defendants.
When a prisoner sues in pro per, Reinhardt wrote, it is essential that where a motion for summary judgment is brought, either the court or counsel for the moving party notify the plaintiff as to what he or she must do in order to respond, and of the potential consequences in the event the motion is granted.
Solis, the appellate jurist noted, was given no notice that his failure to submit evidence in response to the summary judgment motion would result in his losing the case.
With respect to the jury demand, Reinhardt explained, Klausner plainly erred in ruling that a timely demand had not been made, because the complaint clearly stated that Solis was asking for a jury trial. Nor could a jury trial guaranteed by the Seventh Amendment and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure be denied as a sanction for failing to file proposed jury instructions and verdict forms, Reinhardt wrote.
Senior Judge Dorothy W. Nelson and Judge Pamela Ann Rymer joined in the opinion.
The case is Solis v. County of Los Angeles 05-56637.
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