Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, January 14, 2019


Page 1


Ninth Circuit:

Baca Not Liable for Prisoner Being Denied Bed in Jail

Callaghan Says Jail Disturbances in 2006 Created Exigent Circumstances


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday affirmed summary judgment in favor of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy D. Baca in a civil rights action brought by a man who, because of inmate disturbances, was held for three-and-a-half days stay at the Los Angeles Inmate Reception Center following his arrest, during which time he was not provided with a bed.

The opinion, by Circuit Judge Consuelo M. Callahan, affirms a judgment of District Court Judge John F. Walter of the Central District of California.

Plaintiff Maurice P. Olivier was arrested on July 12, 2006, by a Los Angeles deputy sheriff on suspicion of burglary. For three nights, he had to sleep on the floor.

He sued Baca, asserting that the then-sheriff violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process.

Callaghan recited that during the period when Oliver was denied a bed, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (“LASD”) “addressed a nearly uninterrupted series of riots and civil disturbances involving hundreds of inmates” and prisoners were not being transported.

Eighth Amendment Cases

She wrote:

“In the context of disturbances by inmates and lockdowns, we have held that such issues can delay detention facility procedures and temporarily restrict certain rights without violating the Eighth Amendment.”

The jurist went on to say:

“Here, LASD was well within the scope of its authority to maintain security when it carried out the lockdowns that delayed Olivier’s transfer to permanent housing, resulting in three-and-a-half days without a bed. The evidence is uncontroverted that, over this period of time, LASD was confronted with emergencies that threatened the safety and security of its facilities. It is also clear that the jail officials’ response to the security threats was reasonable in its scope and effective in controlling the disturbances….Indeed, Olivier was promptly transferred to permanent housing after the disturbances had been controlled.”

Even if Oliver’s Fourth Amendment rights were breached, Callaghan added, “the district court correctly held that Baca is entitled to  qualified immunity because the right asserted by Olivier—not  being   forced   to  sleep   on   the   floor  during  a jail lockdown—was not clearly established at the time of the events.”

Oral Argument

Oral argument was held in the case on Aug. 10 in Pasadena. Representing Olivier was Christopher R. Lim of the Los Angeles firm of Los Feliz Law, who told the judges:

“I’m trying to argue that if you look at the evidence that Mr. Baca presented to the District Court, there are inferences that the court could have made from the same evidence. So, in particular, the court could have concluded that inmate disturbances were not the exceptional case, but the norm. Right?

“Some the evidence that Mr. Baca presented to the court was simply that there had been a certain number of inmate disturbances in a certain amount of time, but the court was not given any further evidence like the general state of affairs in the county jail.”

District Court Judge David A. Ezra District of the District of Hawaii, sitting by designation, asked Lim if he was asserting that jail overcrowding was being used as a “pretext to put these people on the floor and keep them there in order to punish them” or that the supposed exigent circumstances were actually the norm.

“We don’t know,” the lawyer said which is why, he contended, “there’s a triable issue here.”

Callaghan advised:

“You can’t make a triable issue because you need to know something. That’s not the standard for summary judgment.”

Poses Question

She queried of the lawyer what evidence there was that there were “not exigent circumstances.” He said there was “no evidence” that the situation “is the normal state of affairs or is not the normal state of affairs.”

Glendale attorney Johnathan Magno, representing Baca, said there was no evidence that a county-wide lockdown, at  multiple facilities, “was a common occurrence.”

He said jail overcrowding had nothing to do with Olivier being denied a bed. “But for the exigent circumstances,” he said, he would have been transported to a facility where a bed would have been provided.

The case is Oliver v. Baca, 13-56371.


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