U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court to Rule on Delayed Summary Judgment Appeal in Prisoner Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether two prison officials may wait to appeal a denial of summary judgment until after a jury verdict that found them liable for $625,000 in an inmate’s civil rights lawsuit.

Lawyers for inmate Michelle Ortiz argue the officials should not be allowed to wait until after trial to appeal an adverse summary judgment ruling, according to the Associated Press and SCOTUSblog. Ortiz had claimed one of the officials did nothing after she complained of threats by a male guard who later sexually assaulted her, according to the cert petition (PDF posted by SCOTUSblog). Another official placed Ortiz in solitary confinement for complaining about the assaults, the prisoner alleged in the suit.

The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the $625,000 judgment in a 2-1 ruling that found the officials were shielded by immunity, according to the stories. Dissenting Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey said she viewed the case as a “legal travesty,” given the difficulties inherent in persuading a jury that a prisoner’s civil rights have been violated. (Daughtrey is a former member of the ABA Journal Board of Editors.)

The case is Ortiz v. Jordan.

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