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Minneci v. Pollard

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: November 1, 2011
Case #: 10-1104
9th Circuit Court of Appeals (607 F.3d 583, 2010)
Full Text Opinion: http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/9th-Circuit-Minneci.pdf

Constitutional Law: Bivens Actions: Whether a federal inmate who has adequate remedies under state law may bring a Bivens action against employees of a private corrections company that contracts with the federal government for prison services.

Respondent had a contract with the federal government to operate a federal prison in which Petitioner was detained. Petitioner suffered injury in prison from a work-related incident. During transit to an outside clinic, Petitioner was forced to don a jumpsuit by a guard, which caused him excruciating pain, made to wear restraints regardless of Petitioner's complaints of pain, and did not follow the instructions of the Petitioner's doctor, amongst other complaints surrounding Petitioner's treatment by prison staff during the period of injury.

Petitioner filed a pro so complaint in district court alleging violation of his Eighth Amendment rights and seeking damages under Bivens. The trial court found that Petitioner could not proceed under Bivens because state law provided him with alternative remedies under the theories of negligence or malpractice and that the employees at the prison did not act under color of federal law. Petitioner appealed and the court of appeals reversed, finding that the employees, as federally contracted employees of a federal prison do act under color of federal law for purposes of Bivens liability and that the availability of a state tort remedy does not foreclose the Petitioner's ability to seek redress under Bivens. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to settle a circuit split on the issue.

Petitioner argues that a federal prisoner may bring a Bivens action for violation of Eighth Amendment rights by prison personnel contracted by the federal government to operate federal prisons as such people are then acting under color of federal law. Respondents argue that Petitioner should not be able to bring an implied Bivens action against the employees because the injuries are redressable under state tort law.