Friday, January 20, 2017

Unpublished Decisions

U.S. v. Lee, 650 F. App'x 948 (6/1/16) (N.M.) (unpub'd) - The 10th finds the district court did not commit plain error by considering the § 3553(a)(2)(A) factors in determining what sentence to impose for a supervised release violation. Those factors---the need for the sentence to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law and to provide just punishment---are omitted from the factors a district court is supposed to consider in determining a supervised release revocation sentence. See 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e). The 10th notes that several circuits have ruled that consideration of § 3553(a)(2)(A) factors does not automatically render a revocation sentence procedurally unreasonable. but placing undue weight on those factors or treating them as dominant factors may constitute reversible error. Nonetheless, since neither the 10th nor the Supremes have ruled on the matter, even if the court had primarily relied on § 3553(a)(2)A) factors, any error would not be plain, the 10th says. And the 10th doesn't find the language of § 3583(e) clear enough for plain error. The 10th acknowledges the omission of the factors from § 3583(e) must mean something. But § 3583(e) doesn't say the listed factors are the only factors district courts may consider. So maybe the omission just means § 3553(a)(2)(A) factors may not be the predominant factors, the 10th suggests.

Wright v. Collison, 2016 WL 3212489 (6/2/16) (Okl.) (unpub'd) - Some good news for a § 1983 inmate-plaintiff. The 10th affirms the district court's refusal to award qualified immunity to two jail officers. Inmates who were in a particular cell warned the officers that if they put Mr. Wright in their cell they would hurt Mr. Wright. The officers asked the inmates to give them 5 minutes to find another cell for Mr. Wright. One of the inmates responded that 5 minutes wouldn't work. Nonetheless, the officers put Mr. Wright in the cell. Less than a minute later the officers heard a commotion and found Mr. Wright on the floor with an injured face. It is clearly established that prison authorities have a constitutional obligation to protect a prisoner who has been plausibly threatened with serious harm by other inmates. A jury could believe the threat was plausible and the officers reckless for putting Mr. Wright in the cell, the 10th concludes.
Mr. Wright's suit against the sheriff did not fare so well. While the sheriff was aware the jail was overcrowded, inmate-on-inmate violence at the jail was rare and did not increase appreciably with overcrowding. It was not clearly established, the 10th rules, that a sheriff was constitutionally obliged to reduce overcrowding by any of the measures Mr. Wright suggested, e.g., asking other counties to take prisoners, releasing inmates early, reducing their bonds or using ankle monitor bracelets instead of jail. So the sheriff gets qualified immunity.