Georgia County Government - May/June 2011 - (Page 39)

Legal Deliberate Indifference to a Serious Medical Need: Inmate Claims under § 1983 By Shaun M. Daugherty A person sitting in a jail cell has an abundance of time — time to read such works as the Prisoners’ Self Help Litigation Manual, The United States Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual or Constitutional Rights of Prisoners. These books outline a number of areas where an ambitious inmate could find what he or she believes to be a Constitutional violation of his or her rights. This article focuses on the right to medical care for the incarcerated. I n 1976, the United States Supreme Court issued the landmark decision in Estelle v. Gamble regarding the rights of incarcerated persons related to receive health care.1 The Court held that deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners was a violation of Eighth Amendment rights to be free of unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain. This includes both pre-trial and convicted detainees.2 Indifference can be proven in a number of ways, including the failure to provide care, unreasonable delay in access to care or interference with treatment once prescribed. Claims for deliberate indifference can be brought against prison doctors, prison guards and supervising officials. If evidence of deliberate indifference can be shown, a prisoner can recover civil damages and attorney fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Hundreds of cases were filed in Georgia federal courts in 2010 against counties and individuals alleging violations of prisoners’ civil rights, including claims for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. The vast majority of these cases are filed by the inmate without the assistance of legal counsel. The claims for deliberate indifference ranged from simple issues such as failing to provide reusable toothbrushes to substantial issues such as permanent injury or death of an inmate. Suits that are brought by individuals that are still incarcerated can only be pursued after the exhaustion of the available administrative remedies, such as the grievance process.3 Failure to do so should lead to early dismissal of the lawsuit if sought by the defending attorney. Filing a case in federal court generally costs more than an inmate has readily available. Typically, the inmate filing the complaint will seek to proceed in forma pauperis, meaning they do not have the money and ask for a “waiver” of the need to pay the filing fees. The courts will generally grant leave to file the compliant without immediate payment of the initial filing fee (now $350) unless there are obvious monetary means available to the inmate. However, most courts will require payment of the filing fee as funds are deposited in the inmate’s account. If the court grants leave to proceed, the case is taken to the next step, judicial review. Luckily, federal law requires that an initial screening be conducted by the federal court of any prisoner complaint that is against a governmental entity, employee or official to determine whether the action is: 1) frivolous or malicious; 2) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or 3) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.4 The basis of all non-frivolous factual allegations are presumed to be truthful and are viewed favorably for the inmate during this evaluation.5 DELIBERATE continued on page 40 MAY/JUNE 2011 39

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia County Government - May/June 2011

Georgia County Government - May/June 2011
Table of Contents
President’s Message
Director’s Desk
Oconee County: Growth Driven by Quality of Life and Strong Schools
ACCG Annual Meeting Highlights
ACCG and Gas South Affinity Program Saves You Money on Natural Gas
GCIP Interns Help Map the Future for Bartow County
Georgia Geospatial Advisory Council Advises Use of GIS
Douglas County Incorporates Sustainable Design into Plans for the New Adult Detention and Law Enforcement Center
Deliberate Indifference to a Serious Medical Need: Inmate Claims under § 1983
News & Notes
Index of Advertisers

Georgia County Government - May/June 2011