Supreme Court Justices Offer Doubts on Legal Case of Prisoner
A federal lawsuit filed by an inmate against workers at the privately-run California prison, where he suffered injuries in an accident seemed unlikely to sway Supreme Court justices.
In a case that have been closely monitored by the country’s thriving private prison industry, justices appear skeptical about expanding the right of inmates to sue in federal court. The justices suggested that if prisoners have problems, state courts should suffice.
Justice Antonin Scalia said, “Our law is clear. If there is an adequate remedy, we don’t invent one.”
Moreover, the skepticism of the court spanned the typical ideological divide during the oral argument, which lasted for an hour, as conservative and liberal justices repeated some of the same points.
Justice Elena Kagan, for her part, told John Preis, a University of Richmond law professor and the attorney of the inmate, “If the true appropriate remedy, and the better remedy from your client’s point of view, is a state law action, we should just say bring a state law (complaint).”
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. drove the point home when he told Preis that a state lawsuit could “work equally as well, or perhaps more effectively” than a federal remedy.
Preis is acting on behalf of Richard Lee Pollard, a prison inmate who suffered injuries in 2001 while confined at the privately-run Taft Correctional Institution. The arms of Pollard were hurt in a butcher shop accident but he claims that mistreatment aggravated the damage.
“After he suffered his injuries, he was put back on his work detail before his injuries were healed,” said Preis. “He was also immediately after being injured … forced to wear particular handcuffs that pushed his arms in a way that would cause extraordinary pain and was unnecessary.”