Qualified Immunity

An Inmate Allegedly 'Leaking Blood All Over' Was Denied Medical Treatment for Hours. The Prison Guard Gets Qualified Immunity

The legal doctrine continues to render juries irrelevant.

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A prison guard who opted not to ensure prompt medical care for an inmate with a broken hand and a partially severed tendon is entitled to qualified immunity and thus cannot be sued over the incident, a federal court ruled last week.

The doctrine of qualified immunity requires that, in order to hold certain government actors accountable in civil court, plaintiffs must furnish a prior court ruling where the exact misbehavior they're alleging has already been explicitly ruled unconstitutional. If they're not able to do so, state officials—from cops to prison guards to college administrators—are sometimes able to violate your constitutional rights without any recourse.

It's a standard that requires a devotion to myopic detail. Here, there were a few factors distinguishing the allegations from prior court decisions, including the location of the injury and the amount of blood shed.

In October 2014, Charles Wade, then an inmate at United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, injured his hand and was escorted on a 10-minute walk from the kitchen to a holding cell by Captain Gordon Lewis. Wade says that over the course of that walk, he was "leaking blood all over" and left "a path of blood," but that his requests to go to the infirmary were ignored. He would stay in the holding cell for several hours before receiving any attention from a prison nurse. His injuries eventually worsened: Though he put in a request for help after his hand began to swell, staff did not tend to him until a day later when he flagged an officer and told a nurse his pain was registering as a ten out of ten. He ultimately required hospital treatment outside the prison.

In awarding Lewis qualified immunity, the 11th Circuit made a few distinctions from previous case law. "In [a prior ruling], the plaintiff suffered an injury to his head," wrote Judge Elizabeth L. Branch, "whereas here, Wade suffered an injury to his hand." She also noted that "the quantity of blood is different," because the defendant in a previous case had "blood soaked [on] his clothing [and] pooled on the floor." Also different is the location of the plaintiff: Wade was in a holding cell, sitting three feet from the infirmary, whereas the plaintiff in the preexisting precedent was in a hospital.

"On the one hand, this seems to be a pretty garden-variety application of qualified immunity," says Clark Neily, vice president for legal studies at the Cato Institute. "On the other hand, it underscores one of the most pernicious aspects of the qualified immunity defense, which is to take cases where reasonable people may plausibly disagree about the culpability of the government defendant and ensure that those disagreements are resolved not by ordinary citizens sitting as a jury—the way the Constitution, the Founders, and centuries of Anglo-American common law provide—but instead by a bunch of government employees who are disproportionately drawn from the ranks of prosecutors and other courtroom advocates for government."

But whether or not Lewis violated Wade's rights is still a matter of debate, and it will unfortunately remain that way, as the 11th Circuit chose not to make a ruling on it for subsequent defendants. We're told that victims of government abuse need to find the perfect court decision to hold the state accountable, yet the federal courts often decline to set those very precedents.

It's "entirely possible" that damages weren't appropriate, adds Neily. The story isn't exactly sympathetic: Wade says he sustained the injuries from cutting open a can of vegetables; others contend it was because he had punched another inmate in the face moments prior. But should such a determination be up to a jury? "The Founders were committed to the proposition that disputes between citizens and government—whether civil or criminal—should generally be resolved by ordinary citizens, not government mandarins," says Neily. "Qualified immunity represents a repudiation of that ancient wisdom and a blatant act of judicial policy making."

There are several instances of rogue prison guards receiving qualified immunity. There was the group of correctional officers who received the protection after locking a naked inmate in two cells over the span of several days: one with "massive amounts" of human feces covering the walls, and the other with sewage bubbling up from a clogged floor drain. In another case, a guard pepper-sprayed a prisoner, admittedly for no reason at all.

The Supreme Court, which legislated qualified immunity into existence, has been hesitant to fundamentally reconsider the doctrine as a whole. But in two highly unusual moves, it overturned both of the above cases within the last several months, allowing the victims to plead their cases where the Founders intended: in front of a jury.

NEXT: Biden Can't Fix High Beef Prices With $500 Million

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35 responses to “An Inmate Allegedly 'Leaking Blood All Over' Was Denied Medical Treatment for Hours. The Prison Guard Gets Qualified Immunity

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  1. There are no rogue prison guards. Just ones who get caught.

  2. There will come a time when a government official receives Qualified immunity will receive 300 grains of Trepanizine. That will be a bad day for everyone.

    1. Prisoners left to bleed out on the floor? How about DEMOCRACY ITSELF left to bleed out on the floor?

      Hey Trumpturds! Your Hero is becoming ever more and MORE delusional! “My tribe’s lies leading to violence GOOD! YOUR tribe’s lies leading to violence BAD! And the Demon-Rats ARE utterly EVIL, because they STOLE the elections!” See CNN poll; 78% of Republicans now say the elections were stolen! https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-hype-arizona-audit-result-seems-unaware-confirms-biden-win-2021-9 “Trump accused Democrats of trying to distract from the Arizona audit results, seemingly unaware that they confirm Biden’s victory”… From https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/15/politics/cnn-poll-most-americans-democracy-under-attack/index.html , “
      “Among Republicans, 78% say that Biden did not win…”

      First, we lust after stealing the rights and properties of the witches or the Jews. Then, we spread LIES about them, to pre-justify our violence! THEN we are free to kill them and steal their shit! Witches, Jews, blacks, and now… ANYONE who didn’t vote for the Trumptatorshit! Can ye EVIL assholes NOT see where we are going with all of this?!?!

      1. Everyone hates you Sqrlsy. You’re an unfunny sociopath, a shitposting troll and a chronic old liar.
        It’s time for you to fuck off forever.

        1. Says MarxistMammaryBahnFuhrer the Jesus-Killer!
          From http://www.churchofsqrls.com/Jesus_Validated/
          “Our human brains today are evolutionary hodge-podges of layer stacked upon layer. Fish brain, then amphibian brain, reptile brain, monkey brain, ape brain, and hunter-gatherer brain. My-tribe-right, your-tribe-is-lesser (or worse) belongs to hunter-gatherer brain. Prophets and seers, seekers and teachers, throughout the years, have criticized their tribes for this. “This ain’t right”, they say! They have called us forwards into the next stage of evolution! And they (at the extremes) have been killed for it! Now again, see http://www.churchofsqrls.com/Do_Gooders_Bad/ for details, but this “kill-the-prophets” thing is likely programmed (instinctively or emotionally) into the hunter-gatherer brain. A polite phrase for it is the “do-gooder derogation” instinct. A more in-your-face term for it might be to call it the Jesus-killer (Mahatma Gandhi-killer, Martin Luther King Jr.-killer, etc.) instinct. There’s very little good news in there for the INDIVIDUAL prophet or teacher. What little good news in this phenomenon is that AFTER we have killed the prophet, THEN we often at least START to listen to what they had to say!”
          My tribe’s lies leading to violence are GOOD! YOUR tribe’s lies leading to violence are BAD! That describes YOU, MarxistMammaryBahnFuhrer the Jesus-Killer! That is why you and some of your fellow troglodytes hate me!

          1. Pretend for a second that someone visiting here for the first time just read your babble of non-sequiturs and idiot-boy theologies, Sqrlscasmic.
            Would they say “Oh, he has a point” or would they say “Look at this idiot troll raging”?

            That’s why it’s time for you to fuck off.

            1. “Would they say “Oh, he has a point” or would they say “Look at this idiot troll raging”?”

              If they were savage tribalist EVIL asshole authoritarians like YOU, MarxistMammaryBahnFuhrer the Jesus-Killer, then they would react like you do! Duh!

              If they were thinking, rational, and benevolent people, they would STOP (and-or abhor) this EVIL shit of engaging in derogation of those who are more benevolent and wise than the average bear! As I have SOOOOO thoroughly documented! http://www.churchofsqrls.com/Do_Gooders_Bad/ for details!

      2. Hey asswipe! This crap was started by Democrats sucking up to the Unions. Own it.

    2. Republicans say take matters into your own hands…
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      1. Sqrlsy’s mom wishes her son would take matters into his own hands a little less often. Sixty-five is too old to be leaving jizz-stains on his parents sofa.

        1. My tribe’s lies leading to violence are GOOD! YOUR tribe’s lies leading to violence are BAD! That describes YOU, MarxistMammaryBahnFuhrer the Jesus-Killer!

          So how long till you feel that you’ve built up your tribalistic lies enough, sufficient for you to be justified when you come over here and kill me, and steal my property? Why do you want to steal my property? I DO own MANY books, but they are too long and complex for you to read and comprehend!

          1. Your tribe is bad, sqrlscasmic. It’s shitposting boomer trolls who are way to old to be doing that.

            1. Cry for the moon, crybaby! I will NOT stop speaking the truths!

              1. You never spoke the truth in your entire life. You wouldn’t know where to even start, you dishonest old fuck.
                You are the People Of The Lie.

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  4. plaintiffs must furnish a prior court ruling where the exact misbehavior they’re alleging has already been explicitly ruled unconstitutional.

    “In [a prior ruling], the plaintiff suffered an injury to his head,” wrote Judge Elizabeth L. Branch, “whereas here, Wade suffered an injury to his hand.” She also noted that “the quantity of blood is different,” because the defendant in a previous case had “blood soaked [on] his clothing [and] pooled on the floor.” Also different is the location of the plaintiff

    “The law is an ass.” This bullshit is right updown there with asset forfeiture. 8-(

  5. Wow Peanuts, Mike Lindell has revised his Trump reinstatement date to November! He is presenting the proof to SCOTUS as soon as next week!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egAAOyOeHhs

    Of course the LAMESTREAM MEDIA is not reporting on this because they are in the pocket of Democrats!

    (I’m sure Jesse, ML, Ray, Ken, Nardz and the other trumpers already follow Lindell. This is for the others here)

    1. Reminder that Buttplug is a paid Democratic Party troll, and that AmSoc and KAR are his sockpuppet accounts.

      Further reminder that Buttplug also thinks that a QAnon movement is a real thing, and that the MyPillow guy is the conservative’s pope.

    2. https://www.thedailybeast.com/mypillow-guy-mike-lindell-punts-timeline-for-trump-retaking-power-as-august-conspiracy-theories-get-wackier
      MyPillow Guy Punts Timeline for Trump Retaking Power as Conspiracy Theories Get Wackier

      https://www.salon.com/2021/08/22/mike-lindell-still-in-trumps-good-graces-has-new-prediction-reinstatement-by-new-years/

      The Lord Trump didn’t return to us as scheduled, but the Second Coming is now re-scheduled. You can TRUST us THIS time, for sure!

      The Lord Trump DID return to us faithful ones, but He did it in an invisible way! Hold strong in your Faith in Him!

      The Lord Trump didn’t return to us yet, this is true! It only did NOT happen because YOU were not faithful enough, and didn’t send Him enough donations!

      The Lord Trump didn’t return to us yet, but He DID miraculously protect us all from the VERY worst forces of Evil, which is Der BidenFuhrer! Hold fast in your Faith… Lord Trump will come back VERY soon now! Especially if you send more money!

      The Lord Trump moves in Mysterious Ways! All will be revealed SOON! Especially if you have Enough Faith to DONATE till it HURTS!

      1. Now that you’ve stooped to posting Salon links, can we expect the Daily Stormer soon too?

  6. Fake news, bad thinks only happen in for profit prisons

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  11. I really had to search to find out why the guy was in prison in the first place. Near as I could determine his crime was Mattering while Black and Alive. A Libertarian governor would have pardoned him on day one, and a libertarian statehouse would not be sending men with guns out to badger victimless citizens in the first place.

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