Brown v. Oregon Dept. of Corr.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 04-29-2014
  • Case #: 11-35628
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Goodwin for the Court: Circuit Judges Trott and Fletcher
  • Full Text Opinion

An inmate’s claim for monetary damages due to a violation of their procedural due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment will not prevail where state officials,reasonably performing within their official capacities, do not deprive an inmate of a constitutional right if the right was clearly established at the time of the alleged violation.

After being incarcerated, Joshua Robert Brown ("Brown") was placed in the Insensitive Management Unit (IMU) and being held under Level 5 custody. IMU custody requires inmates to be held in solitary confinement up to twenty-three hours a day. Until an inmate is manually scored to a Programming Level 4 status, he will remain in IMU custody. In order to obtain this status, an inmate must successfully complete a series of behavioral program packets that are assigned to him. According to OAR 291-055-0020(2), 0025(2), the programming reviews are to take place every thirty days of an inmate’s programming status. Brown completed the series and was not afforded classification review. Brown then petitioned eight times for review, and all of his requests were denied. The Ninth Circuit held that this was a violation of his procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment because the review process could be seen as “atypical and significant hardship”. However, the panel went on to hold that because Brown was suing for monetary damages the Eleventh Amendment precluded the claim due to government officers being protected under qualified immunity because they are an extension of a governmental agency. In order to determine whether qualified immunity may be extended to the officers, the court examined whether any officer’s behavior contravened a constitutional right of the Brown, and whether the right was “clearly established at the time of the alleged violation.” The panel found that the officers were acting in a reasonable manner within the scope of their employment. Accordingly, the panel held that the district court correctly affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendant who was protected under the Eleventh Amendment’s qualified immunity. AFFIRMED.

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