Swain v. Junior, No. 20-11622 (11th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court erred in issuing an injunction against the County and the Director of the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitations Department (MDCR), requiring defendants to employ numerous safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and imposing extensive reporting requirements. Metro West inmates had filed a class action challenging the conditions of their confinement under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and seeking habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241 for the named plaintiffs with a "medically vulnerable" subclass of inmates.
The court held that plaintiffs failed to show a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their constitutional claim for deliberate indifference. The court explained that the district court erred in relying on the increased rate of infection, and in concluding that defendants' inability to ensure adequate social distancing constituted deliberate indifference. In this case, the court simply could not conclude that, when faced with a perfect storm of a contagious virus and the space constraints inherent in a correctional facility, defendants acted unreasonably by "doing their best." The court also agreed with defendants that the district court erred in its likelihood-of-success-on-the-merits analysis because it failed to consider "two threshold issues": (1) the heightened standard for municipal liability under Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), and (2) exhaustion under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Finally, the court held that the district court erred in holding, without any meaningful analysis, that plaintiffs would suffer irreparable injury absent an injunction. Furthermore, the district court erred in its determination of the balance-of-the-harms and public-interest factors.
This opinion or order relates to an opinion or order originally issued on May 5, 2020.