Taylor v. McDonald, No. 18-11572 (5th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that defendants' failure to transfer him back to his normal housing without commitment proceedings violated his due process rights under Vitek v. Jones, 445 U.S. 480 (1980). In Jones, the Supreme Court held that "the stigmatizing consequences of a transfer to a mental hospital for involuntary psychiatric treatment, coupled with the subjection of the prisoner to mandatory behavior modification as a treatment for mental illness, constitute the kind of deprivations of liberty that requires procedural protections." Plaintiff alleges that delaying his discharge by weeks after he reiterated his withdrawal of consent violated those same rights.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants based on qualified immunity. In this case, defendants did not violate plaintiff's clearly established rights by keeping him in a normal cell in the Montford Unit after moving him from the A1-3 Row Suicidal Prevention Program. The court explained that, although plaintiff withdrew his consent a full month before ultimately being transferred back to Robertson Unit (not to mention his initially withdrawing consent a month before that), the only notable condition of his confinement after being transferred out of the A1-3 Row was that he was kept under close observation. The court concluded that it is not clearly established that observation of that sort is a qualitatively different condition that triggers a liberty interest. Furthermore, even viewing the A1-3 Program in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the Program is not factually similar enough to any behavioral change program that the court has held triggers a liberty interest to constitute clearly established law.