Valentine v. Collier, No. 20-20525 (5th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The Fifth Circuit granted TDCJ's motion to stay the district court's permanent injunction requiring TDCJ to follow specific procedures to protect Pack Unit inmates from COVID-19. Plaintiffs are two inmates incarcerated at the Wallace Pack Unit, a state-run lockup housing geriatric, medically compromised, and mobility-impaired inmates. Plaintiffs filed suit against the TDCJ over its response to the coronavirus, alleging violations of the Eighth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Rehabilitation Act. As the suit was progressing, the virus was spreading, infecting over 500 inmates, 20 of whom have died.
Considering the Nken factors for granting a stay, the court held that TDCJ is likely to succeed on appeal where plaintiffs failed to comply with the exacting procedural preconditions imposed by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), specifically the PLRA’s mandatory and jurisdictional exhaustion requirement. Even putting aside plaintiffs' failure to exhaust their administrative remedies, their constitutional claim failed on the merits. The court held that TDCJ's response, albeit imperfect did not amount to deliberate indifference under the Eighth Amendment. The court also held that TDCJ will be irreparably harmed absent a stay, and the balance of harms and public interest favor a stay.