Reed v. Palmer, No. 18-1429 (7th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Iowa closed the Iowa Girls State Training School. Palmer, Director of the Iowa Department of Human Services, subsequently contracted to use the Wisconsin Girls State Training School (Copper Lake). Plaintiffs claim that, since its 2011 opening, Cooper Lake “has had a very high turnover rate of employees,” leading to “over-worked and untrained staff” and has received criticism from Wisconsin judges regarding its “sordid” and “inhumane” treatment of juveniles. Iowa juvenile courts ordered Plaintiffs to be placed at Copper Lake in 2015. Both were 16 years old. Plaintiffs claim that Copper Lake subjected them to prolonged “isolation,” and that they received little or no educational instruction. Both attempted suicide. Plaintiffs also claim they were subjected to excessive force and that staff sprayed them with mace on multiple occasions. Plaintiffs sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for cruel and unusual punishment, excessive force, and deprivation of due process. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of their claims. The district court acted prematurely in deciding Palmer’s entitlement to qualified immunity at the motion to dismiss stage. At the time plaintiffs were allegedly in Palmer’s custody, isolation of pre-trial juvenile detainees not “reasonably related to a legitimate governmental objective”could rise to the level of a constitutional violation. On the record, it is impossible to determine whether such a constitutional violation occurred in plaintiffs’ cases.