John T. Montford Psychiatric Facility Unit
(TX) – The Supreme Court has just ruled that officials at the John T. Montford Psychiatric Facility Unit in Lubbock, Texas, do not have qualified immunity and can be sued by inmate Trent Taylor. Mr. Taylor had been assigned to the facility and on September 6, 2013, was placed in a cell that was covered in feces. He spent 6 days between that cell and a second one, the second one having backed up sewage that was all over the floor and no bed. When first placed in the cell with feces, Mr. Taylor asked to be moved. The guards laughed at his request saying, “Dude, this is Montford, there is shit in all these cells from years of psych patients,” and telling Taylor he was, “going to have a long weekend.”
Days later, when Taylor was moved to the second cell, which didn’t have a toilet, “he was told to urinate on the floor.” After 24 hours in this cell, guards went to move Taylor again. Taylor begged not to be placed back in the feces-filled cell. The guard relented and placed him in a different unit.
Eighth Amendment Violation
Mr. Taylor filed a lawsuit against officials at the Montford Facility, which is part of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system, claiming that he had been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the eighth agmendment. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit agreed that his rights had been violated but ruled that he could not sue because the officials were protected through qualified immunity. According to Reason.com, qualified immunity is commonly used to prevent officers from facing any repercussions from their actions and gives the below examples.
“Consider the two cops who received qualified immunity after allegedly stealing $225,000. Or the cop who received qualified immunity after shooting a 10-year-old (or, alternatively, the one who shot a 15-year-old). Or the cops who received qualified immunity after assaulting and arresting a man for standing outside of his own house. Or the prison guard who received qualified immunity after hiding while an escaped inmate raped someone in the building. Or the cops who received qualified immunity after siccing a police canine on a person who’d surrendered. “
Supreme Court Overrules Court of Appeals
Fortunately for Mr. Taylor, on November 2 of this year, the Supreme Court made a surprising ruling and ruled against the Court of Appeals. The courts have not been very friendly toward people who have been abused by officers and often allow the officers to get away with major abuses, claiming they have qualified immunity. This ruling in favor of the victim was extremely surprising.