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Judge clears path for inmate to sue sheriff over hospital bed shackling

Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
by Patricia Manson

A man kept shackled to his hospital bed after he suffered serious injuries in Cook County Jail has received the go-ahead to pursue a due process claim.

In a written opinion, U.S. District Judge Manish S. Shah acknowledged that Sheriff Thomas J. Dart’s shackling policy is based on the “legitimate non-punitive government purpose” of preventing escapes.

But there is a question whether shackling detainee Dwight Moore was excessive and, therefore, unconstitutional, Shah wrote.

Moore, he wrote, was unconscious when he arrived at the hospital with a broken hand, a lacerated liver and a contusion to the head.

The injuries left Moore unable to eat, so he had to be feed intravenously, Shah wrote.

Moore was always guarded by at least one correctional officer, and sometimes two, while in the hospital, Shah wrote.

And Moore, he wrote, needed a cane to walk even before he suffered his injuries.

Under these circumstances, he held, Moore is entitled to a trial on his due process claim.

He denied Dart’s motion for summary judgment.

Moore was admitted to the jail as a maximum-security detainee in May 2011.

He was seriously injured in an assault or a fight two months later and was taken first to Mount Sinai Hospital and later to Stroger Hospital for treatment.

In both hospitals, one of Moore’s wrists and the ankle on the opposite side of his body were shackled to his bed frame.

The shackling was in line with a sheriff’s policy requiring inmates who receive medical treatment outside the jail to be restrained in their hospital beds.

The policy also requires inmates to remain shackled and to be accompanied by two correctional officers when they are “ambulated, transported or tested.”

Quoting May v. Sheahan, 226 F.3d 876 (7th Cir. 2000), Shah wrote that the due process clause “prohibits the use of bodily restraints in a manner that serves to punish a pretrial detainee.”

And while Dart’s shackling policy “is rationally related to a non-punitive purpose,” Shah continued, “it may still violate due process if it is excessive in relation to its escape-prevention purpose.”

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that shackling detainees in the hospital “around the clock, despite the continuous presence of a guard” was “plainly excessive in the absence of any indication that the detainee poses some sort of security risk,” Shah wrote, again quoting May.

There is a dispute in Moore’s case, he wrote, whether shackling was necessary.

Moore was in the hospital because of a “physical altercation with another detainee,” Shah wrote.

Also, he wrote, Moore tried to strike another detainee within days of his release from the hospital and return to the jail.

“Although neither incident involved an attempted escape, they may suggest that Moore presented some security concerns,” he wrote.

However, he wrote, “Moore argues that he was medically fragile and thus not a flight risk.”

In light of this conflict, the case should go to trial, Shah wrote.

He issued his opinion last week in Dwight Moore v. Thomas Dart, et al., No. 13 C 3276.

The lead attorney for Moore, Patrick W. Morrissey of Thomas G. Morrissey Ltd., could not be reached for comment.

The lead attorney for Dart is Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Megan E. DeZutti. The sheriff’s office did not have an immediate comment.



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