United States District Court, D. Delaware
before me is Plaintiff Angelo Clark's Motion for
Reargument (D.I. 86) on certain issues I decided in my March
29, 2019 Memorandum and Order resolving Defendants'
motions to dismiss (D.I. 82, 83). The Parties have briefed
the issues. (D.I. 86, 88, 89). For the reasons discussed
below, I will grant Plaintiffs motion.
purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to "correct
manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered
evidence." Max's Seafood Cafe v. Quinteros,
176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999). "A proper Rule 59(e)
motion .. . must rely on one of three grounds: (1) an
intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability
of new evidence; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of
law or prevent manifest injustice." Lazaridis v.
Wehmer, 591 F.3d 666, 669 (3d Cir. 2010). A
motion for reargument/reconsideration is not an appropriate
vehicle to -reargue issues that the court has already
considered and decided. Justice v. Attorney Gen. of
Dei, 2019 WL 927351, at *2 (D. Del. Feb. 26, 2019).
requests that I reconsider my decision that qualified
immunity insulates the DOC Defendants from suit on Count I's
Eighth Amendment claim. (D.I. 86 at 3-6). I will grant his
request and reconsider. To overcome qualified immunity at the
motion to dismiss stage, a Plaintiff must plead a violation
of a clearly established right. Bistrian v. Levi,
696 F.3d 352, 366 (3d Cir. 2012). This Court previously found
that there was no dispute that putting an inmate in solitary
confinement because of his mental illness is a violation of
clearly established law. (D.I. 69 at 19). This finding, which
the Parties do not dispute, stems from Robinson v.
California, where the Supreme Court found, "Even
one day in prison would be a cruel and unusual punishment for
the 'crime' of having a [disease]." 370 U.S.
660, 667 (1962). This Court also found that no clearly
established law supported Plaintiffs position that
"housing a mentally ill inmate in solitary confinement
for long periods of time violates a clearly established
Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual
punishment." (D.I. 69 at 25).
by the Court's previous determination that no clearly
established law supports finding that housing a mentally ill
inmate in solitary confinement is per se a violation
of the Eighth Amendment. In his briefing on the motion to
dismiss, Plaintiff identified two cases as support for his
contention that housing a mentally ill inmate in solitary
confinement is cruel and unusual punishment: In re
Medley, 134 U.S. 160 (1890) and Madrid v.
Gomez, 889 F.Supp. 1146 (N.D. Cal. 1995). In his motion
for reconsideration, Plaintiff identifies one additional
case: Palakovic v. Wetzel, 854 F.3d 209 (3d Cir.
In re Medley Court addressed a Colorado law that
imposed solitary confinement on all capital offenders. 134
U.S. at 162-63. The law was enacted after Mr. Medley
committed his crime and the Supreme Court determined it was
an unconstitutional ex post facto law, as applied to
him. Id. at 171-73. In arriving at its conclusion,
the Court discussed the perils of solitary confinement and
determined that solitary confinement is an additional
punishment. Id. at 167-71. The Court did not,
however, conclude that solitary confinement was an
unconstitutional punishment and it did not strike down the
Colorado law as it applied to future capital offenders.
See Id. at 172-73.
Madrid v. Gomez case was brought by a class of
inmates seeking injunctive and declaratory relief from
certain prison conditions. 889 F.Supp. at 1155. The court
held a bench trial on a number of practices, including the
conditions of the solitary housing unit. Id. at
1156, 1260-66. It determined that placing seriously mentally
ill inmates in the solitary housing unit, "under
conditions as they currently exist at [the prison]," was
cruel and unusual punishment in contravention of the Eighth
Amendment. Id. at 1265-67. Of course, as the
Madrid Plaintiffs did not seek monetary damages, the
court did not address the issue of qualified immunity.
cases Plaintiff originally presented to this Court,
Medley and Madrid, do not represent clearly
established law that it is unconstitutional to place mentally
ill inmates in solitary confinement. As this Court noted
before, "The statements in In re Medley have
nothing to do with the question of whether solitary
confinement of sane, or mentally ill, prisoners constitutes
cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth
Amendment." (D.I. 69 at 21). Rather, the
statements address the narrow issue of whether Mr. Medley was
improperly placed in solitary confinement under an ex
post facto law. And, although Madrid does
address the constitutionality of placing mentally ill inmates
in solitary confinement, it is a far cry from Supreme Court
precedent or a "a robust consensus of cases of
persuasive authority." Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563
U.S. 731, 742 (2011).
v. Wetzel gets Plaintiff closer to showing that there
may some right barring confinement of mentally ill
individuals to the solitary housing unit, but still misses
the mark. In Palakovic, the executors of Brandon
Palakovic's estate brought suit against several prison
officials and mental healthcare providers. 854 F.3d at 217.
Brandon, a 23-year-old with a history of serious mental
illness, committed suicide while in solitary confinement.
Id. The district court had dismissed the
plaintiffs' Eighth Amendment claim related to
Brandon's time in solitary confinement by applying the
"vulnerability to suicide framework," and refusing
to consider other possible Eighth Amendment claims.
Id. at 224-25. The Third Circuit concluded, "to
the extent Brandon could have brought an Eighth Amendment
claim contesting his conditions of confinement while he was
alive, his family should not be precluded from doing so
because he has passed away." Id. at 225. It
said, "the District Court erred in dismissing it
solely for that reason." Id. (emphasis
added). The court then went on to address the
"vulnerability to suicide" claim and the "the
robust body of legal and scientific authority recognizing the
devastating mental health consequences caused by long-term
isolation in solitary confinement." Id.
supports the conclusion that solitary confinement, especially
of mentally ill individuals, is increasingly disfavored. It
does not, however, represent a clearly established right
that per se prohibits housing a mentally ill inmate
in solitary confinement. The Third Circuit found the district
court erred in dismissing the Palakovics' other Eighth
Amendment claims simply because Brandon had committed
suicide. The court did not consider whether they had alleged
a constitutional violation, whether the defendants were
insulated by qualified immunity, or any other potential bar
to the Palakovics successfully bringing such a claim. The
fact that the Third Circuit found "vulnerability to
suicide" is not the only claim available to a deceased
inmate's estate does not provide for a clearly
again conclude that there is no clearly established Eighth
Amendment right that per se prohibits housing a
mentally ill inmate in solitary confinement.
Plaintiffs previous briefing, I did not apprehend his
additional argument that his Eighth Amendment claim, as
opposed to the other claims in this case, should proceed
based on his argument that he was placed in solitary
confinement because of his mental illness. There is
no dispute that if a mentally ill inmate is placed in
solitary confinement because of his mental illness, his
clearly established right not to be punished for a disease
has been violated. Count I asserts:
Defendants' policies, practices, and procedures
systematically violate the Eighth Amendment rights of Mr.
Clark through institutional policies, practices, and
procedures that place him at substantial risk of serious
harm. Such policies, practices, and procedures include,
without limitation: confinement in solitary confinement for
exhibiting conduct caused by his mental illness, which poses
a substantial risk of serious harm to Mr. Clark ....
29 at ¶ 112). I previously found, "the distinction
between conduct and a mental illness itself is not a likely
bound on which to lay a constitutional distinction."
(D.I. 82 at 9). Depending on the underlying factual
circumstances, punishment for mental illness related conduct
may be no different than punishment for the mental illness
itself. Thus, I will allow Mr. Clark to proceed with his
Eighth Amendment claim on the theory that his Eighth
Amendment rights were violated by Defendants placing him in
the solitary housing unit because of his mental illness.
Clark also argues that I erred in partially dismissing Count
I, violation of the Eighth Amendment by placing Mr. Clark in
the solitary housing unit, as to the Medical
Defendants.(D.I. 86 at 6-7). I found that it was
implausible that the Medical Defendants actively participate
in the decision to place inmates in solitary confinement and
that the allegations in the First Amended Complaint refer
only to the DOC Defendants. (D.I. 82 at 4-5). Mr. Clark has
not identified any new argument or evidence that persuade me
that my conclusion on this issue was ...