United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit
Civil Rights – prisons — deliberate indifference
Where a prisoner presented evidence that a guard left a maximum security cell unattended, summary judgment should not have been entered in favor of the guard.
“The judge dismissed the suit prematurely. The purpose of limiting the number of prisoners allowed in the dayroom at one time is security—understandably so, given that they are all believed to be dangerous, as otherwise they wouldn’t be in a maximum-security tier. The fact that one of the cells in the row of cells that were supposed to be locked was unlocked was recorded— twice—by Anderson herself as creating a ‘security risk.’ For her nevertheless to have let out of their cells several of the inmates who were supposed to remain locked up, and let them congregate in a darkened corridor, and then to leave her post, with the result that no guard was present to observe more than 20 (we don’t know how many more than 20) maximum-security prisoners milling about, could give rise to an inference of conscious disregard of a significant risk of violence (the test established by Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1970)), as in the similar case of Pavlick v. Mifflin, 90 F.3d 205, 208-09 (7th Cir. 1996). It was fear of violence that had motivated the rule forbidding the prisoners in the two rows to mingle in the dayroom, and the likelihood of violence was further amplified by the sole guard’s leaving her post, so that the prisoners knew that no one in authority was watching them—and moreover leaving her post with the corridor lights out, so that the improperly released prisoners, armed with shanks, could congregate unobserved in the corridor.”
Reversed and Remanded.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Aspen, J., Posner, J.