In October 2010, a man named Almighty Supreme Born Allah was being held in prison awaiting trial for drug charges. Prison guards kept Allah in solitary confinement for over a year and forced him to wear leg irons and wet underwear while showering. This torturous treatment was due entirely to one incident of supposed “misconduct” by Allah—he once asked a guard if he could speak to a lieutenant about why he wasn’t being allowed to visit commissary.
The second circuit REVERSED the district court’s decision not to grant Defendants qualified immunity. Even though the circuit court agreed that Wolfish determined that pretrial detainees have a substantive due process right not to be subjected to restrictions amounting to punishment, and despite that the circuit court affirmed the district court’s holding that Defendants violated Plaintiff’s due process rights, the second circuit reversed the district court’s decision not to grant Defendants qualified immunity on the basis that Wolfish does not clearly establish that Allah’s placement in Administrative Segregation based on his prior assignment, specifically, violated due process. According to the second circuit, Allah’s argument and its qualified immunity analysis relies on “high level of generality” and does not identify other case law with facts similar enough to the particular facts of Allah’s case. While the second circuit concurred with Allah’s argument that Wolfish clearly established the “right to be free from punishment before guilt,” the second circuit “conclude(s) that Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity and cannot be held liable for civil damages for violating Allah’s substantive due process rights.” Circuit Judge Rosemary Pooler dissented from the portion of the majority’s opinion granting qualified immunity “in light of the similarity of Allah’s conditions to the Supreme Court’s example in Wolfish, and in light of the lack of legitimate government interest in instituting those conditions.”
Under the circumstances of this case, prison officials’ October 2010 placement of Allah in Administrative Segregation cannot be said to be reasonably related to institutional security, and Defendants have identified no other legitimate governmental purpose justifying the placement. Accordingly, we conclude that the district court ‘permissible … infer[red] that the purpose of the government action [was] punishment that may not constitutionally be inflicted upon detainess qua detainees.’ Wolfish, 441 U.S. at 539, 99 S.Ct. 1861. Allah v. Milling, 876 F.3d 48 (2nd Cir. 2017).