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Prisoner’s Rights Violated by Forced Transport in Filthy Dog Cage

30 April 2010

Litigators in Mayer Brown’s Chicago office successfully represented on appeal a prisoner’s claim that his constitutional rights were violated when he was locked inside a filthy dog cage for 90 minutes by a Crawford County, Missouri, Sherriff’s Department bailiff.

Our client, Thomas Morris, who was a pretrial detainee at the time, needed to be transported from county jail to the courthouse, which was located approximately 90 minutes away. Six years earlier, Mr. Morris had attempted to escape from a police vehicle, so the bailiff in charge of the transport insisted on transporting him in a “cage car” — a squad car that has its entire backseat enclosed in a wire mesh cage  However, because none were available, the bailiff shackled our client and ordered him to crawl into a cage used for transporting dogs in the department’s K-9 unit.  The cage was approximately three-and-a-half feet wide, three feet tall, and three feet long, and was littered with dog hair, feces and urine.

Mr. Morris brought suit in the Eastern District of Missouri against the bailiff for violating his Eighth Amendment rights.  The bailiff sought summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds, arguing that Mr. Morris had no clearly established right not to be transported in a filthy dog cage.  The district court rejected the argument, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed, adopting our argument that based on established case law and mere common sense, the unconstitutionality of the bailiff’s actions should have been obvious to him.

Mr. Morris was represented pro bono by former associate Nathan Kipp, who was supervised by Marc Kadish.

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