671 F.2d 892 (5th Cir. 1982), 80-3792, Williams v. Treen

Docket Nº:80-3792.
Citation:671 F.2d 892
Party Name:Hayes WILLIAMS and Arthur Mitchell, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. David C. TREEN, Governor of the State of Louisiana, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:March 31, 1982
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 892

671 F.2d 892 (5th Cir. 1982)

Hayes WILLIAMS and Arthur Mitchell, Plaintiffs-Appellants,


David C. TREEN, Governor of the State of Louisiana, et al.,


No. 80-3792.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

March 31, 1982

Page 893

George Strickler, New Orleans, La., for Hayes Williams.

George Strickler, New Orleans, La., for Arthur Mitchell.

J. Marvin Montgomery, Asst. Atty. Gen., Joseph P. Macaluso, Jr., Baton Rouge, La., for defendants-appellees.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.

Page 894

Before CHARLES CLARK, Chief Judge, GOLDBERG and WILLIAMS, Circuit judges.

GOLDBERG, Circuit Judge:

This is the latest chapter in the continuing saga of litigation concerning conditions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Louisiana. In Williams v. Edwards, 1 547 F.2d 1206 (5th Cir. 1977), this Court upheld the imposition of broad injunctive relief intended to remedy the unconstitutional conditions at that facility. Now we are called upon to determine whether any of the defendants named in that action may be held personally liable for monetary damages. Specifically, we are asked whether, on this record, the defendant state officials have shown that they are entitled to an immunity from personal liability.

In passing upon this question, we confront competing legal imperatives: we must weigh the strong societal interest in compensating the victims of governmental misconduct against our policy of providing an immunity to officials who have acted in good faith and within the scope of their discretionary authority. Striking a balance between these conflicting interests is particularly troubling in the context of a case involving prison administration. Although penal servitude may deprive one convicted of crime of liberty and other rights enjoyed by free citizens, courts now recognize that many constitutional protections accompany the convict in his imprisonment. However, we also recognize that officials charged with the operation of volatile prison institutions are faced with a difficult and often dangerous task. We must consider each of these legitimate concerns in an effort to provide a just resolution to this controversy.

I. Procedural History

This action was brought against an array of Louisiana state officials 2 on behalf of four Angola State Penitentiary inmates: Lazarus Joseph, Lee Stevenson, Arthur Mitchell, and Hayes Williams. The plaintiffs filed their complaint in 1971, 3 alleging that as the result of illegal conditions and practices countenanced by the defendant officials, the inmates had suffered numerous deprivations of their constitutional rights. Specifically, each of the plaintiffs claimed that a policy of racial segregation at Angola violated his right to equal protection secured by the Fourteenth Amendment, and that overall conditions at Angola constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff Mitchell claimed that on a specific occasion he was denied adequate medical treatment, a deprivation which he characterized as cruel and unusual punishment and as a denial of his rights to due process.

In December of 1973, the District Court conducted an inquiry into overall conditions at Angola in order to determine the need for injunctive relief. Evidence and testimony brought forward in this 1973 proceeding provided a voluminous record detailing the hellish conditions at the prison. Based upon this evidence, U. S. District Judge E. Gordon West found that conditions at Angola "shock(ed) the conscience of any right thinking person" and "flagrantly violate(d) basic constitutional requirements as well as applicable state laws." He further found that "state authorities (were) either failing or refusing to take the necessary steps to correct these conditions." Williams v. Edwards, 547 F.2d 1206, 1209 (5th Cir. 1977). Accordingly, Judge West granted broad injunctive relief designed to improve overall conditions at the facility. Williams v.

Page 895

McKeithen, C.A. 71-98 (M.D.La., 1975). It was this 1975 order which we affirmed in Williams v. Edwards, supra.

The District Court did not consider the individual damage claims in its 1975 order. Instead, Judge West bifurcated the action, noting that the claims for monetary damages would be considered in a separate proceeding which was still yet to come. 4 Although the 1975 order held out the promise that there would be a trial on the merits of the individual damage claims, the record indicates that no further evidentiary hearing ever occurred. From 1971 until 1980, the plaintiffs' damage claims awaited adjudication.

Finally, on August 6, 1980, U. S. District Judge Frank J. Polozola 5 issued a ruling with respect to the individual damage claims. Citing to the Supreme Court's decision in Procunier v. Navarette, 434 U.S. 555, 98 S.Ct. 855, 55 L.Ed.2d 24 (1978), Judge Polozola held that insofar as the rights allegedly violated by the prison officials had not been "clearly established" at the times in question, the defendants were immune from personal liability. He therefore dismissed each of the damage claims.

The plaintiffs now appeal from the dismissal of their individual claims, arguing: (1) that the appeals of all four plaintiffs are properly before this Court, (2) that the trial court erred in finding the defendants immune from personal liability without first holding an evidentiary hearing in which the defendants would be required to assert and prove their entitlement to an immunity, and (3) that the defendants are in fact not entitled to an immunity because their conduct contravened law which was clearly established at the time of the violations.

II. Appellate Jurisdiction

All parties concede that plaintiffs Williams and Mitchell filed a timely notice of appeal under Fed.R.App.P., Rule 4(a), but that plaintiffs Stevenson and Joseph failed to file either a notice of appeal or a request for an extension of time to file. Stevenson and Joseph now urge this Court to allow their appeals despite their failure to comply with our filing requirements.

Rule 4(a) of the Fed.R.App.P. provides that "notice of appeal shall be filed with the clerk of the district court within 30 days after the date of entry of the judgment or order appealed from." This Court has consistently held that compliance with Rule 4(a) is a mandatory precondition to the exercise of jurisdiction by the appellate court. See, Ryals v. Estelle, 661 F.2d 904 (5th Cir. 1981); Birl v. Estelle, 660 F.2d 592 (5th Cir. 1981); Bond v. Western Auto Supply, 654 F.2d 302 (5th Cir. 1981); Barksdale v. Blackburn, 647 F.2d 630 (5th Cir. 1981); Sanchez v. Board of Regents, 625 F.2d 521, 522 n.1 (5th Cir. 1980).

The import of Rule 4(a) for this case is all too clear. Much as we regret to dismiss a plaintiff's appeal on "technical" grounds, the law in this area permits no other result. In failing to file a notice of appeal, plaintiffs Stevenson and Joseph forfeit their opportunity to seek review of the judgments entered below. Therefore, the appeals of plaintiffs Stevenson and Joseph must be dismissed.

III. The Qualified Immunity Defense

In finding the defendant prison officials were immune from personal liability, the District Court relied upon the Supreme Court's opinion in Procunier v. Navarette, 434 U.S. 555, 98 S.Ct. 855, 55 L.Ed.2d 24 (1978). We are now asked to decide whether

Page 896

on this record the defendant officials have shown that they are entitled to the protections of a Procunier immunity.

A qualified immunity can only be claimed by those officials whose positions require the exercise of official discretion. Jackson v. State of Mississippi, 644 F.2d 1142, 1145 (5th Cir. 1981); Douthit v. Jones, 619 F.2d 527, 533 (5th Cir. 1980); Cruz v. Beto, 603 F.2d 1178, 1184 (5th Cir. 1979). To claim the immunity, an official must show that the allegedly wrongful actions "... were undertaken pursuant to the performance of his duties and within the scope of his discretionary authority." Barker v. Norman, 651 F.2d 1107, 1124-1125 (5th Cir. 1981).

Once it has been established that a 1983 defendant was acting within the scope of his discretionary authority, Procunier v. Navarette, supra, sets forth a two prong standard to be used in determining whether the defendant is immune from liability. This dual test calls for both an objective and subjective evaluation of official conduct. Barker v. Norman, 651 F.2d 1107, 1125-1127 (5th Cir. 1981); Clanton v. New Orleans Parish School Board, 649 F.2d 1084, 1100 (5th Cir. 1981); Dilmore v. Stubbs, 636 F.2d 966, 968 (5th Cir. 1981); Bryan v. Jones, 530 F.2d 1210, 1214 (5th Cir. 1976) (en banc). Under the subjective portion of the Procunier test, an official forfeits his immunity when he acts "with the malicious intent to cause a deprivation of constitutional rights or other injury." Dilmore v. Stubbs, 636 F.2d 966, 968 (5th Cir. 1981). Under the objective standard, "(an) official, even if he is acting in the sincere subjective belief that he is doing right, loses his cloak of qualified immunity if his actions contravene 'settled indisputable' law." Bogard v. Cook, 586 F.2d 399, 411 (5th Cir. 1978). Thus, Procunier teaches us that "... it is not unfair to hold liable the official who knows or should know he is acting outside the law." Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 506, 98 S.Ct. 2894, 2910, 57 L.Ed.2d 895, 916 (1978).

Finally, as an added fillip to the jurisprudence of Procunier immunities, the Supreme Court has recently made it clear that defendant officials must bear the burden of pleading their qualified immunity as an affirmative defense. Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 100 S.Ct. 1920, 64 L.Ed.2d 572 (1980); Dennis v. Sparks...

To continue reading