749 F.3d 1034 (11th Cir. 2014), 13-11250, Keith v. DeKalb County, Georgia

Docket Nº:13-11250
Citation:749 F.3d 1034
Opinion Judge:TJOFLAT, Circuit Judge:
Party Name:NADINE KEITH, as Administrator for the Estate of Godfrey Cook, GARY MADDOX, WILLETTA GRAY, Plaintiffs -Appellees, v. DEKALB COUNTY, GEORGIA, et al., Defendants, THOMAS BROWN, individually as DeKalb County Sheriff, Defendant -Appellant
Attorney:For NADINE KEITH, as Administrator of the Estate of Godfrey Cook, Gary Maddox, Willetta Gray, Plaintiffs - Appellees: Keishan J. Davis, Kwame Lateef Townes, Townes Davis & Associates, LLC, Tucker, GA. For Thomas E. Brown, Defendant - Appellant: Eugene Charles Reed Jr., DeKalb County Law Departmen...
Judge Panel:Before TJOFLAT, WILSON, and RIPPLE,[*] Circuit Judges.
Case Date:April 23, 2014
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
 
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749 F.3d 1034 (11th Cir. 2014)

NADINE KEITH, as Administrator for the Estate of Godfrey Cook, GARY MADDOX, WILLETTA GRAY, Plaintiffs -Appellees,

v.

DEKALB COUNTY, GEORGIA, et al., Defendants,

THOMAS BROWN, individually as DeKalb County Sheriff, Defendant -Appellant

No. 13-11250

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

April 23, 2014

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. D.C. Docket No. 1:10-cv-02590-SCJ.

For NADINE KEITH, as Administrator of the Estate of Godfrey Cook, Gary Maddox, Willetta Gray, Plaintiffs - Appellees: Keishan J. Davis, Kwame Lateef Townes, Townes Davis & Associates, LLC, Tucker, GA.

For Thomas E. Brown, Defendant - Appellant: Eugene Charles Reed Jr., DeKalb County Law Department, Decatur, GA.

Before TJOFLAT, WILSON, and RIPPLE,[*] Circuit Judges.

OPINION

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TJOFLAT, Circuit Judge:

On January 7, 2009, Godfrey Cook, a pretrial detainee, was murdered in the DeKalb County Jail, in Decatur, Georgia, by another pretrial detainee, Saleevan Adan. Eighteen months later, Nadine Keith, the administrator of Cook's estate, and Cook's two adult children brought this action for money damages under both federal and state statutory law against DeKalb County, the DeKalb County District Attorney's office, the former District Attorney and two of her employees, the DeKalb County Sheriff, and several correctional officers at the Jail.1 Keith sought relief against the Sheriff, the former District Attorney and her employees, and the correctional officers under a federal Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983,2 on the theory that Cook's death resulted from the defendants' maintenance of the Jail and his safety in derogation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights, and under the Georgia Wrongful Death Act, O.C.G.A. § 51-4-5, based on the defendants' negligence in failing to protect Cook from inmate violence.

The federal claims against all of the defendants except the Sheriff have been dismissed.3 This appeal is from the District

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Court's denial of the Sheriff's motion for summary judgment on Keith's § 1983 claim based on the doctrine of qualified immunity.4 We reverse.

I.

The DeKalb County Jail houses over 3,000 inmates. The overwhelming majority are pretrial detainees; the rest are convicted defendants serving a short sentence or awaiting transfer to a state penitentiary.5 The Jail is divided into quadrants: Southeast (" SE" ), Southwest (" SW" ), Northeast (" NE" ), and Northwest (" NW" ). Each quadrant is divided into eight floors,6 and each floor is divided into six pods designated 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, and 600. A pod contains two levels of eight cells, for a total of sixteen cells. A floor, then, contains ninety-six cells. Depending on the pod, a cell has either one or two beds; so a pod houses somewhere between sixteen and thirty-two inmates.

The DeKalb County Jail is an indirect-observation jail, which means that the detention officers7 observe the inmates from a central tower, rather than from inside each housing area. A detention officer is on duty in the central tower at all times to open the doors to a pod and to allow officers and staff to enter pods for walk-throughs and inspections. Every cell is equipped with a call button, which an inmate can activate to alert the officer in the central tower of any concern.

When an individual is taken to the Jail for confinement, the individual is placed in a holding cell pending classification. Classification is a two-step process.8 First, a classification officer feeds the individual's criminal history into a computer, and the computer generates a score indicating the level of security--i.e., maximum, medium, or minimum--needed to house the person. Next, an intake nurse assesses the individual's medical and mental health risk; the classification officer takes that assessment into account in determining where the individual will be housed. Once classified, the individual is given an armband bearing his or her name, sex, assigned quadrant, and the numbers of the floor, pod, and cell where he or she is housed. If it becomes

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necessary to reclassify the individual, another armband is issued.

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Office contracts out the provision of medical and mental health services at the Jail. In 2008, Correct Health had the contract for both services, although by subcontract it arranged for MHM Correctional Services Incorporated (" MHM" ) to provide the mental health services.9 MHM provided those services through a staff of approximately thirty people, consisting of licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, mental health clinicians, and several psychiatrists.10 Dr. William Brickhouse, who had a Ph.D in clinical psychology, headed the staff as the director of mental health.

Inmates with mental health problems were housed in three locations at the Jail, 3SW, 7NE, and 3A.11 3SW is the third floor of the Southwest quadrant. Mental health inmates were housed there in pods 100, 200, 400, and 600.12 The cells in pods 100 and 200 were single-bed cells; the cells in pods 400 and 600 were two-bed cells. MHM staff treated pods 100, 400, and 600 as " synonymous," 13 in that the inmates housed in those pods did not present a risk of harm to themselves or other inmates. Inmates in pod 100 were let out of their cells one at a time--for exercise and other needs--and were kept isolated. Those in pods 400 and 600 were let out in groups and were permitted to interact. According to Dr. Brickhouse, inmates were assigned to pod 200 if they refused to take their medication or were placed on a precautionary suicide watch.14

7NE is the seventh floor of the Northeast quadrant. It was used to " lockdown" inmates with a variety of behavioral problems.15 Inmates who had taken overt steps to commit suicide were assigned to 3A and placed under acute suicide watch.16 Also assigned to 3A were inmates who presented an acute psychiatric disorder and required special custody. MHM staffed 3A round the clock with mental health nurses, and a psychiatrist was either on-site or on-call all hours of the day.

MHM alone decided whether an inmate should be housed in 3SW, 7NE, or 3A. If MHM decided that the inmate should be housed in 3SW or 7NE, it informed classification of the appropriate pod in which to house the inmate, and a classification officer designated the cell in which the inmate would be placed. Detention officers had the authority to move the inmate from the designated cell to another cell in the same

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pod. Classification would be promptly notified if an inmate were moved.17

II.

The District Court record provides only a partial picture of Saleevan Adan's criminal history and interactions with the DeKalb County judicial system prior to the day he killed Godfrey Cook. However, from the DeKalb County Superior Court Online Judicial System,18 which contains a recording of the Docket Sheet for the case the State brought against Adan for murder in January 2001, and Adan's Inmate Record and the Jail's Incident Reports, which were before the District Court when it ruled on the Sheriff's motion for summary judgment, a more-complete picture appears with respect to Adan's incarceration at the Jail--intermittently from January 31, 2001, to February 29, 2008, and continuously from February 29, 2008, to January 7, 2009, when Cook's murder occurred.

A.

On January 31, 2001, Adan was arrested for murder, and the DeKalb County Superior Court ordered that he be detained in the DeKalb County Jail. Adan was subsequently indicted, and at his arraignment on January 31, 2002, the Superior Court ordered that he be psychologically evaluated. On April 2, 2002, the court found Adan incompetent to stand trial, and turned him over to the Georgia Department of Human Resources, which sent him to Georgia Regional Hospital in Augusta for treatment and observation.

The Superior Court held competency hearings in Adan's case in October 2003 and in June 2004.19 Prior to each hearing, Adan was brought to the DeKalb County Jail, to be held there pending the court's decision. The court found him not competent on both occasions,20 and, at the Department's direction, he was taken to Central State Hospital in Milledgeville.21 Adan's mental health did not improve, so, on November 1, 2006, the Superior Court entered an order administratively closing the case.22 We infer--because the parties do not tell us, and the public records are

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silent on this point--that Adan remained at Central State Hospital for all of 2007 and the first two months of 2008.

B.

On February 20, 2008, a forensic psychologist at the Department of Human Resources concluded that Adan had become competent to stand trial. The Superior Court therefore ordered Adan returned to Decatur, and on February 29, he was again booked into the DeKalb County Jail. He was assigned to a bed in 3A. On March 3, the Superior Court entered an order directing the DeKalb County Sheriff to hold Adan until further order of the court. Adan's Inmate Record has an entry dated March 3, indicating that he was to be pharmaceutically medicated. The Inmate Record reveals that after his assignment to 3A on February 29, he was moved about the Jail--to and from 3SW and 3A or 7NE--as follows.23

On March 5, Adan was moved from 3A to 3SW pod 600. On March 17, he was moved from 3SW pod 600 to 3SW pod 100. On March 18, he was moved from 3SW pod 100 to 3A. On March 21, he was moved from 3A to 3SW pod 100. Ten days later, Adan was returned to 3A for observation.24

On May 25, Adan was transferred from 3A to 3SW pod 100. Three...

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