Horvitz & Levy LLP, along with the Pepperdine Law School Ninth Circuit Appellate Clinic, successfully reversed the dismissal of Charles Byrd’s prisoner civil rights lawsuit. Mr. Byrd, an Arizona state prisoner and former pretrial detainee, has a history of being a victim of sexual abuse. Despite knowing about his history, prison officials permitted female guards to observe Mr. Byrd daily, from four to five feet away, while he showered and used the bathroom. Mr. Byrd filed a pro se complaint alleging that this cross-gender close supervision policy violated his Fourth Amendment rights to bodily privacy and freedom from unreasonable searches and his Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The district court dismissed Mr. Byrd’s constitutional claims at the pleading stage on the basis that Ninth Circuit precedent clearly permitted the cross-gender supervision in this case.
The Ninth Circuit reversed in a published opinion, holding that its prior decisions did not address the type of broad and invasive cross-gender observation alleged in this case, and that the allegations in Mr. Byrd’s complaint could support a constitutional violation if proven true. The court further held that the prison’s various defenses could not be evaluated at the pleading stage, and that additional evidentiary support will be required.
Horvitz & Levy attorneys Jeremy Rosen and Mark Kressel supervise the Pepperdine Law School Ninth Circuit Appellate Clinic in representing clients like Mr. Byrd pro bono under appointment by the Ninth Circuit. This is the Pepperdine clinic’s sixth win in eight cases.