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Case Name Garcia v. Tucker PC-FL-0022
Docket / Court 4:07-CV-474 ( N.D. Fla. )
State/Territory Florida
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization Legal Services/Legal Aid
Case Summary
On November 7, 2007, a hearing-impaired inmate at Polk Correctional Institution in Polk City, FL, filed this lawsuit, pro se, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. He sued four corrections officials responsible for organizing and providing accommodations for ... read more >
On November 7, 2007, a hearing-impaired inmate at Polk Correctional Institution in Polk City, FL, filed this lawsuit, pro se, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. He sued four corrections officials responsible for organizing and providing accommodations for disabled inmates in his lawsuit under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, alleging that the defendants had discriminated against him because of his disability. Representing himself, the plaintiff asked the court for injunctive relief. The plaintiff also sought class certification.

To reduce or eliminate noise levels to better monitor and control prisoners in the television day rooms, the prison installed modular audio level cut-off equipment on the institution televisions that would convert the television audio to a FM radio signal for air wave transition. These "audio decorders" permit the televisions to be turned down to their lowest speaker level, this reducing the noise pollution while allowing prisoners to hear, understand, and clearly enjoy the television audio through a radio with earbuds or headphones at a personally selected audio level. However, these radios were insufficient for the plaintiffs' impairment, so he requested that the institution allow him to have his family pay a special vendor for a speaker-less AM-FM radio with the decibel level high enough to accommodate his hearing impairment.

According to his complaint, the plaintiff submitted a formal request to Defendant Young, for "reasonable modification or accommodation" on June 26, 2007. Defendant Young sent the plaintiff's request to Defendant Long, the Chief Health Officer of the prison, to get verification of his disability and for the medical officer's findings and opinion of the requested accommodation. On August 2, 2007, Defendant Long issued a discussion of findings to Defendant Young saying that though the plaintiff is hearing-impaired, he was not sure that the AM-FM radio requested by the plaintiff would provide any better benefit that the radio available through the prison store. On August 3, 2007, Defendant Young denied the plaintiff's reasonable accommodation request. On August 23, 2007, Defendant Taylor, the statewide ADA coordinator, agreed with Defendant Young's decision to deny the plaintiff's request.

The plaintiff then filed a request for administrative review, which was received by a representative of Defendant Secretary McDonough, and referred it to Defendant Taylor who again denied the plaintiff's request, adding that allowing the requested radio would be a security risk. The plaintiff filed this lawsuit alleging that the defendants were discriminating against him on the basis of his disability.

In an amended complaint filed on December 3, 2007, the plaintiff dropped the class action attempt. On May 21, 2008, the plaintiff filed a motion for appointment of counsel, that, though originally denied by Magistrate Judge William C. Sherrill, Jr., was eventually granted and the plaintiff was appointed counsel.

On September 9, 2008, the defendants filed their first motion for summary judgment. In a June 22, 2009 report, Magistrate Judge Sherrill recommended the motion be granted in part and denied in part. He concluded that there was sufficient evidence that the plaintiff had been excluded from the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of the correctional facility and his disability had not reasonably been accommodated and therefore the motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims should be denied.

As for the equal protection claim, the magistrate judge concluded that the plaintiff had come forward with evidence to show that other inmates have received radios with higher decibel audio as he has requested and therefore the motion to dismiss to that claim should be denied. The magistrate judge also recommended that the defendants' motion to dismiss as to the plaintiff's speech therapy claim (that he needs the higher decibel radio and speech therapy to learn to speak) and the plaintiff's individual capacity liability claim under the ADA be denied.

On August 11, 2009, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Stephan P. Mickle, accepted the magistrate's recommendations over the defendants' objections to the magistrate's recommendations.

The plaintiff again tried to amend the complaint, to re-add class action allegations, and the magistrate judge, in an August 12, 2010 report and recommendation, suggested that the Court grant the motion to amend in part, and deny it in part. The magistrate's recommendations were accepted by Judge Mickle on November 22, 2010, permitting the plaintiff to file an amended complaint with class action allegations, but disallowing the addition of prisoner plaintiffs.

A month later, the defendants appealed that November 22 opinion adopting the magistrate's recommendations, but their appeal was dismissed, sua sponte, for lack of jurisdiction.

On January 11, 2011, the plaintiff filed a motion to consolidate this case with Blackburn v. Florida Department of Corrections (4:10-CV-569-SPM/WCS) and Johnson v. Florida Department of Corrections (4:10-CV-570). While waiting for the Court to rule on this motion, the plaintiff filed a number of motions including an emergency motion to enjoin the defendants from retaliating against him, an emergency motion for writ of habeas corpus, an emergency motion for injunction to ordering the defendants to transfer the plaintiff, and an emergency motion to depose the plaintiff. These motions were either deferred or immediately denied by the magistrate judge. As for the motion to consolidate, the magistrate recommended it be denied in a February 23, 2011 report and recommendation, a recommendation that was accepted by Judge Mickle on March 28, 2011.

A month later, Magistrate Judge William C. Sherrill Jr. denied the plaintiff's motion for a hearing concerning the motion for preliminary injunction and petition for writ of habeas corpus at that time. On July 20, 2011, he issued a report and recommendation that the plaintiff's motion to certify and motion for a preliminary injunction be denied. This recommendation was adopted in a September 19 order by Judge Mickle, and the parties were permitted to file motions for summary judgment within 20 days of this order.

On October 11, 2011, Magistrate Judge Sherrill, Jr. granted a motion to substitute a party, replacing former Department of Corrections Secretary Edwin G. Buss with Secretary Kenneth S. Tucker.

On October 31, 2011, the substituted defendant filed a second motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff filed his own motion for summary judgment. Magistrate Judge Sherrill recommended that the defendant's motion was granted as to liability for nominal damages for the ADA claim, but otherwise denied, and that the plaintiff's motion be completely denied. Before the parties filed objections to these recommendations, they filed a notice of settlement. The settlement allowed the plaintiff's attorneys to send electronic equipment for the plaintiff to use with his hearing aid to hear the television transmissions and radio signals. On March 8, 2012, the Judge Mickle dismissed the case.

On May 3, 2012, the parties filed a joint motion to reopen the case to modify the settlement agreement. Judge Mickle reopened the case on May 10, and adopted a modification of paragraph 4. The case was dismissed with prejudice.

On July 26, 2012, the plaintiff filed a motion for injunction and notice of inquiry but the Court denied the motion in an opinion the next day. The parties went to mediation of August 2, 2012, after which the defendant agreed pay $237,500 in settlement of any and all claims for attorney's fees, expenses, and costs of litigation. This case is closed.

Saeeda Joseph-Charles - 12/20/2016


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
Hearing impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
State law
Defendant(s) Polk Correctional Institution
Plaintiff Description A hearing-impaired inmate at Polk Correctional Institution in Polk City, Florida.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Legal Services/Legal Aid
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Case Closing Year 2012
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
Book
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
4:07−cv−00474−SPM−WCS (N.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0022-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/20/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-FL-0022-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/07/2007
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint [ECF# 6]
PC-FL-0022-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/03/2007
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation [Regarding Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment] [ECF# 40]
PC-FL-0022-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/22/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation Re: Motion to File Amended Complaint [ECF# 135]
PC-FL-0022-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/12/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Adopting Report and Recommendation [ECF# 150] (N.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0022-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/22/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Dismissing Appeal for Lack of Jurisdiction] [Ct. of App. ECF# 184]
PC-FL-0022-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/08/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation [Regarding Motion for Preliminary Injunction] [ECF# 244]
PC-FL-0022-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/20/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement and Release of All Claims [ECF# 303-1]
PC-FL-0022-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/07/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Filing [ECF# 303]
PC-FL-0022-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/07/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Reopening Case for Modification of Settlement Agreement [ECF# 321] (N.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0022-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/10/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement
PC-FL-0022-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/02/2012
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Judges Mickle, Stephan P. (N.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0022-0002 | PC-FL-0022-0011 | PC-FL-0022-9000
Sherrill, William C. Jr. (N.D. Fla.) [Magistrate]
PC-FL-0022-0005 | PC-FL-0022-0006 | PC-FL-0022-0010 | PC-FL-0022-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Berg, Randall Challen Jr. (Florida)
PC-FL-0022-0001 | PC-FL-0022-0003 | PC-FL-0022-9000
Caserta, Sharon (Florida)
PC-FL-0022-0001 | PC-FL-0022-0003 | PC-FL-0022-9000
Glickman, Joshua Aaron (Florida)
PC-FL-0022-9000
Heller, Shawn Alex (Florida)
PC-FL-0022-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Hiers, Mark Jerry (Florida)
PC-FL-0022-9000
Maher, Susan Adams (Florida)
PC-FL-0022-0001 | PC-FL-0022-0003 | PC-FL-0022-0007 | PC-FL-0022-9000
Sanford, Jonathan P. (Florida)
PC-FL-0022-9000
Toothman, Sherry Anita (Florida)
PC-FL-0022-9000

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