Clarion County Hires Attorney to Defend Against Two Prisoner Civil Rights Suits

| June 12, 2019

Commissioners 6/11/2019CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – The Clarion County Commissioners approved an agreement with Pittsburgh Attorney Marie Milie Jones to defend the county in two federal lawsuits allegeding prisoners’ civil rights violations.

Commissioners Ted Tharan, Wayne Brosius, and Ed Heasley approved the agreement at their Tuesday morning meeting.

Both suits in Federal Court were filed by Terrell Fields, a former Clarion County Jail inmate.

Fields was lodged in the Clarion County Jail on a second-degree felony charge of Criminal Attempt – Criminal Trespass-Break Into Structure; a third-degree charge of Loitering And Prowling At Night Time; and a summary charge of Criminal Mischief-Damage Property from an incident that occurred on Merle Road in late September of 2018. On April 26, 2019, a jury found him not guilty of the charges.

The suits are primarily seeking injunction relief in the form of policy change at the Clarion County Jail and $40,000.00 in damages.

The two suits were filed on April 9 and April 10, 2019, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in the name of Terrell Fields.

In a hand-written complaint, Fields alleges various violations of his constitutional rights, including a strand of hair on his dinner tray; denial to have a shower before a court appearance; and having to use the toilet in his cell with the door open. A complete list of his complaints is included later in this story.

The hourly rate structure for JonesPassodelis, PLLC, is as follows: Partners: $240; Senior Associates: $215; Associates: $200; Law Clerks $135; and Legal Assistants: $65.

Clarion County Solicitor Chris Gabriel later explained to that “Clarion County is part of CCAP (County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania), and when a county is sued, CCAP assigns a lawyer for the case. Very often, that lawyer is Marie Milie Jones.  (In) these two cases by Mr. Fields – when you go to court you can seek money damages, or you try to have the courts tell the other party that they must do something or take some action.

“When that is the case, seeking money damages, the insurance does not cover that, and the commissioners have to hire the lawyer directly.  It’s only because of the difference in the type of case that they hired her at a meeting rather than getting her directly assigned by the insurance company. The main thrust of the complaint is injunctive, and that’s why we had to get a lawyer.”

First Complaint

According to court documents, Fields alleges violation of the eighth, fifth, and 14thamendment: negligence, retaliation, and abuse of discretion. Dates were March 18, 2019, March 17, 2019, March 8, 2019, and February 24, 2019. Place of the event was E Block, C Block, containment unit.

In his hand-written complaint, Fields wrote:

“Kitchen staff gave me a dinner tray that contained a human hair strand on March 17, 2019, at 1715 hrs. After notifying prison staff of the incident there were no efforts to rectify or accommodate me out of the contaminated tray. I went 20 hours without eating a full and properly balanced meal. Correction officers denied me relief.

“(A known jail employee) denied me access to shower on March 18, 2019, at 0820. I was scheduled for jury selection at the Court of Common Pleas of Clarion County that morning. As I pleaded that is my right to personal hygiene, (the known jail employee) dismissed and denied my request. I was forced to appear in court foul smelling and uncleanly.”

The requested relief is a “court order for the reconstruction of institutional procedure and monetary damages of $25,000.”

Second Complaint

Plaintiff claimed he was violated from freedom from cruel and unusual punishment as stated in the eighth amendment. He alleges the events took place in the E block confinement pod, top-tier.

Also in a hand-written complaint, he wrote:

“(A known correction officer) was acting officer-in-charge of the time of the incident. After about 1515 hrs. (the known correction officer) ordered staff to enter E block and order I hang up my call with a PRE a representative and lock down in my cell. In incident reports later prepared by the staff involved stated that (jail employees) all collectively agreed to force me to the end of my call with PREA which I thought compelled to report to because of an incident where I was forced to expose myself to a surveillance camera while on the toilet. I was vulnerable to any intrusion. It was (the known correction officer’s) that I be not permitted to close my door while relieving myself.”

“I ask that (a known individual) should be dismissed as a Corrections Officer and I be rewarded $15,000 in pain and suffering damages.”

Similar Case Filed by Fields on May 8, 2019, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

Fields is requesting injunction relief against a county jail shift supervisor who allegedly denied him access to the jail library.

He alleges a shift supervisor abused her administrative discretion by denying him the use of the institutional law library.

He is requesting the court to reprimand and suspend the shift supervisor. In addition, develop a new policy regarding the law library use.

This case is still open.

Federal Suit Filed by Darold Palmore

A separate federal suit filed by inmate Darold Palmore against the county and 24 current and former employees of the jail alleges additional prisoner civil rights violations, including misconduct related to disciplinary measures implemented by the jail. A motion to dismiss the case was filed by Marie Milie Jones and Michael R. Lettrich of JonesPassodelis, PLLC, on January 18. Palmore, who is representing himself in the case, filed a motion requesting additional time to respond to the motion to dismiss on May 17. The time extension motion was terminated on May 21 and no further activity has been reported on the case since that date.

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