The 9th Circuit Court of Appeal said Monday a former female inmate should be allowed to sue Los Angeles County and the Sheriff's Department for shackling her, mostly unclothed, to a cell door for hours without access to a toilet, among several other claims of alleged mistreatment.
A lower court had dismissed some of the former inmate's claims, and gave an instruction to jurors at a trial that they should give "deference" to County jail officials in establishing security procedures in an overcrowded and understaffed facility, the Century Regional Detention Facility.
The 9th Circuit said the dismissals and those jury instructions were improper and that Lecia L. Shorter should be entitled to a new trial in US District Court in LA.
"Shorter presented uncontroverted evidence that the County, tasked with supervising high-observation housing for mentally ill women, has a policy of shackling the women to steel tables in the middle of an indoor recreation room as their sole form of recreation, and that jail officials routinely leave noncompliant detainees naked and chained to their cell doors, for hours at a time without access to food, water, or a toilet," the opinion said.
Shorter's appellate attorney said he was pleased with the ruling.
"It sends a powerful message on a lot of levels, to those who run our jails and our prisons, that you can't hide behind this deference, that you're taking human beings in, and particularly when they're pretrial detainees, they're entitled to fairness," attorney William F. Abrams with the Foster Pepper law firm in Seattle told NBC4.
Shorter will also be able to retry her claims — that she may have been improperly classified as a mentally ill inmate and was subjected to unjustified body cavity searches while she was held at CRDF between November and December, 2011.
The County, following a warning from the U.S. Justice Department in 2014, discontinued some of the practices described in Shorter's lawsuit.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this year NBC4 reported on an unrelated criminal conspiracy investigation into several senior LA County Sheriff's Officials responsible for shackling nude male inmates to walls and floors at a jail in Castaic while they waited for the inmates to relieve their bodies of hidden items.