RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Paris Adult Theater
DOCKET NO.: 72-656
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
CITATION: 412 US 521 (1973)
ARGUED: Apr 24, 1973
DECIDED: Jun 11, 1973
James Deanda - for petitioners
Mark L. Evans - for respondent
Facts of the case
Media for Logue v. United States
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 24, 1973 in Logue v. United States
Warren E. Burger:
We’ll hear arguments next this morning in number 72-656, Logue against the United States.
Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.
This is a case arising under the Federal Tort Claims Act resulting from the suicidal death of a federal prisoner confined in a state facility.
The District Court, in this instance, found both the Marshal and the sheriff, the state official involved, negligent.
It found the marshal negligent in not making arrangements for a constant surveillance of the deceased and found the sheriff negligent for making inadequate-- for having inadequate surveillance procedures.
The Circuit Court approved the findings of the Trial Court but held that, insofar as the Marshal’s negligence was concerned, that the Marshal had no authority to control jail functions and, therefore, no duty of safekeeping of the prisoner and that, insofar as the Sheriff is concerned, that he was an independent contractor as defined under the Tort Claims Act and, therefore, the government had no liability for his conduct which brings us to the issue in the case which is whether or not the United States can exempt itself from liability under the Federal Tort Claims Act for a negligent injury to a prisoner by simply turning him over to a local jail.
This is extremely important because if this were the law, first of all, you would have two standards insofar as the-- as persons in detainment are concerned, that is federal prisoners in non-federal institutions, would have the benefit of the Tort Claims Act remedies, nor will they have the rights of the protection afforded by the-- by Section 4042 and 4086 which requires the Bureau of Prisons to safely keep the prisoner and require the US Marshal to safely keep his prisoners.
It would also result in a situation where, actually, a-- where, in the usual case where a man has been convicted of a crime is confined in a federal institution has really more rights than one who is simply charged with a crime that has not yet been tried because, I believe as statistic shows that are in the record in this case, the persons that are confined in state institutions for the most part are persons who have not yet been convicted of crime.
As a matter of fact, I believe the record was that there were approximately 4,000 federal prisoners in one day that are confined in state institutions of various types and, for the most part, awaiting trial on different offenses.
The dissenting-- there was a motion filed in a hearing involved before the circuit which was denied by the circuit, but there was a dissent filed in that matter, and the basis of the dissent was that the breach of the statutory duty on the part of the Marshal occurred when the prisoner was confined in the jail under circumstances that the Marshal knew were dangerous and without taking specific precautions.
In other words, the dissent stated that, really, whether or not the-- that this contract between the government and the Nueces County Jail was really irrelevant and that the Marshal himself was guilty of acts of negligence in taking this man and turning him over to the Sheriff of Nueces County without making assurances that he would be cared for, knowing the very peculiar and special circumstances that surrounded the case.
William H. Rehnquist:
Mr. DeAnda, would that be negligence in selecting the contractor basically?
I don’t believe-- Mr. Justice, I do not believe that the negligence would be in selecting the contractor.
The negligence would be in, and the negligence that the Court found was in not making arrangements for the man to be-- the arrangements that were necessary under the record to keep the man safely that is, the marital, for example, even though he took the man to jail could have, just as they had a guard for him at the hospital after his first suicidal effort could have gotten a guard for him to watching and maintain constant observation while the man was in jail and the-- although the government places a great deal of weight on the inability of the Marshal to control the things in the jail.
The truth of the matter is that everything that occurred in that jail when this man was returned was done so with the blessings and at the suggestion of the Marshal.
Everything that the jailer did, the type of cell that the man was putting him was all done because the Marshal wanted it done that way, and the contract with the-- between the government and the jail permits this.
The-- there’s a real question in my mind that there’s anything approaching an independent contractor situation here in a situation of this type because the regulations of the Bureau of Prisons, as shown in the transcript, really live it up to the Marshal when a particular unusual situation occurs, specifically either a medical situation or one involving custodial problems.
That’s not the not the run and the mill case where the sheriff is just simply babysitting with somebody that’s in jail and charged with a crime, that he is to call the Marshal and find out what the Marshal wants done with the man and how he wants a particular situation handled.
William J. Brennan, Jr.:
Well, is this an argument that even if the state official-- the relationship between the United States and the state jail or prison was one of independent contractor, even if it was, that under these circumstances it was negligent for the Marshal to have lodged the man there without first making certain that whatever the independent contractor did, he did to safeguard this fellow from committing-- attempting suicide again.
Is that it?
Yes, Your Honor.
That’s exactly my position.
In other words, in this particular case, the man was removed from the hospital over the protest of the doctors.
Now, the doctor did release the man, but he released the man because he thought he had been ordered to do so by a federal judge.
That was as circumstance under which the man was released from jail.
He was psychotic when he went in. he was psychotic when he went out.
There had been absolutely no improvement or change in the prisoner’s condition psychiatrically from the time he was put in jail to the time he was taken out.
He was only in-- I’m sorry, in the hospital, Mr. Justice.