J.S. v. T'Kach

U.S. COURT OF APPEALS, SECOND CIRCUIT
Civil Rights

New York Law Journal

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Judge Barrington Parker

Federal inmate J.S. was terminated from the Justice Department's Witness Security Program based on contact with unauthorized individuals. In addition to asserting that termination was without due process, J.S. claimed that his later 188-day placement in solitary confinement violated his Fifth and Eighth Amendment rights. Holding that it lacked jurisdiction over J.S.'s termination claim district court, sua sponte, dismissed his complaint without considering his confinement claim. Second Circuit affirmed dismissal of J.S.'s due process claim over termination from witness security. Congress did not create a protectable property interest in program participation. J.S.'s solitary confinement challenge was remanded. Absent factual findings to the contrary, confinement for 188 days is a significant hardship triggering Sandin v. Connor, which states solitary confinement implicates a prisoner's liberty interest. Noting the government's claim that J.S.'s solitary confinement was administrative and not punitive, the circuit found the record devoid of any explanation for such confinement. Because J.S. alleged facts with regard to his solitary confinement on which he could plead a Fifth Amendment claim, district court erred when it dismissed that claim sua sponte.

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