Moore v. LaSalle Management
Public Justice is appellate co-counsel in Moore v. LaSalle Management, an appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in this action on behalf of the surviving family members of Erie Moore, who was beaten to death by guards at a for-profit prison in Louisiana.
The facts of the case are horrific. In October 2015, Erie Moore, a Black man, was arrested for disturbing the peace, a misdemeanor offense, and taken to a private prison operated by LaSalle Management Company, which operates private prisons throughout Texas and Louisiana.
Despite Mr. Moore’s obvious need for mental health treatment, he was placed into a cell with a violent detainee who had just been in a fight. After Mr. Moore and his cellmate tussled, guards punched Mr. Moore in the back of the head while he was squatting to defecate and then forcefully dragged Mr. Moore from his cell. He was then dropped on his head several times, sprayed with toxic chemicals in the face and groin while shackled, dragged to an area of the prison without security cameras, and beaten into a state of unconsciousness.
No medical attention was provided until Mr. Moore was transferred to another jail, where it was discovered that Mr. Moore was unconscious and bleeding from the head. Mr. Moore was declared brain dead shortly after arriving at the hospital; he died from his injuries about a month later.
Mr. Moore’s family filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state tort law against the individual officers allegedly involved in Mr. Moore’s death, the warden, the prison facility, LaSalle Management, and the City of Monroe. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants on nearly all claims relating to Mr. Moore’s wrongful death. This appeal followed.
The appeal raises at least three vitally important issues of first impression in the Fifth Circuit: whether private companies sued for civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 can be held vicariously liable for the actions of their employees; whether such companies are categorically immune from punitive damages; and whether private prison personnel are entitled to qualified immunity.
Public Justice is participating in this case as part of its campaign to ensure that victims of corporate and government wrongdoing have access to justice. Winning this appeal won’t bring back Erie Moore. But it will bring some measure of justice to his grieving family–and help to shine a spotlight on the terrible human rights abuses in the private prison industry.
- Leslie Bailey and Leslie Brueckner
Nelson Welch Cameron, Shreveport, LA; James Anglin Flynn, Mark S. Davies Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP; Tiffany R. Wright, Howard University School of Law Civil Rights Clinic.