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Court of Appeals dismisses lawsuit alleging rape and abuse of under-age prisoners


In 2013, seven "John Doe" minors sued the Department of Corrections, alleging that they had been subjected to rape or sexual harassment while incarcerated in adult prisons. They alleged that the Department and its employees had wrongfully condoned, perpetuated, and in some cases even participated in the wrongful conduct.  This month two judges of the Court of Appeals upheld the summary disposition of their claims because of the procedural failure to document in the complaint that the seven John Does had never filed a previous civil action. 

The young prisoners' attorneys argued that the children should be allowed to amend their complaint; and that, in any event, the statutory scheme under which their case was dismissed constituted a violation of their constitutional rights.  The majority concluded that the Legislature did not exceed its authority in mandating that any disclosure error result in dismissal, and held that the 1999 statute prohibiting prisoners from filing certain claims was not unconstitutional. 

Judge Beckering dissented, pointing out that Michigan's Constitution mandates that "NO denied equal protection...or civil or political rights..."  The judge wrote forcefully that the 1999 statutory scheme that attempted to deny prisoners certain due process and equal protection rights is simply an illegal infringement of constitutionally-guaranteed rights.  The judge pointed out that since the Constitution already defines who is guaranteed civil rights, it is simply illegal for the Legislature to attempt to re-define who should and who should not enjoy those rights--thereby excluding a class of "persons."

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