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Inmate’s claims against DOC to proceed to trial

Part of a Missouri inmate’s lawsuit against corrections officials may proceed to trial after a federal appeals court found the state failed to fully argue in its motion for summary judgment that it was entitled to qualified immunity.

On June 3, a three-judge panel of 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals remanded part of the case, but the panel also affirmed a lower-court denial of summary judgment to state officials.

The plaintiff is James Spann, an inmate at the Jefferson City Correctional Center, who sued several prison officials alleging civil rights violations.

On appeal, the state challenged U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes’ rulings granting Spann’s motion to reinstate a claim of unconstitutional conditions of confinement and denying the state’s motion for summary judgment.

The panel found the state properly briefed qualified immunity in its motion to dismiss on the reinstated count. The court remanded that portion of the case, but it affirmed Wimes’ denial of summary judgment on Spann’s other claims.

Judge Steven Colloton, writing for the majority, said Wimes did not abuse his discretion in finding the officials failed to properly plead a qualified immunity defense.

“The officials’ motion for summary judgment does not even mention the term ‘qualified immunity,’” he said. Judge Lavenski R. Smith agreed.

In a partial dissent, Judge David R. Stras said he would remand the whole case.

The case is Spann v. Lombardi et al., 19-1768.