LAS VEGAS (AP) — A federal appeals court said Friday the nation’s largest private prison corporation can be held liable for negligence by a man who spent almost a year in solitary confinement at a southern Nevada facility without ever seeing a judge on marijuana-related charges.
The 9th U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco said a jury can hear Rudy Rivera’s lawsuit claiming that CoreCivic Inc. employees failed to tell the U.S. Marshals Service while Rivera languished in custody from November 2015 to October 2016 at the Nevada Southern Detention Center outside Las Vegas.
“A reasonable jury could find that CoreCivic caused plaintiff’s prolonged detention by failing to notify the Marshals of his continued detention without a hearing and by discouraging and preventing him from seeking outside help,” a panel of three judges said.
A CoreCivic official said the company is confident a jury will find CoreCivic wasn’t responsible for Rivera’s prolonged detention without a court appearance.
“CoreCivic does not have legal custody of detainees and is not responsible for the arraignment or tracking the arraignment of detainees,” Ryan Gustin, company public affairs manager, said in a statement.
Rivera had “numerous resources at his disposal to challenge his legal custody,” the statement said, including telephones that he used to call family members, mail, attorney visits and legal reference materials. Rivera also “never submitted any verbal or written grievance about this issue,” Gustin said.
The resurrected case now returns to U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, where a judge in 2017 dismissed it saying that because Rivera was in U.S. Marshals Service custody, the company wasn’t responsible for Rivera’s 355-day detention.
“They were basically taking the position that, ‘Eh, what were we supposed to do? Not our fault,’” said Rivera’s attorney, Mitchell Bisson.
He said damages for negligence,