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Bertram v. Deukmejian

*fn* argued and submitted san francisco california: November 1, 1993.

JOHN RONALD BERTRAM, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
GEORGE DEUKMEJIAN, ET AL., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. D.C. No. CV-87-00899-GGH. Gregory G. Hollows, District Judge, Presiding

Before: Kozinski and O'scannlain, Circuit Judges, and Kelleher,*fn* District Judge.

MEMORANDUM

When individuals act in their capacities as state employees they enjoy qualified immunity under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 "insofar as their conduct [did] not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). A prisoner's right to marry was not a clearly established constitutional right until after Bertram's alleged deprivation, when the Supreme Court decided Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987). Turner was decided in June 1987, while all of the appellants' actions took place before or during May 1987. Therefore, a prisoner's constitutional right to marry was not clearly established when the appellants denied appellee's requests to marry.

That the right was clearly established under California law prior to 1987 is irrelevant for qualified immunity purposes. Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183, 193-94 (1984) (state official retains qualified immunity if the federal constitutional right was not clearly established, even if the conduct clearly violated state statute or regulation).

In Turner the Court reiterated that "a prison inmate 'retains those [constitutional] rights that are not inconsistent with his status as a prisoner or with the legitimate penological objectives of the corrections system.'" 482 U.S. at 95 (citation omitted) (brackets in original). This case implicates different penological interests than those implicated in Turner: Bertram and his fiancee were both incarcerated in single-sex prisons separated by over 450 miles; they were also crime partners convicted of molesting the fiancee's daughter. Bertram's right to marry thus was far from clearly established even after Turner.

REVERSED and REMANDED with instructions to enter summary judgment in favor of defendants.

Disposition

REVERSED and ...


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