The United States Supreme Court Will Consider a FURMAN | HONICK Case
On Friday, the United States Supreme Court granted a petition for writ of certiorari in a Furman | Honick case, styled as Neil Dupree v. Kevin Younger (No. 22-210). The petition will consider whether to preserve the issue for appellate review a party must reassert in a post-trial motion a purely legal issue rejected at summary judgment—an issue that only arose after the defendant below, Neil Dupree, waived his legal arguments on appeal by failing to file a post-trial motion after a jury found him liable for violating Kevin Younger’s constitutional rights.
The case stems from a 2013 prison beating in which three correctional officers, on direct orders from then-Lieutenant Dupree, attacked 7 prisoners for their perceived involvement in a previous altercation with another correctional officer (Dupree telling the COs he wanted “blood for blood”). Our pretrial detainee client, Kevin Younger, was one of those seven victims; however, he actually tried to help the correctional officer during that previous altercation (and likely saved the CO’s life), risking his own life in the process. Truly, no good deed goes unpunished. Mr. Younger’s act of courage and humanity was rewarded with a brutal attack by those tasked with ensuring his safety, beating him within an inch of his life, and leaving him with life-threatening injuries, permanent disabilities, and six months of punitive solitary confinement for false charges associated with the correctional officer altercation. The State of Maryland ultimately convicted the three correctional officer assailants, the warden was forced to resign, and internal affairs found overwhelming evidence that prison officials at every level covered up the attack.
Mr. Younger filed separate actions against the State of Maryland (24-C-17-004752, Cir. Ct. Balt. City), and against the individual bad actors, including the former warden and his third in command, Dupree (No. 1:16-cv-03269-RDB, D. Md.). In June 2019, a state jury returned a $2.7 million verdict against the State of Maryland. In February 2020, a federal jury returned a $700,000 verdict against the individual bad actors. The warden and his lieutenant (Dupree) appealed.
Troublingly, the State knew from the outset that its employees perpetrated this attack (through internal affairs investigations, and criminal proceedings), and that Mr. Younger had actually saved (not attacked) the correctional officer. However, rather than providing any relief to Mr. Younger (or even just apologizing!), the State instead spent six years in litigation, in two venues, with at least 10 different lawyers, attacking and discrediting Mr. Younger personally, and trying to dismiss his claims at every opportunity—even after two juries found that the State and its agents violated Mr. Younger’s fundamental constitutional rights.
After the jury verdict, Dupree appealed on the basis of an argument that he raised, and the District Court denied, at summary judgment regarding Mr. Younger’s “proper exhaustion” of his administrative remedies before filing suit, under the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act. Dupree never re-raised this argument in a post-trial motion, despite decades-old Fourth Circuit precedent requiring exactly that in order to preserve the argument for appeal. Consequently, the Fourth Circuit dismissed Dupree’s appeal because he failed to preserve his arguments in a post-trial motion. https://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/opinions/216423.u.pdf
Still refusing to accept responsibility for his actions, or for the jury’s verdict, Dupree filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, hoping to be among the one percent of cases that the Court reviews. Amazingly, the Court granted Dupree’s request, notwithstanding that the legal issue only exists because of Dupree’s own, admitted, failure to preserve his argument for appeal. Ultimately, Dupree will ask the Court to excuse his own waiver because the federal circuits treat the preservation requirements differently.
We are optimistic that when the dust settles, justice will prevail, and Mr. Younger will be able to enforce the jury verdict and finally move on with his life. Oral argument will be in April 2023.