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Bacote v. Federal Bureau of Prisons.

No. 22-1325. 3/5/2024. D.Colo. Judge Carson. Federal Bureau of Prisons—Confinement Conditions—Injunctive and Declaratory Relief—Eighth Amendment—Prudential Mootness.

March 5, 2024

Bacote was incarcerated in an administrative maximum facility in Florence (ADX-Florence). Based on his history of mental illness, Bacote filed an action for injunctive and declaratory relief from his confinement conditions. Holding that he had released most of his claims as part of a class action settlement by mentally disabled plaintiffs at ADX-Florence, the district court dismissed all but one of Bacote’s claims and denied his request to file a fifth amended complaint. Bacote proceeded on the remaining claim, arguing that the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBP) had violated his Eighth Amendment rights by acting with deliberate indifference to his mental disability. FBP psychology staff examined Bacote and concluded that he suffered from an intellectual disability and persistent depressive disorder. This diagnosis triggered FBP Program Statement 5310.16, which forbids the incarceration of inmates with persistent depressive disorders in ADX-Florence. Accordingly, FBP voluntarily transferred Bacote to a mental health ward in a different penitentiary in Pennsylvania. But before Bacote was transferred, the district court dismissed his Eighth Amendment claim, holding that he had failed to establish that FBP was deliberately indifferent to his disability. As this was the only remaining claim, the district court also entered judgment in FBP’s favor.

On appeal, Bacote argued that the district court erred by (1) determining that the class action settlement released his claims, (2) denying him leave to amend his complaint, and (3) entering judgment for FBP. Inmates may seek injunctive or declaratory relief from the conditions of their confinement. However, Bacote failed to persuade the Tenth Circuit that a cognizable danger rather than a mere possibility of a recurrent violation existed because (1) Bacote was no longer subjected to the specific conditions from which he sought relief; (2) he requested judgment without any information about his current confinement conditions; (3) the record suggested that FBP gave Bacote conditions preferable to those about which he complained; and (4) even if Bacote had requested relief that could have a continuing effect, such relief would have required the Tenth Circuit to restrict the conduct of officials in another circuit. Therefore, the appeal was prudentially moot.

The appeal was dismissed.

Official US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit proceedings can be found at the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit website.

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