In the history of ridiculous lawsuits, one recent Ohio case takes the proverbial cake. So what could possibly be worse than a lineup of ridiculous lawsuits that include an aunt suing her nephew over a hug, or a burglar suing the cops for apprehending him after a robbery? This particular case involves an inmate in a correctional facility in Columbus, OH and a judge with a particularly well-developed sense of humor.
Often times such cases never see the light of day, much less the inside of a courtroom. However, this most recent case was dismissed by a judge using a five-stanza poem. The prisoner’s lawsuit was initially filed over bathroom access and a situation in which the prisoner felt that he was deprived of his rights. The judge did not agree and stated that “neither runs nor constipation can justify this litigation.”
Judge David Cain, of Franklin County, took minimal time to review the submitted documentation and quickly concluded that the inmate did not have a case. “You know, if he is going to file something that frivolous, he can’t expect me to be too judicious in how I respond,” Cain told a local newspaper. “He can’t expect me to take it seriously.”
Darek Lathan was the inmate who filed the suit. In his paperwork, he alleged that he was forced to go to the bathroom in his pants after he was refused a request to use a restroom during recreation time. He further claimed that he was ridiculed by both guards and inmates for his soiled garments suffering injury. To obtain the relief he believed he was entitled to, he sued the state for two million dollars in damages.
Fortunately, Judge Cain dismissed the case with a cleverly written rhyme that summarized Lathan’s allegations, as well as the conclusion. “Claiming loss and shame to boot the plaintiff filed the present suit, but the law provideth no relief from such unmitigated grief.”
According to records, Lathan, 47, is now incarcerated at a different facility and no attorney stepped forward to comment on his behalf.
The judge, a former journalist, said it took him about an hour to compose the comical poem. “We have to have some fun every once in a while in this job,” Cain told the newspaper.
Throughout U.S. history, the treatment of prisoners was most often determined by prison administrators. However, in the late 60s and early 70s, federal courts started to oversee state prison systems and develop a body of law dealing with prisoners’ rights. During the 1980s, however, a more conservative Supreme Court limited prisoners’ rights, and, in the 1990s, Congress enacted laws that severely restricted litigation and post-conviction appeals by prisoners. To further this progression of rights for prisoners, Congress passed the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) of 1995, Pub. L. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321. The rights were not specific with regard to individual actions as much as a general guideline for humane treatment while prisoners were incarcerated.
As for bathroom access, there is no specific answer to the question since most state prisons create their own inmate handbooks which detail inmate rights, privileges, and other information. There is a federal guideline that also provides general guidance, but none of these guidebooks include the specific direction with regard to bathroom usage while not in a cell. However, prisoners do have the right to humane treatment which would likely include bathroom use if it was safe. In this instance, it is likely that the facts did not support the claim that bathroom rights had been denied. All in all, it appears that inmates in a correctional facility do not have the right to use a bathroom whenever and wherever they want.
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