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Taft v. Ryan

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division

March 28, 2014

DAVID L. TAFT, JR., Plaintiff,


DONALD E. O'BRIEN, Senior District Judge.


Currently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Docket No. 25. The Defendants argue that the Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 Complaint should be dismissed. In his Complaint, Mr. Taft, who is an involuntarily committed patient at the Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Offenders (CCUSO) in Cherokee, Iowa, argues that he should be given a hearing, pursuant to Wolff v. McDonnell , 418 U.S. 539 (1974), when disciplinary incidents negatively impact his progression through CCUSO's treatment levels.[1] The parties appeared for hearing on February 20, 2014. After listening to the parties' arguments, the Court took the matter under consideration and now enters the following.


The Iowa Supreme Court has set out a helpful summation of Mr. Taft's history.

Taft was arrested in December 1987 for lascivious acts with a minor, based on allegations that he sexually molested his sister and committed other criminal sexual offenses. He was convicted and sentenced to two five-year terms and a two-year term to run concurrently. He served this sentence and was discharged on May 31, 1991.
Seven days after his discharge from prison, Taft reoffended by sexually assaulting two girls who were unknown to him; one who was eight years old and the other who was ten. He was arrested and charged with second-degree sexual abuse, assault causing injury, and burglary. He was convicted and sentenced to prison. Taft was discharged from prison for these offenses on January 10, 2005.
Proceedings were commenced for Taft's commitment as a sexually violent predator (SVP) pursuant to the Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators Act, Iowa Code chapter 229A on March 30, 2005... A jury found Taft suffered from a mental abnormality which made it more likely than not that he would reoffend, and he was therefore committed to the Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Offenders (CCUSO) under the provisions of Iowa Code Chapter 229A.

Taft v. Iowa Dist. Court ex rel. Linn Cnty. , 828 N.W.2d 309, 311 (Iowa 2013).[2] Mr. Taft has been committed to CCUSO since 2005.

Mr. Taft originally filed the present Complaint in March of 2011. In June of 2011, the Complaint was consolidated with Taft et al. v. Turner et al., 05-CV-4065-DEO, a then pending class action case in which Mr. Taft was the named Plaintiff and CCUSO staff members were the named Defendants. On April 25, 2012, this Court accepted a settlement in 05-CV-4065-DEO. 05-CV-4065-DEO, Docket No. 151. However, Mr. Taft's present issue, regarding Wolff v. McDonnell , was not addressed by the settlement. Consequently, on May 22, 2012, this Court entered an Initial Review Order allowing Mr. Taft's Wolff v. McDonnell claim to proceed independent from the class action. Docket No. 13.

Turning to the present Complaint, it is clear that there are few disputed facts.[3] Mr. Taft's argument is largely legal in nature, regarding the standard articulated in Wolff v. McDonnell .

At the time of the hearing, Mr. Taft was in Phase 2 of treatment at CCUSO.[4] Mr. Taft argues that it is inappropriate to use behavioral reports as a factor in considering whether he should be allowed release from CCUSO. Behavioral reports are essentially write-ups' that CCUSO gives to patients when a patient violates a rule. The CCUSO Patient Handbook sets out the reasons for which a person can receive a behavior report, including but not limited: to disobeying an order, fighting or assaulting, theft, sexual behavior, boundary violations, possessing contraband, and interfering with security operations. Docket No. 26, p. 33-35. All behavior reports are investigated by a CCUSO staff person who was not involved in the incident giving rise to behavioral report. If the investigation reveals that the behavior report was founded, CCUSO sanctions the patient for their misconduct. Docket No. 26, p. 39. Patients may file grievances regarding receipt of a behavior report. Docket No. 26, p. 37-38. Patients may appeal a decision on a grievance to the superintendent or designee. Docket No. 26.

There are a couple different ways that, in theory, CCUSO patients can be released from CCUSO. First, if they complete all treatment objectives, they are allowed to leave CCUSO on transitional release' and, if that goes well, they may be ultimately discharged from treatment. Additionally, the Iowa State Court that originally sent the patient to CCUSO is required to conduct an annual review to determine if there is still a need to keep the patient at CCUSO. The Department of Human Services has been granted discretion to determine if CCUSO patients are eligible for transitional release. As set out in the Iowa Code:

[t]he Department of Human Services is granted discretion to create a transitional release program. The legislature further specified criteria to be used to determine when a patient is eligible for transitional release. 1. The department of human services is authorized to establish a transitional release program and provide control, care, and treatment, and supervision of committed persons placed in such a program. 2. A committed person is suitable for placement in the transitional release program if the court finds that all of the following apply: a. The committed person's mental abnormality is no longer such that the person is a high risk to reoffend. b. The committed person has achieved and demonstrated significant insights into the person's sex offending cycle. c. The committed person has accepted responsibility for past behavior and understands the impact sexually violent crimes have upon a victim. d. A detailed relapse prevention plan has been developed and accepted by the treatment provider which is appropriate for the committed person's mental abnormality and sex offending history. e. No major discipline reports have been issued for the committed person for a period of six months. f. The committed person is not likely to escape or attempt to escape custody pursuant to section 229A.5B. g. The committed person is not likely to engage in predatory acts constituting sexually violent offenses while in the program. h. The placement is in the best interest of the committed person. i. The committed person has demonstrated a willingness to agree to and abide by all rules of the program... [3., 4. and 5. omitted.] 6. The department of human services shall be responsible for establishing and implementing the rules and directives regarding the location of the transitional release program, staffing needs, restrictions on confinement and the movement of committed persons, and for assessing the progress of committed persons in the program. The court may also impose conditions on a committed person placed in the program.

I.C.A. § 229A.8A.

As stated above, the Iowa State Court can also release a CCUSO patient after conducting an annual review. "The annual report shall be provided to the court that committed the person under this chapter. The court shall conduct an annual review and, if warranted, set a final hearing on the status of the committed person. The annual review may be based only on written records." I.C.A. § 229A.8. The Code goes onto say that CCUSO patients shall be appointed an attorney for the annual review hearing and are allowed experts. Finally, the Code states what factors shall be considered during an annual review.

It is undisputed in the record that Mr. Taft receives numerous behavioral reports every year. For the annual period ending in 2013, Mr. Taft received five reports for various infractions, including having contraband, inciting disruptiveness, threatening another patient, and lying to staff. Docket No. 35, p. 10. It is also undisputed that these reports are evidence ...

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