Supreme Court rejects appeal from Louisiana inmate with coronavirus concerns

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal from a Louisiana inmate on Friday who argued that a state prison was not doing enough to protect him from catching Covid-19.

The move effectively blocks a lower court order that required the prison to submit a plan detailing the steps it is taking to implement precautionary measures.

Christopher Marlowe, serving at the state’s B.B. Rayburn Correctional Center for attempted second degree murder, suffers from diabetes, which makes him susceptible to serious complications should he contract Covid-19. He says the facility is not doing enough to protect him.

“Laying in my bed, I can reach my left hand over and touch my neighbor,” Marlowe told a lower court judge, according to court papers. “Five feet from my head is a water fountain, it’s the only water fountain trafficked by every inmate in the dorm.”

In court papers, Louisiana said that not only had Marlowe failed to properly bring his claim and exhaust the normal grievance procedures required by law, but that his original lawsuit was filed back in 2018, long before the coronavirus pandemic, when he was residing in a different facility. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said Marlowe’s petition is riddled with errors and that the lower court had highlighted the fact that officials at the facility had “taken numerous steps to implement policies to contain the spread of COVID-19”.

Prison officials “have and continue to dynamically and reasonably respond to the evolving risks and circumstances of COVID-19” Landry said.

A district court ordered the facility to provide the court a with a plan detailing how it expects to implement social distancing practices. The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals put that order on hold, and the Supreme Court’s action Friday means the district court order won’t be enforced.

The order was unsigned, with no noted dissents.

The court did say that its order should not preclude Marlowe from filing a more specific grievance with the prison.