Bracey v. Huntingdon County, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 119990 (M.D. Pa., July 19, 2018)

Court and Agency Decisions and Orders (including case law)

In the latest iteration of a case that has gone to an appellate court and back, a U.S. District Judge in Pennsylvania has dismissed an inmate’s lawsuit alleging that his constitutional rights were violated when his blood was forcibly drawn to test for HIV and hepatitis C after he was involved in a physical fight with prison staff. Corey Bracey, the inmate, had declined staff’s request that he voluntarily submit to a blood test, so prison officials sought a court order compelling him to do so. The court did issue that order, Bracey sued two prison officials, including a lawyer, pro se, arguing that prison officials abused legal process and violated his due process rights by seeking the court order, which he submitted was broader than the Pennsylvania statute permitted. Specifically, Bracey challenged the issuance of an order requiring him to submit to hepatitis testing under a statute that only mentioned HIV.

The District Court affirmed a magistrate judge’s recommendation that the suit be dismissed. The Court found no constitutional due process violation, writing that Bracey had diminished constitutional rights as an inmate and that Bracey was afforded sufficient process to oppose the order. Moreover, the Court found that the abuse of process claim failed because there was no clear precedent on the question of whether the HIV law also included other similar diseases.

While the Court did not opine on the merits of Bracey’s claim that the HIV law was improperly employed to secure hepatitis testing, the case is notable as an indication that states are using HIV-specific laws and policies to secure orders and enforce policies concerning other diseases, especially hepatitis.

Thanks to New York Law School Professor Arthur Leonard’s LGBT Law Notes for its analysis of the case.