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Gatlin v. Goodman

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division

November 12, 2019




         Perry Joe Gatlin ("Gatlin"), a former inmate of the Boone County Detention Center ("BCDC"), has filed a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis.

         Gatlin names as Defendants Prosecuting Attorney Devon Goodman ("Goodman"), Jail Administrator Jason Day ("Day"), Corporal Jared Pointer ("Pointer"), Corporal Wade ("Wade"), and Jailer Heath Hudson ("Hudson"). Gatlin has sued the Defendants in both their individual and official capacities.

         Gatlin contends his constitutional right of privacy was violated when Defendants opened an envelope sent to him marked "legal mail," read it, and shared it with others. The envelope contained his minor daughter's medical record. This case is once again before the Court for preservice screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i-iii). Under § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court has the obligation to screen any complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         By Opinion and Order (Doc. 11) entered on September 6, 2019, the Court dismissed Gatlin's claim under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ("HIPAA"). With respect to his invasion of privacy claim, Gatlin was directed to file an additional supplement to his Complaint containing the following details: the contents of the medical record; the nature of the criminal proceedings in which the medical record was disclosed; the relevance, if any, of the medical record to those criminal proceedings; why, and by whom, the medical record was sent to the jail in the first place; and, how Pointer obtained the medical record. Gatlin was directed to file his supplement no later than September 27, 2019. He filed it late on October 2, 2019 (Doc. 12), but the Court has considered it, nonetheless.

         I. BACKGROUND

         According to the allegations of the Complaint and both Supplements (Docs. 2, 3, 12), Gatlin's minor daughter was born on March 18, 2019. At the time, Gatlin was not incarcerated. According to Gatlin, on March 21, 2019, he and his wife became concerned about their daughter's breathing. They called their daughter's doctor, Dr. Elizabeth Morgan, and were instructed to bring the baby in the following day. A summary of the March 22, 2019 office visit indicates the baby was seen for a scheduled weight check. (Doc. 12 at 4). No. mention is made of any breathing difficulties. Id.

         In any event, Gatlin was also scheduled to appear in court on March 22, 2019. As his wife was medically unable to drive, Gatlin was required to drive his wife and the baby to the appointment with Dr. Morgan. Gatlin indicates that he contacted the court and his probation officer to tell them about his baby's medical situation, but a failure-to-appear warrant was issued. Gatlin believes that the process of revoking his parole had begun before the baby was born. At some point, Gatlin was taken into custody and booked into the BCDC.

         Gatlin asked his wife to mail him the single-page summary of the doctor's visit on March 22. Gatlin intended to use the medical record to establish his whereabouts on March 22 as a defense to the failure-to-appear charge. Gatlin alleges that the medical record had no other relevance to his criminal charges. Gatlin maintains that his wife marked the envelope containing the March 22 summary of the visit as "legal mail." According to Gatlin, the "legal mail" designation meant the envelope could only be opened in his presence and inspected for contraband but could not be read.

         According to Gatlin, on April 14, 2019, the medical record was taken out of the envelope by Pointer. The jailers then discussed the record and passed it around prior to faxing it to Goodman, the prosecutor in the state criminal action against Gatlin. According to Gatlin, Pointer thought it was "a joke and shared [the record] with not only his shift but the next shift." Gatlin alleges the record was passed though Wade and Hudson as well as other officers.

         Once Defendants were done passing the record around, Gatlin alleges that Wade, who discussed the record with the shift commanders, including Day, gave Gatlin the medical record. Gatlin alleges that neither he nor his wife had signed a medical authorization form releasing his minor daughter's medical record.

         Gatlin reports that Goodman discussed the record with Derika Bell and Jamie Christman from the public defender's office and also provided them with copies. Gatlin alleges Goodman "was heard in the courtroom discussing and making jokes, comments about my daughter[']s medical status." Gatlin maintains Goodman tried "to use the document[] to further my incarceration due to a failure to appear in court." Gatlin alleges that Defendants' conduct constitutes a violation of his family's constitutional right to privacy because they illegally obtained, shared, and used the medical record. Gatlin asserts that the medical record was no business of the Defendants, or the court, except to show his whereabouts on the March 22 court date. For this reason, Gatlin believes that only his daughter's name, date of birth, gender, and date of the visit were relevant to his case, and the nature of her medical issues should not have been discussed.

         Gatlin asserts that Pointer admitted to him that the matter was handled improperly and asked if Gatlin forgave him. Additionally, Gatlin alleges that Wade apologized for the manner in which the document was handled.

         As relief, Gatlin requests monetary damages. He also asks that Goodman be prevented from engaging in future infringement of ...

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