Via v. Taylor.
Via v. Taylor, 224 F.Supp.2d 753 (D.Del. 2002). A former correctional officer brought an action against corrections officials alleging that she was wrongfully terminated because of her off-duty relationship with a paroled former inmate. The district court held that the corrections department code of conduct that prohibited off-duty personal contact with offenders was not substantially related to the state's interest in the orderly function of prisons and concerns about being discredited in the public eye. The court found no evidence that the officer's relationship with a former inmate had any impact on staff or inmates. The court noted that the code did not prohibit relationships between prison employees and persons outside the prison system who knew inmates who were under the employees' supervision, and that the officer's job performance was not negatively impacted by her association with the former inmate. The court held that the conduct code was void because of it was vague and overly broad, and violated the officer's off-duty rights to personal association and privacy. The code read, in part: "Trafficking with incarcerated offenders is prohibited. No staff person shall have any personal contact with an offender, incarcerated or non-incarcerated, beyond that contact necessary for the proper supervision and treatment of the offender ... Any sexual contact with offenders is strictly prohibited." According to the court, the code was open for discriminatory enforcement, failed to clearly set forth the prohibited conduct, appeared to create a safe harbor for employees who reported relationships that allegedly infringed, and failed to notify officers of possible disciplinary measures to which they might be subjected if they violated the code. The court found that the officials were entitled to qualified immunity because these rights were not clearly established at the time the officer was discharged. (Sussex Corr. Inst.)
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|Publication:||Corrections Caselaw Quarterly|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2003|
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