United States District Judge Daniel R. Dominguez permitted a dozen prisoners to litigate claims for punitive damages after they were segregated in the Vega Alta women’s prison in Puerto Rico for “act[ing] like men,” in Lopez v. Ortiz, 2015 WL 1470566 (D.P.R., March 31, 2015). For five days in 2012, officers “herded” the plaintiffs into a visitation area openly called “bucholandia,” where they were surrounded by tactical officers, forced to sit and sleep on the floor, denied recreation and communal meals, threatened with pepper spray, and subjected to a “constant barrage of verbal abuse” and “all manner of homophobic insults on a daily basis.”

Seventeen inmates sued the officers and supervisors responsible, as well as their spouses. [Note: Under Puerto Rico law, married couples are a “conjugal partnership” for tort purposes, and spouses are proper defendants in civil rights cases, if marital assets may be affected by a judgment; moreover, the “conjugal partnership” itself is a “person” for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Mercado-Vega v. Martinez, 666 F. Supp 3, 5-7 (D.P.R. 1986).] Five plaintiffs’ claims were dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) [“PLRA”].

For the full story, access the May 2015 issue of Lesbian/Gay Law Notes.