Take the Fifth: April 26, 2021 opinions

Designated for publication

  • Sanchez v. Oliver, 20-50282, appeal from W.D. Tex.
    • Clement, J. (Jones, Clement, Graves), qualified immunity, deliberate indifference
    • Reversing district court’s summary judgment dismissal of deliberate indifference claim against clinical social worker who had taken pretrial detainee off suicide watch prior to his committing suicide, and remanding for further proceedings.
    • The victim’s mother had sued the clinical social worker who evaluated her son when he was a pretrial detainee and took him off suicide watch. He had been placed on suicide watch when he was initially booked, based on answers to an intake questionnaire, and scheduled to meet with Ms. Oliver, a clinical social worker with a company the county contracted with for healthcare services. Ms. Oliver evaluated the detainee and took him off the suicide watch precautions.
    • The Court held that “Oliver—as an employee of a large firm systematically organized to perform the major administrative task of providing mental healthcare at state facilities—is categorically ineligible for qualified immunity,” although as a contractor to the county she was also acting under color of state law for purposes of grounding the plaintiff’s § 1983 claim.
    • The Court also held that there was a substantial enough showing of deliberate indifference for the plaintiff’s claim to survive summary judgment on that issue. “[I]f an official has subjective knowledge that a pretrial detainee is a substantial suicide risk, the official shows a deliberate indifference to that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it. Here, the key factual dispute is whether Oliver subjectively knew that Gauna was at a substantial risk of attempting suicide. … Here, however, Gauna was placed in general population, with ready access to blankets, other potential ligatures, and tie-off points, along with whatever other means of self-harm might be present in what appears to be the complete absence of suicide watch or other meaningful suicide precautions. If Oliver knew that Gauna was a suicide risk, then the evidence Sanchez has presented supports the inference that Oliver’s decision to take Gauna off suicide watch and place him in general population was, if anything, even more reckless than the officers’ conduct in Converse. … [T]here is adequate evidence of deliberate indifference to submit the question to a jury.”


  • U.S. v. Queen, 20-10264, appeal from N.D. Tex.
    • per curiam (King, Southwick, Ho), criminal
    • Granting Anders motion to withdraw, and dismissing appeal.
  • U.S. v. Kimbrell, 20-10751, appeal from N.D. Tex.
    • per curiam (Smith, Stewart, Ho), criminal, sentencing
    • Affirming 37-month sentence on guilty plea conviction of being a convicted felon unlawfully in possession of a firearm.
  • U.S. v. Jasso-Lujan, 20-50704, appeal from W.D. Tex.
    • per curiam (Smith, Stewart, Higginson), criminal
    • Granting Anders motion to withdraw, and dismissing appeal.
  • Smith v. Clark, 20-50916, appeal from W.D. Tex.
    • per curiam (Haynes, Willett, Ho), First Amendment, Bivens claim
    • Affirming district court’s dismissal of First Amendment retaliation Bivens claim.
  • Lopez v. Garland, 20-60110, petition for review of BIA order
    • per curiam (Haynes, Willett, Ho), immigration
    • Denying Mexican citizen’s petition for review of BIA order denying his motion to reopen as untimely.