Court Rejects Privacy Claim by HIV-Positive Inmate
Two of three federal judges were appointed by former President Trump
BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD
A three-judge panel of the
Court of Appeals for the
Fourth Circuit ruled on
May 27 that a prison inmate with a
“contagious” medical condition has
no constitutional privacy right regarding
that information, rejecting a
claim by an HIV-positive state prison
inmate in Virginia that a prison
doctor violated his privacy right
when comments that the doctor
made near other staff members and
inmates revealed this information
without the inmate’s permission.
Two of the three judges on the panel
were appointed by President Donald
Trump: Julius N. Richardson,
who wrote the opinion, and A. Marvin
Quattlebaum. The third judge on
the panel, Stephanie D. Thacker, was
appointed by President Obama.
The ruling is signifi cant because
An incarcerated individual living with HIV said people were close enough to overhear a doctor telling
him he had “not taken his HIV medications” that day.
it diverges from rulings by several
other federal appeals courts. The
Supreme Court has not directly
ruled on the question of whether
prison inmates have a constitutional
right to keep their medical
information secret from other prisoners,
but several courts of appeals,
including the neighboring
Second and Third Circuits, have
found such a right to exist.
The HIV-positive inmate was in
bed in the medical unit of Deep
Meadow Correctional Center when
the doctor approached his bed and
stated that the inmate had “not taken
HIV medications” that day. The inmate
alleges that the medical unit is
an “open dorm,” and that other staff
members, inmates, and civilians
were close enough to overhear the
doctor’s statement. He claims some
of those nearby “stopped talking and
looked” at him after the doctor spoke.
The doctor then apologized, but the
inmate claims his confi dential information
had been revealed to others
without his consent.
The inmate fi led grievances protesting
the doctor’s action, but got
nowhere and decided to fi le a claim
in federal court, which he did on
his own without legal assistance.
District Judge Liam O’Grady dismissed
the complaint, ruling that
it failed to state a valid legal claim,
and the inmate fi led an appeal with
the Fourth Circuit. Evidently the
panel of judges felt that they should
receive professional briefi ng and
argument, as they appointed Gil-
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THIS IS HOW:
➤ PRIVACY, continued on p.39
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