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Case Name Benkahla v. Federal Bureau of Prisons PC-IN-0015
Docket / Court 2:09-cv-00025-WTL-DML ( S.D. Ind. )
State/Territory Indiana
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National Prison Project
Case Summary
On January 21, 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, against the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The complaint challenged the creation of housing units inside federal ... read more >
On January 21, 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, against the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The complaint challenged the creation of housing units inside federal prisons in which prisoners lived in isolation from the outside world. Plaintiffs alleged that these cells, called Communication Management Units (CMUs) and designed to house prisoners viewed by the government as terrorists, were established in violation of federal laws requiring public notice and opportunity to comment on policy, and were disproportionately used to house Muslim prisoners.

The plaintiff Sabri Benkahla was abducted at gunpoint by Saudi Arabian police and transferred to America in custody of the FBI the night before his wedding. Benkahla was charged with supplying services to the Taliban and further using a firearm in violent crime. The U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema found him not guilty, but the government forced him to testify in front of a grand jury a month later. Benkahla was convicted of perjury and sentenced to 121 months in prison in a CMU.

Following this, a motion on July 27, 2009 to add parties was filed, and Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Harley G. Lappin and Joyce K. Conley were added in their official capacities. In the same motion, all pending claims against defendants B.R. Jett, Paul McNulty, Unknown Employees of Correctional Programs Divisions of the Federal Bureau of Prison, Les Smith, T.R. Henry, S Julian T. Coleman, and Agent Grass were dismissed. Further on July 27, 2009, an amended complaint was filed that declared the Defendants violated the Administrative Procedure Act by establishing the Terre Haute CMU and issuing the Terre Haute CMU Institution Supplement and Institution Supplement - Visiting Regulations without notice and comment rulemaking. Subsequently on September 14, 2009, all defendants were dismissed aside from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

On July 28, 2010, plaintiff filed a motion to dismiss. This case was dismissed on July 29, 2010 without prejudice in the Southern District of Indiana. On August 9, 2010 a Third Party Continuing Petition to Intervene was filed on behalf of similarly situated prison inmates, and this was denied on October 20, 2010 because it was untimely and the court found that their interests are not in common with plaintiff. There is no reason to conclude this case is ongoing.

Kristen Sagar - 06/23/2009
Christina Bonanni - 11/18/2013


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
General
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Phone
Visiting
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. ยงยง 551 et seq.
Defendant(s) Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Prisons
Plaintiff Description prisoners being held in secret housing units inside federal prisons
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National Prison Project
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None

Source of Relief Litigation
None
Form of Settlement Voluntary Dismissal
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
2:09−cv−00025 (S.D. Ind.) 12/13/2010
PC-IN-0015-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
CIVIL COMPLAINT AND PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS 01/08/2009
PC-IN-0015-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint 07/27/2009
PC-IN-0015-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order (Dismissing Case Without Prejudice) 07/29/2010 (S.D. Ind.)
PC-IN-0015-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Lawrence, William T. (S.D. Ind.) [Magistrate]
PC-IN-0015-0006 | PC-IN-0015-9000
Lynch, Debra McVicker (S.D. Ind.) [Magistrate]
PC-IN-0015-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Falk, Kenneth J. (Indiana)
PC-IN-0015-0002 | PC-IN-0015-9000
Shapiro, David M. (District of Columbia)
PC-IN-0015-0002 | PC-IN-0015-0004
Defendant's Lawyers Kieper, Thomas E (Indiana)
PC-IN-0015-9000
McCoskey, William Lance (Indiana)
PC-IN-0015-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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