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Case Name Peoples v. Fischer PC-NY-0062
Docket / Court 1:11-cv-02694-SAS ( S.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On April 18, 2011, a prisoner formerly incarcerated at the New York State Green Haven Correctional Facility filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against state defendants. The pro se plaintiff sought compensatory and punitive damages, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that ... read more >
On April 18, 2011, a prisoner formerly incarcerated at the New York State Green Haven Correctional Facility filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against state defendants. The pro se plaintiff sought compensatory and punitive damages, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that Defendants violating his constitutional rights by searching his cell, confiscating legal papers, sentencing him to 3 years in the Secure Housing Unit (SHU), and failing to adequately protect him from other inmates.

Specifically, plaintiff brought a Fourth Amendment claim resulting from a pat frisk and subsequent search of his prison cell, an Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim resulting from his three-year sentence to SHU confinement, an Eighth Amendment claim regarding his altercation with a fellow inmate, a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim arising in connection with his disciplinary hearing, and a right of access to the courts claim under the First and Sixth Amendments.

On December 1, 2011, the Court (Judge Shira A. Scheindlin) granted the Prosecutor-Defendants' motion to dismiss all claims against them. On May 2, 2012, the Court allowed the Eighth Amendment claim regarding SHU confinement to proceed, although rejecting all the other claims. Putting a prisoner in the SHU for two years for this disciplinary offense might well constitute cruel and unusual punishment, the court held.

On June 26, 2012, the Court granted in part Defendants' motion to reconsider, dismissing all claims against one of the defendants for lack of personal involvement in the alleged conduct. However, Judge Scheindlin elaborated her thinking on the SHU issue, and declined to grant qualified immunity to the remaining defendants at that point. The court held: "His placement in the SHU for such a time period was grossly disproportionate to the non-violent violation that he was found to have committed. He has therefore stated a plausible claim that defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment." (The Court also accepted Plaintiff's amended complaint for filing; it incorporated the Court's May 2 rulings and waived any challenge that would affect the length of his confinement.)

At this point, the New York Civil Liberties Union (assisted by students from the NYU Civil Rights Clinic) entered the case as the plaintiff's counsel, filing an appearance on August 23, 2012. They filed an amended complaint on December 6, 2012. It dealt only with the issue of isolation, but broadened the action, framing it as a challenge to the constitutionality of "New York State’s practice of arbitrarily sentencing tens of thousands of incarcerated individuals to months and years of extreme isolation and solitary confinement for alleged infractions that often present no threat to prison safety." The complaint alleges that New York State uses extreme isolation as punishment more than any other prison system in the United States--4,300 prisoners on any given day live in isolation (some for years at a stretch), "imposed as a sanction for offenses as minor as 'untidy cell or person,' 'unfastened long hair,' 'littering,' and 'unreported illness.'" And the conditions in isolation are physically and mentally damaging. This violates the Eighth Amendment and the Due Process Clause, the complaint claims.

On February 19, 2014, the case settled, by entry of a stipulated stay of the litigation, during which the parties will reform the NY segregation system. The only remedy for violation of the stipulation is vacating the stay and proceeding with the litigation. The reforms included are:
A) Alternative to SHU sanctions for prisoners under 18.
B) A presumption against SHU sanctions for pregnant prisoners.
C) Alternatives to SHU sanctions for prisoners with significant intellectual disabilities, entitled "Correctional Alternative Rehabilitation." This will include several hours per day of out-of-cell group programming.
D) Central office oversight of SHU confinement.
E) New guidelines, policies, and training for confinement sanctions in prison disciplinary hearings.
and F) Immediately increasing outdoor exercise time at several facilities, and providing headphones and "in-cell study packets" at others.

- 02/19/2014


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Content of Injunction
Recordkeeping
Reporting
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
Mental impairment
General
Classification / placement
Disciplinary segregation
Failure to supervise
Supermax conditions or process
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Green Haven Correctional Facility
New York State Department of Correctional Services
Upstate Correctional Facility
Plaintiff Description All current and future NY State prisoners.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Moot
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Private Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Conditional Dismissal
Order Duration 2014 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
By: Margo Schlanger (University of Michigan)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ 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)
1:11−cv−02694 (S.D.N.Y.) 02/19/2014
PC-NY-0062-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 04/18/2011
PC-NY-0062-0001 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order 12/01/2011 (2011 WL 6034374 / 2011 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 138021) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0062-0006 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order 05/03/2012 (2012 WL 1575302 / 2012 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 62428) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0062-0002 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion for reconsideration, and exhibits 05/17/2012
PC-NY-0062-0003 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint 06/01/2012
PC-NY-0062-0005 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order (on reconsideration) 06/26/2012 (2012 WL 2402593 / 2012 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 88475) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0062-0004 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint 12/06/2012
PC-NY-0062-0007 PDF | Detail
Document Source:
Third Amended Class Action Complaint 03/06/2013
PC-NY-0062-0008 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulation and Order 05/01/2013 (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0062-0009 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulation for a Stay with Conditions 02/19/2014
PC-NY-0062-0010 PDF | Detail
Document Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Judges Fox, Kevin N. (S.D.N.Y.) [Magistrate]
PC-NY-0062-9000
Scheindlin, Shira A. (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0062-0002 | PC-NY-0062-0004 | PC-NY-0062-0006 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brown, Jennifer Kay (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Dunn, Christopher (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0007 | PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Fioccola, David J (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-0010 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Hopkins, Gabriel (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009
Hunt, Adam J (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Matza-Brown, Daniel (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Moloff, Leda A (New York)
PC-NY-0062-9000
Mullkoff, Daniel Erick (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Pendergrass, Taylor Scott (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0007 | PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-0010 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Reinert, Alexander A. (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-0010 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Sadeghi, Kayvan B (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Swearingen, William (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009
Valenti, Kyle (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009
Defendant's Lawyers Harben, Jeb (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0003 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Schneiderman, Eric T. (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0003 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-0010
Shaffer, Ryan Glenn (New York)
PC-NY-0062-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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