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Case Name United States v. Erie County JC-NY-0059
Docket / Court 1:09-cv-00849-WMS-JJM ( W.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
On September 30, 2009, following a two year investigation, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of New York under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act of 1980 (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 against Erie County. The ... read more >
On September 30, 2009, following a two year investigation, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of New York under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act of 1980 (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 against Erie County. The DOJ asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that confinement conditions at Erie County Holding Center (ECHC) and the Erie County Correction Facility (ECCF) violated the federal constitutional rights of inmates incarcerated there. The complaint and the attached findings letter detailed the defendants' alleged failures in the areas of protection from harm, environmental safety, medical care, mental health care, and suicide prevention.

On March 6, 2010, the Court (Judge William M. Skretny) ordered expedited discovery related to suicide prevention and mental health treatment protocols at ECHC. United States v. Erie Cnty., NY, 09-CV-849S, 2010 WL 986505 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 17, 2010). On March 19, 2010, the Court granted additional motions to expedite discovery, granted in part and denied in part the plaintiff's motion to compel, and granted in part and denied in part the defendants' motion for a protective order. United States v. Erie Cnty., NY, 09-CV-849S, 2010 WL 1038650 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 19, 2010).

On June 22, 2010, the Court approved the parties' stipulated settlement agreement concerning suicide prevention and related mental health issues. As part of this stipulation, the parties agreed to select a "Joint Compliance Officer," or "JCO," with relevant experience in the field of corrections, mental health care, suicide prevention, or medical care, to file with the court and provide the parties with reports describing the steps taken by the defendants to implement this settlement, and to evaluate the extent to which the defendants were in compliance with each substantive provision of the settlement. These reports were to be issued every four months, after a two week comment period afforded to the parties.

On July 9, 2010, the Court denied the defendants' motion to dismiss, holding that CRIPA was not unconstitutional as applied to the defendants. However, despite technical compliance, the original complaint violated the spirit underlying Rules 8 and 10 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Consequently, the Court ordered the DOJ to file an amended complaint within 14 days. United States v. Erie Cnty., NY, 724 F. Supp. 2d 357 (W.D.N.Y. 2010). On July 23, 2010, the DOJ filed an amended complaint.

On August 25. 2011, the Court ordered a stipulated dismissal of the action agreed upon by the parties. This second Stipulated Order of Dismissal resolved the remaining protection from harm, provision of medical and mental health treatment, and environmental health and safety claims. This stipulation recognized that, without any admission of liability on their part, the defendants would continue developing and implementing policies, practices, and procedures to address concerns at ECHS and ECCF. The Stipulated Order stated general goals with respect to each of the areas of concern raised, as well as more specific actions for achieving these goals, such as procedure development, additional training and staffing, and enhanced record keeping.

On June 21, 2012, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) moved for leave to intervene and to unseal the the previously filed compliance reports and vacate the standing order permitting future sealed filings. The Court denied the motion to unseal the records and vacate the standing order on August 30, 2013 and terminated NYCLU from the case. United States v. Erie Cnty., N.Y., 09-CV-849S, 2013 WL 4679070 (W.D.N.Y. Aug. 30, 2013). NYCLU appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, docket number 13-3653.

On August 18, 2014, the Court of Appeals reversed the District Court's denial of NYCLU's motion and remanded it back for specificity on unsealing. On October 30, 2014, the District Court granted in part and denied in part NYCLU's motion. Judge Skretny granted NYCLU's motion to intervene and unseal the independently filed TCC records. The Court denied NYCLU's motion to unseal the semiannual compliance reports filed by the Defendant and denied a motion to vacate the standing order, which allowing the sealing of future compliance reports.

Following the Court's order, there was a series of document requests and unsealing. This is process is still ongoing.

Jessica Kincaid - 04/12/2014
Brent Winslow - 11/06/2016


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Monitoring
Reporting
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Conditions of confinement
Sanitation / living conditions
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Suicide prevention
Totality of conditions
Unconstitutional conditions of confinement
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Mental health care, general
Self-injurious behaviors
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq.
Defendant(s) Erie County
Plaintiff Description The U.S. Department of Justice
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2010 - 2013
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Case Studies After Decision: Implementation of Judicial Decrees in Correctional Settings
Written: Oct. 01, 1977
By: M. Kay Harris & Dudley P. Spiller (Temple University)
Citation: (1977)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

  An Analysis of CRIPA Findings Letters Issued to Jails for Constitutional Violations by the Department of Justice
Written: Apr. 15, 2016
By: Jeff Mellow, Bryce E. Peterson & Mijin Kim (John Jay College of Criminal Justice)
Citation: Am. J. Crim. Just. (April 2016)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
09-cv-0849 (W.D.N.Y.) 06/24/2016
JC-NY-0059-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 09/30/2009 (2009 WL 3290598)
JC-NY-0059-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Decision and Order 03/06/2010 (W.D.N.Y.)
JC-NY-0059-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Decision and Order 03/17/2010 (W.D.N.Y.)
JC-NY-0059-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Approving Stipulated Settlement Agreement Concerning Suicide Prevention and Related Mental Health Issues 06/22/2010 (W.D.N.Y.)
JC-NY-0059-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint 07/23/2010 (2010 WL 2973829)
JC-NY-0059-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Decision and Order 07/29/2010 (W.D.N.Y.)
JC-NY-0059-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Entering Stipulated Order of Dismissal 08/25/2011 (W.D.N.Y.)
JC-NY-0059-0007.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
[No Title] 08/18/2014 (763 F.3d 235)
JC-NY-0059-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Decision and Order 08/30/2014 (W.D.N.Y.)
JC-NY-0059-0009.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Calabresi, Guido (Second Circuit)
JC-NY-0059-0008
Lynch, Gerard E. (S.D.N.Y., Second Circuit)
JC-NY-0059-0008
McCarthy, Jeremiah J. (W.D.N.Y.) [Magistrate]
JC-NY-0059-9000
Parker, Barrington Daniels Jr. (S.D.N.Y., Second Circuit)
JC-NY-0059-0008
Skretny, William M. (W.D.N.Y.)
JC-NY-0059-0002 | JC-NY-0059-0003 | JC-NY-0059-0004 | JC-NY-0059-0005 | JC-NY-0059-0007 | JC-NY-0059-0009 | JC-NY-0059-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bagenstos, Samuel R. (District of Columbia)
JC-NY-0059-9000
Coon, Laura (District of Columbia)
JC-NY-0059-9000
Fleisher, Aaron S (District of Columbia)
JC-NY-0059-9000
Fleming, Mary Pat (New York)
JC-NY-0059-9000
Green, Cheryl A (New York)
JC-NY-0059-0001 | JC-NY-0059-0006 | JC-NY-0059-9000
Hart, Charles W. Jr. (District of Columbia)
JC-NY-0059-9000
Lareau, Alyssa Connell (District of Columbia)
JC-NY-0059-9000
Lopez, Zazy I (District of Columbia)
JC-NY-0059-9000
Mehltretter, Kathleen M. (New York)
JC-NY-0059-0001 | JC-NY-0059-0006 | JC-NY-0059-9000
Myrthil, Marlysha (District of Columbia)
JC-NY-0059-9000
Saucedo, Luis E. (District of Columbia)
JC-NY-0059-9000
Weiss, Daniel H. (District of Columbia)
JC-NY-0059-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Colby, Jeremy A (New York)
JC-NY-0059-9000
Kirkpatrick, Thomas F Jr. (New York)
JC-NY-0059-9000
Liebenow, Brian R (New York)
JC-NY-0059-9000
Parker, Michelle M (New York)
JC-NY-0059-9000
Sleight, David J (New York)
JC-NY-0059-9000
Wheaton, Kristin Klein (New York)
JC-NY-0059-9000
Other Lawyers Dunn, Christopher (New York)
JC-NY-0059-9000
Eisenberg, Arthur (New York)
JC-NY-0059-9000
Stoughton, Corey (New York)
JC-NY-0059-9000

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