University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Clarkson v. Coughlin PC-NY-0002
Docket / Court 1:91-cv-01792-RWS ( S.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On March 15, 1991, deaf inmates at state prisons in New York filed a class action lawsuit under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12131, against the New York State Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs, ... read more >
On March 15, 1991, deaf inmates at state prisons in New York filed a class action lawsuit under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12131, against the New York State Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs, represented by the Prisoners' Rights Project of the Legal Aid Society, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that their constitutional rights had been violated by the defendants' failure to provide them with access to the programs and services that were routinely accorded to hearing inmates. The inmates further alleged that the defendants violated their right to equal protection by granting male inmates, but not female inmates, access to the sensorially disabled unit (SDU) at one prison.

The suit was originally filed by a deaf inmate and other inmates sought to intervene. On Feb. 3, 1992, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Judge Robert W. Sweet) held that the individual inmate's claims were moot since she was out on parole; that dismissal of the individual claims did not warrant dismissal of the class claims; that other inmates not able to transfer to the hearing-impaired unit would be allowed to intervene; and that class certification was appropriate, with separate subclasses for male and female inmates, but the court refused to grant class status of the female inmates until their numbers could be approximated. Clarkson v. Coughlin, 783 F.Supp. 789 (S.D.N.Y 1992). The court granted class certification on January 25, 1993. Clarkson v. Coughlin, No. 91-1792, 145 F.R.D. 339 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 25, 1993).

On June 16, 1995, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Judge Sweet) granted the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, holding that the defendants' failures violated all statutes and constitutional provisions under which the plaintiffs sought relief, thus warranting declaratory and injunctive relief. The court held that the defendants should have provided the deaf inmates with sign language interpreter services and other assistive communication devices during reception, classification, educational, vocational, counseling, medical, and mental health encounters, as well as during disciplinary, grievance, and parole proceedings. Clarkson v. Coughlin, 898 F.Supp. 1019 (S.D.N.Y. 1995). The defendants appealed.

On November 22, 1995, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit determined sua sponte that it lacked jurisdiction over the appeal because the notice of appeal was untimely and because a final order had not been issued by the district court.

On June 10, 1996, the district court (Judge Sweet) issued a consent decree and closed the case. The consent decree provided for notice and assessment of the needs of deaf inmates, classification procedures, provision of sign language interpreters and other auxiliary aids and devices, staff education and training, and record keeping. On December 4, 1996, the parties settled the plaintiffs' request for attorneys fees and costs without any admission of wrongdoing by any party.

Kristen Sagar - 10/31/2006


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
Hearing impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Sex discrimination
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Defendant(s) New York Department of Correctional Services
Plaintiff Description deaf and hearing impaired inmates at state prisons in New York
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
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 1996 - n/a
Case Closing Year 1996
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
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)
1:91-cv-01792-RWS (S.D.N.Y.) 06/08/2005
PC-NY-0002-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Opinion 02/03/1992 (783 F.Supp. 789) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0002-0004 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Opinion 01/25/1993 (145 F.R.D. 339) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0002-0005 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Opinion 06/16/1995 (898 F.Supp. 1019) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0002-0003 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Consent Judgment and Order 06/06/1996 (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0002-0001 PDF | Detail
Correspondence 06/21/1996
PC-NY-0002-0002 PDF | Detail
Judges Sweet, Robert Workman (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0002-0001 | PC-NY-0002-0003 | PC-NY-0002-0004 | PC-NY-0002-0005 | PC-NY-0002-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Barnett, Helaine (New York)
PC-NY-0002-0003
Boston, John (New York)
PC-NY-0002-0002
Curtin, Teresa A. (New York)
PC-NY-0002-0004 | PC-NY-0002-0005
Finkel, Kalman (New York)
PC-NY-0002-0004 | PC-NY-0002-0005
Ginsberg, Betsy R. (New York)
PC-NY-0002-9000
Hellerstein, William E. (New York)
PC-NY-0002-0003
Rosenberg, Scott Alan (New York)
PC-NY-0002-0003
Sabel, Janet E. (New York)
PC-NY-0002-0001 | PC-NY-0002-0003 | PC-NY-0002-0004 | PC-NY-0002-0005 | PC-NY-0002-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Abrams, Robert W. (New York)
PC-NY-0002-0004 | PC-NY-0002-0005
Curtis, Edward Joseph Jr. (New York)
PC-NY-0002-0003 | PC-NY-0002-0004 | PC-NY-0002-0005 | PC-NY-0002-9000
Hronsky, Rosalie J. (New York)
PC-NY-0002-0004 | PC-NY-0002-0005
Lahiff, Jeanne (New York)
PC-NY-0002-0001
Lieberman, Frederic L. (New York)
PC-NY-0002-0003 | PC-NY-0002-0004 | PC-NY-0002-0005
Sanders, Charles F. (New York)
PC-NY-0002-0001
Singelton, Valerie (New York)
PC-NY-0002-0001
Turbin, Ronald (New York)
PC-NY-0002-0001
Vacco, Dennis C. (New York)
PC-NY-0002-0001 | PC-NY-0002-0003
Other Lawyers Arden, James Daniel (New York)
PC-NY-0002-9000
Booth, Jane E. (New York)
PC-NY-0002-0004 | PC-NY-0002-0005 | PC-NY-0002-9000
Skarstad, Robin Beck (New York)
PC-NY-0002-9000

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -