On December 12, 2007, more than 40 women prisoners filed a class action suit against the New Jersey Department of Corrections in the Superior Court of New Jersey, under various provisions of state law. Plaintiffs, who were represented by the ACLU of New Jersey and the ACLU's Women's Rights Project, ...
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On December 12, 2007, more than 40 women prisoners filed a class action suit against the New Jersey Department of Corrections in the Superior Court of New Jersey, under various provisions of state law. Plaintiffs, who were represented by the ACLU of New Jersey and the ACLU's Women's Rights Project, sought injunctive and declaratory relief, challenging their transfer and subsequent treatment as violative of their due process and equal protection rights, their right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, and their right to privacy.
In March 2007, the DOC arbitrarily transferred plaintiffs from a women's prison to a maximum-security men's prison. There, the women prisoners were allegedly confined to their cells for up to 22 hours a day. Plaintiffs alleged that they were also deprived of access to the prison law library, school, medical facilities, and main recreational yard. The complaint also states that the women prisoners were subject to catcalls and harassment and were denied access to basic hygiene.
On January 10, 2008, plaintiffs moved for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction prohibiting any further transfer of women prisoners to the men's prison. Shortly thereafter, the parties entered into a consent order that, with limited exception for women inmates transferred to administrative segregation or stabilization units, prohibited any further transfers pending future actions by the court.
Defendants continued to actively oppose plaintiff's motions for class certification and preliminary injunctive relief. On July 21, 2008, the court (Judge Maria M. Spyek) granted plaintiff's motion for class certification and for an injunction prohibiting DOC from transferring more women to the men's prison while the case proceeded in court.
On September 3, 2008, the DOC transferred all women at the men's prison back to the women's prison. In May 2009, the court (Judge Spyek) granted defendant's motion for summary judgment, dismissing the case as moot. The court also denied plaintiffs' request for attorney's costs, finding that they were not a "prevailing party" because they did not obtain a judgment on the merits, their suit did not have a basis in law, and the legal action "did not play a role" in the DOC's decision to transfer women prisoners back to the women's prison.
Plaintiffs subsequently appealed the trial court's decision denying attorney's fees. The New Jersey Appellate Division court (Judge Jose Fuentes) reversed and remanded, holding that (1) the trial court should have held a hearing to determine whether DOC's actions were causally related to the lawsuit, and (2) the relief obtained by the prisoners had a basis in law.
The case was settled at the beginning of July 2011.Priyah Kaul - 03/16/2015