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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Wayne County Jail Inmates v. Wayne County Sheriff JC-MI-0005
Docket / Court 173-217 ( State Court )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Court-ordered receiverships
COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization Legal Services/Legal Aid
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This is a longstanding jail conditions case brought on behalf of inmates in the Wayne County Jail. After beginning their claims in federal court, the parties reopened this litigation and requested a TRO and preliminary injunction in light of the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This is a longstanding jail conditions case brought on behalf of inmates in the Wayne County Jail. After beginning their claims in federal court, the parties reopened this litigation and requested a TRO and preliminary injunction in light of the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the facility. The court amended the underlying consent order to require testing of inmates, and better hygiene and sanitation provisions. The court denied the TRO on June 19; appeal is pending.


In 1971, inmates in the Wayne County Jail filed this class action in the Wayne County Circuit Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Wayne County Sheriff. Represented by Legal Services of Michigan, the plaintiffs alleged violations of the U.S. Constitution and the Michigan Constitution, as well as state law. Specifically, the plaintiffs noted overcrowded, unsanitary, and unsafe cell conditions, improper isolation cells, insufficient mental health wards, lack of due process in jail discipline, especially with sending inmates to maximum security areas, lack of recreational, educational, and training facilities, poor medical facilities and care, inadequate food services, unconstitutional censorship, impairment of defense. They also alleged failure to comply with Michigan law that related to building code, safety, and sanitary laws were a violation of their substantive due process rights. The plaintiffs sought relief on behalf of a class of all those who had been, are or would be detained in the Wayne County Jail.

After 13 months of lengthy hearings, a 3-judge Wayne County Circuit Court panel found that the conditions at the jail were deplorable and did violate the inmates' rights as claimed. The panel entered detailed findings and an order that specified the manner in which the jail needed to be restored to a suitable condition. The panel also appointed a monitor to oversee the execution of its order. The defendants, while not disputing the trial court's findings or conclusions of law, argued that the trial court had exceeded its authority because the order violated the principle of the separation of powers. In 1974, the Michigan Supreme Court, in remanding the case, found that the trial court was authorized to enact such a specific order once it had been shown that the defendants had failed to meet their statutory duties. The court also held that the appointment of a monitor was appropriate, and the sua sponte joinder of additional defendants by the court was also appropriate. 216 N.W.2d 910.

In 1988, after 15 years of monitoring and noncompliance, the Wayne County Circuit Court appointed the Wayne County Executive as the receiver of the jail, removing the Sheriff's control. The Sheriff moved for disqualification of the judge and the entire Wayne County Circuit Court bench, but that motion was denied. The prisoners' motion for the appointment of a receiver was granted. The Sheriff appealed.

On July 26, 1989, the Michigan Court of Appeals (Judge Cynar) found that the Circuit Court had the authority to appoint a receiver, that such appointment was appropriate, and that the judges did not err by not disqualifying themselves. 444 N.W.2d 549.

The case remained alive; settlement agreement implementation proceeded.

COVID Litigation
On May 4, 2020 six inmates in the Wayne County Jail filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, found here in the Clearinghouse. They alleged that their continued confinement in the jail was in violation of their Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, because they were being subjected to a serious risk of contracting COVID-19. They sought a TRO, injunctive relief, and a writ of habeas corpus requiring defendants to immediately release all subclass members who are medically vulnerable or transfer them to home confinement. The federal court suggested the parties discuss whether relief could be sought in this state court litigation, since the defendant was already party to a consent decree to monitor the quality of conditions in the jail. This led the parties to reopen this case and actively litigate their issues in state court; the federal court was stayed.

On May 28, 2020, the plaintiffs filed a motion for temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction, because as of May 11, 25% of the inmates were either infected or had previously been infected with the virus, and that the Wayne County Jail continually failed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Specifically they stated that conditions such as double-bunking, lack of quarantine for sick individuals, insufficient protective equipment, lack of access to medical care, and failure to facilitate social distancing.

The defendants responded by stating that they had taken measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including significantly attempting reducing the population. Between March and June 2020, the population of the jail went from 1,411 detainees to 779, a 44.79% reduction in jail population.

On May 15 the court entered a stipulated temporary amendment to the consent order (dated July 20, 2018), in the form of a 30 day requirement that all inmates be subjected to COVID-19 testing.

Then on May 18, the court entered a second stipulated amendment which added the following provisions:
-inspection of the Jail by an inspector limited to the COVID-19 pandemic response
-Ensure that all inmates received soap, hand towels, and disinfectant free of charge
-Provide access to showers
-Ensure jail staff wear personal protective equipment and wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before touching any person or surface in the jail
-Make COVID-19 testing available to all inmates displaying symptoms or who are known to have been in proximity with someone who had COVID-19
-Provide adequate spacing to allow for social distancing
-Quarantine those with COVID-19 symptoms.

On June 2, the court issued an order that mandated that all new inmates be tested for COVID, both via nasal swab and antibodies at the time of booking. The defendant was required to provide the plaintiffs testing data regarding the results of inmate testing.

The court entered an order on June 17 that extended the stipulated temporary amendment provisions until September 30, 2020.

On June 19, the court denied the TRO and preliminary injunction, finding that the plaintiffs were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their constitutional claims, due to the fact that the jail had significantly reduced its population, and that its COVID policies were reasonable. The plaintiffs sought immediate appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, and was supported in that effort by several amici (criminal justice organizations in Michigan and infectious disease and correctional health experts). But on July 15, 2020, the Supreme Court denied immediate appeal ("bypass"). A motion for permission to appeal remains with the court of appeals.

Blase Kearney - 07/03/2012
Caitlin Kierum - 07/16/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Content of Injunction
Monitor/Master
Receivership
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Pre-PLRA Population Cap
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Bathing and hygiene
Fire safety
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Recreation / Exercise
Sanitation / living conditions
Totality of conditions
Medical/Mental Health
COVID-19 Mitigation Granted
COVID-19 Mitigation Requested
COVID-19 Release Denied
COVID-19 Release Requested
Medical care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) Wayne County Jail
Plaintiff Description Inmates in the Wayne County Jail
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Legal Services/Legal Aid
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filed 1971
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  "We Live 24/7 in Hell": Detroit's Wayne County Jail, 1968-76
https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/dcc-project/
Date: Jul. 1, 2020
By: Dominic Coschino (University of Michigan Student)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Wayne County Jail Inmates v. Wayne County Sheriff: The Anatomy of a Lawsuit
Date: Mar. 1, 1991
By: Marvin Zalman (Wayne State University Faculty)
Citation: 71 Prison J. 4 (1991)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
09-000978-AW (State Trial Court)
JC-MI-0005-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/19/2020
Source: State Court Website
General Documents
Complaint
JC-MI-0005-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/01/1971
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Opinion and Order (216 N.W.2d 910)
JC-MI-0005-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/16/1974
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (Michigan Court of Appeals) (444 N.W.2d 549)
JC-MI-0005-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/26/1989
Consolidated Consent Order and Settlement Agreement
JC-MI-0005-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/20/2018
Source: State Court Website
Wayne County Jail Inspection Report by Fred Rottnek, MD, MAHCM
JC-MI-0005-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/16/2020
Source: State Court Website
Stipulated Temporary Amendment to the Consent Order
JC-MI-0005-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/18/2020
Source: State Court Website
Plaintiffs' Emergency Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction
JC-MI-0005-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/28/2020
Source: State Court Website
Exhibits 1, 3 through 20 to Plaintiffs' Emergency Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction
JC-MI-0005-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/28/2020
Source: State Court Website
Exhibit 2 to Plaintiffs' Emergency Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction
JC-MI-0005-0019.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/28/2020
Source: State Court Website
Brief in Support of Defendants' Motion to Strike the Report of Fred Rottnek, M.D., or, in the Alternative, to Redact
JC-MI-0005-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/04/2020
Source: State Court Website
Defendants' Response to Plaintiffs' Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order [and Exhibits in Support]
JC-MI-0005-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/05/2020
Source: State Court Website
Plaintiffs' Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Strike the Report of Fred Rottnek, M.D., MAHCM
JC-MI-0005-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/08/2020
Source: State Court Website
Plaintiffs' Reply in Support of Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction
JC-MI-0005-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/11/2020
Source: State Court Website
Opinion and Order
JC-MI-0005-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/16/2020
Source: State Court Website
Opinion and Order
JC-MI-0005-0018.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/19/2020
Source: State Court Website
Plaintiffs-Appellants' Emergency Bypass Application for Leave to File Interlocutory Appeal
JC-MI-0005-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/06/2020
Source: State Court Website
Part 1/2 (Appendices A through G) of Appendix to Plaintiffs-Appellants' Emergency Bypass Application for Leave to File Interlocutory Appeal
JC-MI-0005-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/06/2020
Source: State Court Website
Part 2/2 (Appendices H through M) of Appendix to Plaintiffs-Appellants' Emergency Bypass Application for Leave to File Interlocutory Appeal
JC-MI-0005-0017.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/06/2020
Source: State Court Website
Amicus Curiae Brief of ACLU of Michigan, Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, Neighborhood Defender Service of Detroit, State Appellate Defender Office, and American Friends Service Committee's Michigan Criminal Justice Program
JC-MI-0005-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/13/2020
Source: State Court Website
show all people docs
Judges Cynar, Walter P. (State Appellate Court) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0001
Kavanaugh, Thomas G. (State Supreme Court) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0002
Kenny, Timothy M. (State Appellate Court) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0004 | JC-MI-0005-0008 | JC-MI-0005-0009 | JC-MI-0005-0018
Plaintiff's Lawyers Anderson, Khary J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0006 | JC-MI-0005-0007 | JC-MI-0005-0012 | JC-MI-0005-0016 | JC-MI-0005-0017
Animashaun, Akeeb Dami (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0006 | JC-MI-0005-0007 | JC-MI-0005-0012 | JC-MI-0005-0016 | JC-MI-0005-0017
Bush, Neal (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0003
Carter, Ashley (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0012 | JC-MI-0005-0016 | JC-MI-0005-0017
Choly, Deborah A. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0004 | JC-MI-0005-0006 | JC-MI-0005-0007 | JC-MI-0005-0008 | JC-MI-0005-0012 | JC-MI-0005-0013 | JC-MI-0005-0015 | JC-MI-0005-0016 | JC-MI-0005-0017 | JC-MI-0005-0019 | JC-MI-0005-9000
Cockrel, Kenneth V. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0003
Ferguson, Desiree M. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0006 | JC-MI-0005-0007 | JC-MI-0005-0012 | JC-MI-0005-0013 | JC-MI-0005-0015 | JC-MI-0005-0016 | JC-MI-0005-0017 | JC-MI-0005-0019
Fink, Nell (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0003
Goodman, William Harry (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0003 | JC-MI-0005-0004 | JC-MI-0005-0006 | JC-MI-0005-0007 | JC-MI-0005-0008 | JC-MI-0005-0012 | JC-MI-0005-0013 | JC-MI-0005-0015 | JC-MI-0005-0016 | JC-MI-0005-0017 | JC-MI-0005-0019
Harvey, Thomas B (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0012 | JC-MI-0005-0016 | JC-MI-0005-0017
Houseman, Alan W. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0003
James, Dennis D. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0003
Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0012 | JC-MI-0005-0016 | JC-MI-0005-0017
Keith, Erin (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0006 | JC-MI-0005-0007 | JC-MI-0005-0012 | JC-MI-0005-0013 | JC-MI-0005-0015 | JC-MI-0005-0016 | JC-MI-0005-0017 | JC-MI-0005-0019
Kellman, Joel D. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0003
Kriger, Allison (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0006 | JC-MI-0005-0007 | JC-MI-0005-0012 | JC-MI-0005-0013 | JC-MI-0005-0015 | JC-MI-0005-0016 | JC-MI-0005-0017 | JC-MI-0005-0019
Meyer, Thomas (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0003
Moran, Christopher N. (Maryland) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0006 | JC-MI-0005-0012 | JC-MI-0005-0016 | JC-MI-0005-0017
Nemeth, Miriam R. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0006 | JC-MI-0005-0007 | JC-MI-0005-0012 | JC-MI-0005-0013 | JC-MI-0005-0015 | JC-MI-0005-0016 | JC-MI-0005-0017 | JC-MI-0005-0019
Ravitz, Justin C. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0003
Reed, Robert L. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0003
Saad, Martin L. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0006 | JC-MI-0005-0007 | JC-MI-0005-0012 | JC-MI-0005-0016 | JC-MI-0005-0017
Stickgold, Mark (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0003
Wilson, Emily J. (Maryland) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0006 | JC-MI-0005-0007 | JC-MI-0005-0012 | JC-MI-0005-0016 | JC-MI-0005-0017
Defendant's Lawyers Applin, Amy S. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0004
Bruetsch, Thomas (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0004
Chapman, Ronald W. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0014
Elhasan, Zenna F. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0004
Hammoud, Souriana (Sue) T. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0005 | JC-MI-0005-0014
Heath, James W. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0005 | JC-MI-0005-0008 | JC-MI-0005-0014 | JC-MI-0005-9000
Johnson, Felicia O. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0004 | JC-MI-0005-0008 | JC-MI-0005-9000
Lanesky, Jonathan C. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0014
Melton, David (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0008
O'Neill, Paul T. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0014
Robinson, Kristina L. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0004
Zausmer, Mark J. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0004 | JC-MI-0005-9000
Other Lawyers Akhtar, Jamil (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-9000
Korobkin, Daniel S. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0010
Schlanger, Margo J. (Michigan) show/hide docs
JC-MI-0005-0010

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