University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Donhauser v. Goord PC-NY-0061
Docket / Court 9:01-cv-01535-DNH-GHL ( N.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On October 10, 2001, the plaintiff, an inmate at the Oneida Correctional Facility in New York, filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York. The plaintiff filed pro se (though counsel began representing the plaintiff in 2004) and brought a claim under 42 U.S ... read more >
On October 10, 2001, the plaintiff, an inmate at the Oneida Correctional Facility in New York, filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York. The plaintiff filed pro se (though counsel began representing the plaintiff in 2004) and brought a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against a number of defendants, including the commissioner of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS") as well as other DOCS officials. The case was before Judge David Hurd.

The plaintiff claimed that these officials violated his First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights by requiring him to participate in a Sex Offenders Rehabilitation Program that required him to give a detailed account of his sexual history and to admit responsibility for the instant offense.

The plaintiff first alleged that requiring him to admit responsibility and disclose their entire sexual history as a condition of the program violated the Fifth Amendment because it could incriminate him and subject him to further criminal charges. Additionally, the plaintiff alleged that his refusal to participate in the program would lead to additional consequences, including: higher classification status under Megan's Law, a loss of good time credits, denial of his parole consideration, and other loss of privileges such as organizations and programs and transfers to other facilities with better trade programs. The plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief in the form of an order prohibiting DOCS from mandating a detailed written disclosure of a participant's instant offense and sexual autobiography. The plaintiff also alleged that this practice violated a Fourth Amendment right to privacy.

On April 15, 2004, after almost three years of litigation over procedural questions such as the form of the complaint and various discovery disputes, the Court granted in part the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiff's second amended complaint. The Court dismissed the plaintiff's privacy claim, Equal Protection claim, Due Process claim, and Fifth Amendment claim to the extent that it relates to the denial of parole. However, the Court did not dismiss the plaintiff's Fifth Amendment claim related to the loss of good time credits. The defendant argued that because participation in the program was not part of the plaintiff's sentence, but instead was only recommended, there was no compelled self-incrimination. The Court rejected this argument with respect to the Fifth Amendment claim based on the threatened loss of good time credits, explaining that labeling the program "recommended" or "voluntary" did not necessarily determine if the plaintiff was compelled for Fifth Amendment purposes.

That same day, the Court granted in part the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction on that Fifth Amendment claim, holding that while the plaintiff was not entitled to a preliminary injunction restoring his lost good time credits, the plaintiff was entitled to an order enjoining defendants from requiring participants, as part of the SOCP, to divulge a history of sexual conduct, including illegal acts for which no criminal charges had been filed.

On April 23, the Court amended that to issue a system-wide preliminary injunction enjoining the defendants from denying any prisoner good time credits based on a refusal to provide his sexual history so as to be eligible for SOCP. The defendants appealed, and in June 2004, the Second Circuit stayed the preliminary injunction pending the defendant's appeal of the District Court's order.

Around this time, the plaintiff moved to certify a class, which was held in abeyance for some time pending a determination of the appeal before the Second Circuit. However, that stay on the motion for class certification was lifted on February 1, 2005, after plaintiff filed to lift the stay and defendants did not oppose.

The District Court went on to grant the motion for class certification, this time over opposition from the defendants, on February 15, 2005. The Class was defined as "Current or former New York State prisoners who have lost or been denied good time credits or have been threatened with the loss or denial of good time credits because of a refusal to admit guilt to criminal sexual conduct as part of the Sexual Offender Counseling Program."

On March 22, 2006, the Second Circuit ruled on the appeal regarding the district court's system-wide preliminary injunction enjoining defendants from denying good time credits based on a refusal to provide his sexual history so as to be eligible for SOCP. The Circuit Court vacated and remanded on the grounds that the district court had not complied with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a)'s requirement that a trial court state its findings and conclusions explicitly when granting or denying a preliminary injunction. Specifically, the Circuit Court held that the district court's findings were not clear with respect to whether DOCS denied good time credit as an automatic and direct result of a prisoner's refusal to provide the requested sexual history. Donhauser v. Goord, 181 Fed.Appx. 11, 2006 WL 1525720 (2nd Cir. Mar. 22, 2006).

Some years of further litigation, which focused largely on discovery and other procedural matters, passed before the parties proposed a class action settlement agreement on March 13, 2008. Objections to the agreement were filed under seal with the Court, and on September 23, 2008, the Court directed the parties to submit a revised Private Settlement Agreement. The parties did so on October 3, 2008.

Two weeks later, the Court approved the October 3 revised private settlement agreement as "fair, reasonable, and adequate," and dismissed the class action with prejudice. In the settlement agreement, defendants denied all allegations regarding any violations of the class member's Fifth Amendment rights, but agreed to provide inmates admitted to the SOCP program with a "Limits of Confidentiality, Partial Waiver of Confidentiality and Acknowledgment" form that set forward the program's policy with respect to confidentiality and reporting requirements.

Significantly, this form would disclose to inmates that they were not required to admit the commission of a particular crime, whether that crime resulted in the present commitment or not. Instead, inmates could successfully complete the program by discussing behavior in general terms without: providing the full names of victims; disclosing the exact dates, times, or places of the sexual offending behavior; or admitting to any specific crime or the violation of any specific section of the penal law. However, successful completion of the program did require inmates to demonstrate acceptance of responsibility for the conduct that resulted in conviction and demonstrate an understanding of their sexual offending behavior and cycle of abuse. The form also informed inmates that no written or oral statements made by them in conjunction with treatment services rendered in connection with the SOCP could be used against them in any subsequent criminal proceeding. Finally, it forbade inmates from revealing in any subsequent criminal proceeding any information disclosed by another inmate in a group therapy session or otherwise disclosed in conjunction with treatment services rendered as part of the SOCP program.

The agreement also provided for compliance monitoring by plaintiff's counsel, and for defendants to pay plaintiff's counsel $28,920 in attorney's fees. Finally, the agreement was set to remain in effect for a period of 2 years from the date it was signed by the parties. After that, consistent with provisions of 18 USCA § 3626(b)(2), the terms and conditions of the agreement would automatically cease to bind the parties, and all claims on behalf of the plaintiffs would be discontinued and dismissed with prejudice.

In 2009, a class member filed a motion to reopen the case and alleged that the defendants violated the preliminary injunction issued in 2004. However, because that injunction had been vacated by the Second Circuit, the District Court treated the motion as a request under the settlement agreement, and denied the motion to reopen the case, finding that the request was premature because the settlement's requirement that class members give defendants notice before bringing a claim had not been met.

As the agreement was positioned to automatically cease in 2010, the case is presumably closed.

Katie Chan - 11/17/2017
Chris Pollack - 03/07/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Self-incrimination
Content of Injunction
Monitoring
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Corrections
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Confidentiality
Counseling
Good time
Sex offender regulation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) New York Department of Correctional Services
Plaintiff Description Originally filed by inmate at New York State correctional facility. Once class was certified, class was: "Current or former New York State prisoners who have lost or been denied good time credits or have been threatened with the loss or denial of good time credits because of a refusal to admit guilt to criminal sexual conduct as part of the Sexual Offender Counseling Program."
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2008 - 2010
Filing Year 2001
Case Closing Year 2010
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
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
Book
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
9:01−cv−01535 (N.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0061-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/12/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Inmate Civil Rights Complaint Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 [ECF# 1]
PC-NY-0061-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/10/2001
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Motion for a Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 4]
PC-NY-0061-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/10/2001
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint [ECF# 13]
PC-NY-0061-0020.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/23/2002
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 25]
PC-NY-0061-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/18/2002
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion for Preliminary and Permanent Injunction [ECF# 29]
PC-NY-0061-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/26/2002
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 45] (N.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0061-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/03/2002
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report-Recommendation [ECF# 48]
PC-NY-0061-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/22/2003
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion for Preliminary and/or Permanent Injunction [ECF# 54]
PC-NY-0061-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/19/2003
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Decision and Order (314 F.Supp.2d 139) (N.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0061-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/15/2004
Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Decision and Order (314 F.Supp.2d 119) (N.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0061-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/15/2004
Source: Westlaw
Order (317 F.Supp.2d 160) (N.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0061-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/23/2004
Source: Westlaw
Answer [ECF# 89]
PC-NY-0061-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/07/2004
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Decision and Order [ECF# 127] (N.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0061-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/15/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order (Consolidating Cases) [ECF# 136] (N.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0061-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/25/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Decision and Order [ECF# 139] (E.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0061-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/09/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Summary Order (181 Fed.Appx. 11)
PC-NY-0061-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/22/2006
Source: Westlaw
Settlement Agreement [ECF# 184]
PC-NY-0061-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/13/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order (Approving Settlement Agreement) [ECF# 194] (N.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0061-0017.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/13/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement [ECF# 235]
PC-NY-0061-0018.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/03/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order (Approving Private Settlement Agreement) [ECF# 237]
PC-NY-0061-0019.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/17/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 257] (N.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0061-0022.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/27/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Hall, Peter W. (Second Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0061-0003
Hurd, David N. (N.D.N.Y.) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0061-0001 | PC-NY-0061-0002 | PC-NY-0061-0004 | PC-NY-0061-0009 | PC-NY-0061-0013 | PC-NY-0061-0014 | PC-NY-0061-0016 | PC-NY-0061-0017 | PC-NY-0061-0018 | PC-NY-0061-0019 | PC-NY-0061-0022 | PC-NY-0061-9000
Lowe, George H (N.D.N.Y.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-NY-0061-9000
Pooler, Rosemary S. (N.D.N.Y., Second Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0061-0003
Sharpe, Gary L. (N.D.N.Y.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-NY-0061-0010 | PC-NY-0061-0015
Plaintiff's Lawyers Isseks, Robert Nathan (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0061-0013 | PC-NY-0061-0016 | PC-NY-0061-0018 | PC-NY-0061-0019 | PC-NY-0061-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Brown, Megan M. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0061-0016 | PC-NY-0061-9000
Goglia, Douglas J. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0061-0018 | PC-NY-0061-0019 | PC-NY-0061-9000
Moran, Maria (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0061-0015 | PC-NY-0061-9000
Rock, Gerald J. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0061-9000
Sheingold, Nelson (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0061-0007 | PC-NY-0061-0012 | PC-NY-0061-0013 | PC-NY-0061-9000

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