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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Cunningham v. Federal Bureau of Prisons PC-CO-0019
Docket / Court 1:12-cv-01570 ( D. Colo. )
State/Territory Colorado
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Prison Conditions
Special Collection Solitary confinement
Attorney Organization Washington Lawyers' Committee
Case Summary
On June 18, 2012, prisoners at ADX-Florence, a "Supermax" facility, filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado against the Federal Bureau of Prisons and certain BOP officials who are responsible for the operation of ADX. Represented by private ... read more >
On June 18, 2012, prisoners at ADX-Florence, a "Supermax" facility, filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado against the Federal Bureau of Prisons and certain BOP officials who are responsible for the operation of ADX. Represented by private counsel and the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendants had violated BOP policy and the Eighth Amendment by failing to properly diagnose and treat prisoners at ADX with serious mental illness. They sought injunctive relief requiring reform of the mental health care system at ADX, among other relief. (At the request of the first named plaintiff, he was withdrawn from the lawsuit and the caption adjusted accordingly.)

On April 23, 2013, Judge Richard P. Matsch denied the defendants' motion to dismiss but did dismiss two defendants who were being sued in the official capacity, finding their inclusion redundant.

Later in 2013, the parties began settlement discussions while undergoing discovery. Individual prisoners also file motions for preliminary injunctions and temporary restraining orders, which were denied by the court. On April 16, 2014, the proceedings were stayed for 60 days with the exception of written discovery, document production, and the continuing settlement conferences at the parties' request. The parties kept extending the stay until February 25, 2015.

On June 15, 2015, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint. Discovery continued. On November 3, 2015, Judge Matsch held that the CLA had established standing to pursue claims for declaratory and injunctive relief for prisoners with mental illness housed at ADX. 2015 WL 13264094.

The parties participated in settlement negotiations. On November 16, 2016, the plaintiffs moved, unopposed, for a ruling on preliminary approval of the settlement terms and the proposed notice to the class. On November 17, 2016, Judge Matsch issued an order granting the motion, and on December 29, 2016, he issued an order approving the settlement following a fairness hearing. 2016 WL 8786871.

The settlement agreement contained negotiated substantive provisions regarding screening and diagnosis of mental illness, provision of mental health care, suicide prevention, and conditions of confinement to reduce the risk of the development or exacerbation of mental illness. Additionally, it stated that units for mental health treatment would be developed in Atlanta, Georgia, Allenwood, Pennsylvania, and Florence, Colorado. It laid out an extensive list of initiatives that will be undertaken at ADX, including using and enhancing an at-risk recreation program, creating group therapy facilities and private counseling areas, screening all inmates for mental illness, and taking steps to ensure access to treatment, among several other initiatives. It stated that the defendant will pay the attorneys’ fees. The obligations under the settlement were to be effective for three years, unless the plaintiffs consent to termination between two and three years or the court grants a one-time one-year extension.

On January 17, 2017, Judge Matsch issued a stipulated order certifying the settlement class and subclass and dismissing the action with prejudice, subject to the court’s retention of jurisdiction for enforcement. The court certified a screening class consisting of all people confined at ADX between the date of the order and the end of the compliance period, and a subclass consisting of all people confined at ADX between the date of the order and the end of the compliance period who have been diagnosed by the Bureau or its representative personnel or contractors with a covered mental illness.

In the fairness hearing, some members of the class raised two objections: that the prisoners should receive money damages, and that someone should be held accountable for their conditions of confinement. On January 25, 2017, one plaintiff submitted a notice of appeal, but on February 7, 2017, he voluntarily withdrew his appeal. On February 13, 2017, another plaintiff submitted a notice of appeal, and on February 14 he filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

As of February 28, 2017, the appeal (17-1054) is ongoing.

Denise Heberle - 06/19/2012
Jessica Kincaid - 02/13/2016
Julie Singer - 03/05/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Content of Injunction
Monitoring
Reasonable Accommodation
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
Mental impairment
Discrimination-area
Medical Exam / Inquiry
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Administrative segregation
Conditions of confinement
Confinement/isolation
Counseling
Reasonable Accommodations
Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Medication, administration of
Mental health care, general
Self-injurious behaviors
Suicide prevention
Untreated pain
Mental Disability
Mental Illness, Unspecified
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Bivens
Defendant(s) Federal Bureau of Prisons
Plaintiff Description All persons who are now, or will be, incarcerated in the federal Administrative Maximum prison in Florence, Colorado. Also subclass: All class members diagnosed with serious mental illness.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Washington Lawyers' Committee
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2016 - 2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing PC-CO-0020 : Vega v. Davis (D. Colo.)
Additional Resources
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Case Studies An American Gulag: Descending into Madness at Supermax
theatlantic.com
Written: Jun. 18, 2012
By: Andrew Cohen (The Atlantic)
[ Detail ] [ 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 ]

  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 ]

Links SuperMaxLawsuit Website
http://www.supermaxlawsuit.com/
Written: Jan. 15, 2016
By: Thomas
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Cruel Confinement: Abuse, Discrimination and Death Within Alabama's Prisons
Written: Jun. 04, 2014
(Southern Poverty Law Center )
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:12−cv−01570 (D. Colo.)
PC-CO-0019-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/06/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-CO-0019-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/18/2012
Amended Complaint [ECF# 274]
PC-CO-0019-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/15/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on CLA Standing (D. Colo.)
PC-CO-0019-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/03/2015
Source: Bloomberg Law
Plaintiffs' Unopposed Motion for Preliminary Approval of Settlement Terms and Proposed Notice to the Class [ECF# 382]
PC-CO-0019-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/16/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Case Study Resource: How America’s Most Famous Federal Prison Faced a Dirty Secret
PC-CO-0019-0004.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 12/05/2016
Order Approving Settlement [ECF# 391] (D. Colo.)
PC-CO-0019-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/29/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulated Order Certifying Settlement Class and Subclass and Dismissing This Action with Prejudice Subject to the Court's Retention of Jurisdiction Over the Parties and Subject Matter for Purposes of Enforcing the Parties' Settlement Agreement [ECF# 398] (D. Colo.)
PC-CO-0019-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/17/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Hegarty, Michael E. (D. Colo.) [Magistrate]
PC-CO-0019-9000
Matsch, Richard Paul Court not on record
PC-CO-0019-0003 | PC-CO-0019-0006 | PC-CO-0019-0007 | PC-CO-0019-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Anderson, Robert R. (California)
PC-CO-0019-0005 | PC-CO-0019-9000
Arnold, Keri L. (New York)
PC-CO-0019-0001
Aro, Edwin P. (Colorado)
PC-CO-0019-0001 | PC-CO-0019-0005 | PC-CO-0019-0007 | PC-CO-0019-9000
Falk, Jerome B. (California)
PC-CO-0019-0001 | PC-CO-0019-0005 | PC-CO-0019-9000
Fornaci, Phillip Jerome (District of Columbia)
PC-CO-0019-0001 | PC-CO-0019-9000
Garten, Danielle Marie (District of Columbia)
PC-CO-0019-0005 | PC-CO-0019-9000
Golden, Deborah Maxine (District of Columbia)
PC-CO-0019-0001 | PC-CO-0019-0005 | PC-CO-0019-9000
Kaiser, James Alexander (District of Columbia)
PC-CO-0019-0005 | PC-CO-0019-9000
Leiter, Maurice A. (California)
PC-CO-0019-0001 | PC-CO-0019-9000
Morrow, Christopher Scott (District of Columbia)
PC-CO-0019-9000
Mudge, Wilson DeLoss (District of Columbia)
PC-CO-0019-0005 | PC-CO-0019-9000
Perkins, Nancy L. (District of Columbia)
PC-CO-0019-0001
Rendon, Veronica E. (New York)
PC-CO-0019-0001
Taylor, Robert Paul (California)
PC-CO-0019-0001 | PC-CO-0019-9000
Welchans, Kelly Ann (California)
PC-CO-0019-0005 | PC-CO-0019-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Cohen, Nathalie Erin (Colorado)
PC-CO-0019-9000
Cook, Marcy Elizabeth (Colorado)
PC-CO-0019-0002 | PC-CO-0019-9000
Licht-Steenfat, Jacob (Colorado)
PC-CO-0019-9000
Padden, Amy L. (Colorado)
PC-CO-0019-0002 | PC-CO-0019-0007 | PC-CO-0019-9000
Schock, Karl L (Colorado)
PC-CO-0019-9000

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