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Case Name Peoples v. Fischer PC-NY-0062
Docket / Court 1:11-cv-02694-SAS ( S.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Solitary confinement
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On April 18, 2011, a prisoner formerly incarcerated at the New York State Green Haven Correctional Facility (GHCF) filed this pro se lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against the GHCF, the New York State Department of Correctional Services, and the ... read more >
On April 18, 2011, a prisoner formerly incarcerated at the New York State Green Haven Correctional Facility (GHCF) filed this pro se lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against the GHCF, the New York State Department of Correctional Services, and the Queens County District Attorney's Office. Bringing this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff sought compensatory and punitive damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that the defendants violating his constitutional rights by searching his cell, confiscating legal papers, sentencing him to 3 years in the Secure Housing Unit (SHU), and failing to adequately protect him from other inmates.

Specifically, plaintiff alleged a Fourth Amendment claim resulting from a pat frisk and subsequent search of his prison cell, an Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim resulting from his three-year sentence to SHU confinement, an Eighth Amendment claim regarding his altercation with a fellow inmate, a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim arising in connection with his disciplinary hearing, and a right of access to the courts claim under the First and Sixth Amendments.

On December 1, 2011, U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin granted the defendants' motion to dismiss all claims against them. On May 2, 2012, the Court allowed the Eighth Amendment claim regarding SHU confinement to proceed, rejecting all other claims. Judge Scheindlin held that a prisoner in the SHU for two years for this disciplinary offense might well constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

On June 26, 2012, Judge Scheindlin granted in part Defendants' motion to reconsider, dismissing all claims against one of the defendants for lack of personal involvement in the alleged conduct. However, Judge Scheindlin elaborated her thinking on the SHU issue, and declined to grant qualified immunity to the remaining defendants at that point. Judge Scheindlin noted that the plaintiff's "placement in the SHU for such a time period was grossly disproportionate to the non-violent violation that he was found to have committed. He has therefore stated a plausible claim that defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment." (Judge Scheindlin also accepted the plaintiff's amended complaint; it incorporated the Court's May 2 rulings and waived any challenge that would affect the length of his confinement.)

On August 23, 2012, the New York Civil Liberties Union (assisted by students from the NYU Civil Rights Clinic) filed an appearance to represent the plaintiff. They filed an amended complaint on December 6, 2012. It dealt only with the issue of isolation, but broadened the action, framing it as a challenge to the constitutionality of "New York State's practice of arbitrarily sentencing tens of thousands of incarcerated individuals to months and years of extreme isolation and solitary confinement for alleged infractions that often present no threat to prison safety." The complaint alleged that New York State uses extreme isolation as punishment more than any other prison system in the United States—4,300 prisoners on any given day live in isolation (some for years at a stretch), "imposed as a sanction for offenses as minor as 'untidy cell or person,' 'unfastened long hair,' 'littering,' and 'unreported illness.'" The complaint claimed that the conditions in isolation are physically and mentally damaging and violated the Eighth Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

On February 19, 2014, the parties agreed to a stipulated stay of the litigation, during which the parties would work to reform the New York segregation system. The remedy for violation of the stipulation is vacating the stay and proceeding with the litigation. The reforms included:

• An alternative to SHU sanctions for prisoners under the age of 18;
• A presumption against SHU sanctions for pregnant prisoners;
• Alternatives to SHU sanctions for prisoners with significant intellectual disabilities (entitled "Correctional Alternative Rehabilitation") which included several hours per day of out-of-cell group programming;
• Central office oversight of SHU confinement;
• New guidelines, policies, and training for confinement sanctions in prison disciplinary hearings; and
• Immediately increasing outdoor exercise time at several facilities, and providing headphones and "in-cell study packets" at others.

On December 16, 2015, the plaintiffs notified Judge Scheindlin that a final settlement agreement had been reached. The settlement provided for (1) a reduction in the frequency and duration of SHU sentences, (2) improvements to the conditions of SHU confinement, and (3) mechanisms for implementation and enforcement of the agreed-upon measures over a five-year period. The settlement agreement also required the defendnats to pay $1.1 million for attorneys' fees and costs, including $129,900 as incentive awards for the class representatives, and up to $100,00 a year over the course of the settlement. The parties jointly moved for a conditional class certification in order to move forward for a fairness hearing for final approval of the settlement. Judge Scheindlin issued an order on December 23 providing preliminary approval of the settlement agreement and certifying the class.

On February 19, 2016, the case caption was amended to change the named defendant to Anthony Annucci, Acting Commissioner of the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

On June 15, 2015, the district court began receiving letters from class members voicing their concerns. After receiving a total of 164 letters, on March 21, 2016, the plaintiffs filed a final motion for settlement approval. On March 31, 2016, Judge Scheindlin approved the motion, finding the settlement agreement fair, reasonable, and adequate, and also noting that the majority of the letters submitted by class members were in support of the settlement agreement. As such, Judge Scheindlin also ordered this case closed.

- 02/19/2014
John He - 03/31/2016

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Content of Injunction
Mental impairment
Classification / placement
Disciplinary segregation
Failure to supervise
Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Green Haven Correctional Facility
New York State Department of Correctional Services
Upstate Correctional Facility
Plaintiff Description All current and future NY State prisoners.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
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 Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 2016 - 2021
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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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 ]

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

1:11−cv−02694 (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0062-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/08/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
PC-NY-0062-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/18/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order (2011 WL 6034374 / 2011 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 138021) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0062-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/01/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order (2012 WL 1575302 / 2012 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 62428) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0062-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/03/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion for reconsideration, and exhibits
PC-NY-0062-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/17/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint
PC-NY-0062-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/01/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order (on reconsideration) (2012 WL 2402593 / 2012 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 88475) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0062-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/26/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint
PC-NY-0062-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/06/2012
Source: ACLU
Third Amended Class Action Complaint
PC-NY-0062-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/06/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulation and Order (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0062-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/01/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulation for a Stay with Conditions
PC-NY-0062-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/19/2014
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Settlement Agreement (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0062-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/16/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
PC-NY-0062-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/23/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
PC-NY-0062-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/08/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order [Approving Final Motion for Settlement Approval] (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0062-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/31/2016
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Judges Fox, Kevin N. (S.D.N.Y.) [Magistrate]
Scheindlin, Shira A. (E.D.N.Y., S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0062-0002 | PC-NY-0062-0004 | PC-NY-0062-0006 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-0012 | PC-NY-0062-0013 | PC-NY-0062-0014 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brown, Jennifer Kay (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Desgranges, Philip L. (New York)
Dunn, Christopher (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0007 | PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Fioccola, David J (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-0010 | PC-NY-0062-0011 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Hopkins, Gabriel (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009
Hunt, Adam J (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Krause, Aimee (New York)
Matza-Brown, Daniel (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Moloff, Leda A (New York)
Mullkoff, Daniel Erick (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Pendergrass, Taylor Scott (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0007 | PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-0010 | PC-NY-0062-0011 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Reinert, Alexander A. (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-0010 | PC-NY-0062-0011 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Sadeghi, Kayvan B (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Swearingen, William (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009
Valenti, Kyle (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0008 | PC-NY-0062-0009
Defendant's Lawyers Brewster, Richard W. (New York)
Harben, Jeb (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0003 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-9000
Schneiderman, Eric T. (New York)
PC-NY-0062-0003 | PC-NY-0062-0009 | PC-NY-0062-0010
Shaffer, Ryan Glenn (New York)
Other Lawyers None on record

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