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Case Name Wharton v. Danberg PC-DE-0008
Docket / Court 1:12-cv-01240-UNA ( D. Del. )
State/Territory Delaware
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On October 1, 2012, four detained former Delaware prisoners, represented by private counsel, filed this lawsuit against Commissioner of the Delaware Department of Corrections (DDOC) and two directors of Central Offender Records (COR). They alleged that the defendants' failure to take steps to ... read more >
On October 1, 2012, four detained former Delaware prisoners, represented by private counsel, filed this lawsuit against Commissioner of the Delaware Department of Corrections (DDOC) and two directors of Central Offender Records (COR). They alleged that the defendants' failure to take steps to correct the allegedly well known and long-term (since at least 2008) dysfunction of COR constituted a violation of the Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that DDOC and COR maintained inadequate staff, training, discipline policies, and hours of operation, along with a host of other policies, that led to frequent overdetention, ranging from 12 hours to days, weeks, months, and possibly even years past court-ordered release. The plaintiffs filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, individually and as a class, on behalf of all those incarcerated in a DDOC facility as of October 1, 2008 or later who were not or would not be released within 12 hours of the expiration of their sentence or the forwarding of a court order for release. The plaintiffs sought declaratory relief, preliminary and permanent injunctions to prevent the defendants from pursing practices that caused overdetention, damages, appointment of a monitor to supervise COR, and attorneys’ fees and cost.

On December 4, 2012, an additional DDOC prisoner filed pro se to intervene in the case. He claimed that errors in the calculation of his date of imprisonment and his good time could lead to 8 years or more of overdetention. Additionally, on August 15, 2013, the prisoner filed a motion for partial summary judgment to adjust his date of imprisonment and good time credit.

The case was referred to Magistrate Judge Christopher J. Burke for mediation on January 24, 2013.

While the intervenor's motions were still pending, the plaintiffs filed a motion to amend the complaint on June 2, 2014. The plaintiffs sought to add further factual support and examples of overdetained inmates.

On September 29, 2014, Judge Leonard P. Stark denied the DDOC’s prisoner’s motions to intervene and for partial summary judgment because the prisoner failed to show how his interests would not be adequately represented as a member of the class. 2014 WL 4925227. At the same time, Judge Stark granted the plaintiffs’ motion to amend the complaint.

On October 3, 2014, the plaintiffs filed a motion to certify the class and the defendants filed a motion to strike certain members of the class. The defendants then filed a motion for summary judgment a few months later in March 2015.

Judge Stark denied class certification, denied the motion to strike certain members of the class as moot, and granted summary judgment to the defendants on September 30, 2015. 2015 WL 5768936. Judge Stark denied class certification to the plaintiffs because some members of the proposed class were overdetained due to delays in the court system while others were detained due to delays at COR. Judge Stark granted summary judgment to the defendants because the plaintiffs failed to produce evidence that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to the overdetention problem and found no causal connection between actions or policies by the defendants and the harm suffered by the plaintiffs.

Subsequently, the plaintiffs filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment on October 28, 2014. Judge Stark denied the motion on March 21, 2016 because the plaintiffs’ motion seemed like an attempt to rehash arguments already made at summary judgment without any new evidence. 2016 WL 1089408.

On April 19, 2016, the plaintiffs appealed the denial of class certification, granting of summary judgment to the defendants, and denial of the motion to alter or amend the judgment to the Third Circuit. On April 19, 2017, the court of appeals affirmed Judge Stark’s decision to grant summary judgment because the plaintiffs failed to establish deliberate indifference to the overdetention. (Circuit Judges Kent A. Jordan, Joseph A. Greenaway Jr., and Marjorie O. Rendell). 854 F.3d 234. Having affirmed the grant of summary judgment, the appeals court did not reach the other issues. This case is now closed.

Kenneth Gray - 07/08/2013
Emily Kempa - 03/20/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Defendant-type
Corrections
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Failure to discipline
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
Over/Unlawful Detention
Record-keeping
Records Disclosure
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) Delaware
Delaware Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Four former prisoners of the Delaware Department of Corrections who suffered overdetention and filed suit on behalf of themselves and a class of individuals who were or would be overdetained.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filing Year 2012
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  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)
1:12-cv-1240 (D. Del.)
PC-DE-0008-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/11/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint (Class Action) [ECF# 1]
PC-DE-0008-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/01/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint [Ct. of App. ECF# 49]
PC-DE-0008-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/02/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Order [ECF# 56] (2014 WL 4925227) (D. Del.)
PC-DE-0008-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/29/2014
Source: Bloomberg Law
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 90] (2015 WL 5768936) (D. Del.)
PC-DE-0008-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/30/2015
Source: Bloomberg Law
Memorandum Order [ECF# 98] (2016 WL 1089408) (D. Del.)
PC-DE-0008-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/21/2016
Source: Bloomberg Law
show all people docs
Judges Stark, Leonard Philip (D. Del.) show/hide docs
PC-DE-0008-0003 | PC-DE-0008-0004 | PC-DE-0008-0005 | PC-DE-0008-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Grady, John S. (Delaware) show/hide docs
PC-DE-0008-0001 | PC-DE-0008-0002 | PC-DE-0008-9000
Hampton, Stephen A. (Delaware) show/hide docs
PC-DE-0008-0001 | PC-DE-0008-0002 | PC-DE-0008-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Fortune, Katisha D. (Delaware) show/hide docs
PC-DE-0008-9000
McTaggart, Michael F. (Delaware) show/hide docs
PC-DE-0008-9000
Niedzielski, Marc P. (Delaware) show/hide docs
PC-DE-0008-9000
Spivack, Dennis (Delaware) show/hide docs
PC-DE-0008-9000

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