University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Sassman v. Brown PC-CA-0067
Docket / Court 2:14-cv-01679-MCE-KJN ( E.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On July 16, 2014, a male prisoner in the custody of the California Department of Corrections filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the California government. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, asked the for ... read more >
On July 16, 2014, a male prisoner in the custody of the California Department of Corrections filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the California government. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, asked the for declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that California's blanket exclusion of male prisoners from the Alternative Custody Program (ACP) violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The ACP is a community-based program aimed at reuniting low-level offenders with their families and providing inmates with rehabilitative services within the community. The plaintiff is a male prisoner with two children and an ailing mother with Stage IV colon cancer whom he wished to care for. He filed the lawsuit and requested a preliminary injunction, because he was rejected by CDCR from participating in the program for no other reason than that he is a man.

As originally enacted by the Legislature in 2010, the ACP could have been open to at least some men, although men would still have been required to be "primary caregivers of dependent children ... immediately prior to incarceration" while women applicants faced no such restriction. Nonetheless, when CDCR began offering the ACP in 2011, it limited access to female inmates and excluded all men. The Governor subsequently signed a statutory amendment writing this discrimination into law.

Defendants answered plaintiffs complaint, claiming that plaintiff was not “similarly situated” to female prisoners for the purposes of equal protection analysis and that the ACP serves objectives that address the specific needs and unique characteristics of female inmates. On October 14, 2014, the court denied plaintiffs motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to enjoin defendants from continuing to exclude male prisoners from the ACP because of their gender.

On January 30, 2015, both parties moved for summary judgement. The court granted plaintiffs motion for summary judgement on September 9, 2015, stating that prohibiting male inmates from applying to the ACP was unconstitutional and enjoined defendants from applying or enforcing the provision excluding men from the ACP.

On October 9, 2015, defendants appealed but on March 16, 2016, the parties voluntarily dismissed the appeal for unknown reasons.

On April 14, 2016, the defendants filed a report in district court, outlining the changes it had made in developing and implementing an Alternative Custody Program for male inmates. The defendants also submitted a copy of amended regulations governing the program, reflecting that it was now open to all regardless of gender.

Jessica Kincaid - 08/04/2014
Elena Malik - 11/06/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Male
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Corrections
Discrimination-basis
Sex discrimination
General
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Rehabilitation
Totality of conditions
Youth / Adult separation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) California
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Plaintiff Description A male prisoner in the custody of the California Department of Corrections who was rejected from the Alternative Custody Program because he was male
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Declaratory Judgment
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Voluntary Dismissal
Case Closing Year 2016
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)
2:14-cv-1679 (E.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0067-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/14/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PC-CA-0067-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/16/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint [ECF# 9]
PC-CA-0067-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/07/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges England, Morrison C. Jr. (E.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0067-9000
Newman, Kendall J (E.D. Cal.) [Magistrate]
PC-CA-0067-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Grunfeld, Gay Crosthwait (California)
PC-CA-0067-0001 | PC-CA-0067-9000
Mantoan, Kathryn Grzenczyk (California)
PC-CA-0067-9000
Stout, Jesse Abram (California)
PC-CA-0067-9000
Swearingen, Richard Van (California)
PC-CA-0067-9000
Thompson, Blake (California)
PC-CA-0067-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bower, Alicia Anne (California)
PC-CA-0067-9000
D'Agostino, Martine Noel (California)
PC-CA-0067-0002 | PC-CA-0067-9000
Harris, Kamala D. (California)
PC-CA-0067-0002
Russell, Jay C. (California)
PC-CA-0067-0002
Sharma, Maneesh (California)
PC-CA-0067-9000

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