University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Cookhorne v. Fischer PC-NY-0065
Docket / Court 2012-1791 ( State Court )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Solitary confinement
Case Summary
On November 22, 2011, the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision sentenced the plaintiff, a 17-year-old prisoner, to four years in solitary confinement following a disciplinary hearing for allegedly assaulting a correctional officer. In solitary confinement, the prisoner was ... read more >
On November 22, 2011, the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision sentenced the plaintiff, a 17-year-old prisoner, to four years in solitary confinement following a disciplinary hearing for allegedly assaulting a correctional officer. In solitary confinement, the prisoner was allegedly deprived of phone calls, packages, commissary, and good time credits for four years, and was confined in a small cell for 23 hours a day. Prisoners' Legal Services of New York subsequently filed a lawsuit on behalf of the prisoner in New York State Supreme Court, alleging that the hearing disposition "shocked the conscience" and "was deliberately indifferent to the medical and mental health needs of 16 and 17 year olds". The plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment stating that (1) solitary confinement of 16 and 17 year olds violates state and federal constitutional prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment, and (2) the Department's regulations on solitary confinement is unconstitutional because they do not require consideration of a person's age in imposing punishment at disciplinary hearings.

On March 15, 2013, the New York State's Appellate Division ruled that although there was substantial evidence that the prisoner violated inmate rules, the solitary confinement sentence was "so disproportionate to the offense as to be shocking to one's sense of fairness." The court sent the declaratory judgment part of the case to the State Supreme Court for adjudication.

On October 17, 2014, the parties announced a settlement. Under the terms of the settlement, the state agreed to a number of provisions, including (1) a one-time review of all juveniles in adult prison solitary confinement; (2) establishing a Juvenile Separation Unit with special programming; (3) the hiring of social workers to work with juveniles in new housing units; (4) the enactment of new regulations to consider age as a mitigating factor in disciplinary cases; (5) limiting of disciplinary confinement for juveniles, and (6) training officers in the new procedures. The settlement agreement is scheduled to expire after 24 months.

Priyah Kaul - 11/08/2014


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Content of Injunction
Hire
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Reporting
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Administrative segregation
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Disciplinary procedures
Disciplinary segregation
Education
Good time
Juveniles
Over/Unlawful Detention
Special education
Youth / Adult separation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
Plaintiff Description Prisoner sentenced to four years in solitary confinement following a disciplinary hearing.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Order Duration 2014 - 2016
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Case Studies 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 Cruel Confinement: Abuse, Discrimination and Death Within Alabama's Prisons
Written: Jun. 04, 2014
(Southern Poverty Law Center )
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2012-1791 (State Supreme Court)
PC-NY-0065-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/25/2014
Source: Bloomberg Law
General Documents
Opinion (104 A.3d 1197)
PC-NY-0065-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/15/2013
Source: Westlaw
Prisoners' Legal Services Press Release
PC-NY-0065-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/22/2014
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Judges Carni, Edward D. (State Supreme Court)
PC-NY-0065-0002
Centra, John V. (State Supreme Court)
PC-NY-0065-0002
Fahey, Joseph E. (State Trial Court)
PC-NY-0065-0002
Sconiers, Rose H. (State Supreme Court)
PC-NY-0065-0002
Siwek, Donna M. (State Supreme Court)
PC-NY-0065-9000
Valentino, Joseph D. (State Supreme Court)
PC-NY-0065-0002
Plaintiff's Lawyers Murtagh-Monks, Karen L. (New York)
PC-NY-0065-0001
Pagano, Maria E (New York)
PC-NY-0065-0001

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