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Case Name Semelbauer v. Muskegon County JC-MI-0010
Docket / Court 1:14-cv-01245 ( W.D. Mich. )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU of Michigan
Case Summary
On December 4, 2014, eight female inmates of Muskegon County Jail (MCJ) filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Muskegon County, Michigan. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU of Michigan and private counsel, sought ... read more >
On December 4, 2014, eight female inmates of Muskegon County Jail (MCJ) filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Muskegon County, Michigan. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU of Michigan and private counsel, sought declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and damages, claiming that the conditions of confinement at the MCJ were inhumane and unconstitutional. The plaintiffs brought the case as a class action; it was assigned to Judge Janet T. Neff.

Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that, in addition to being exposed to unsafe physical conditions, male guards at the prison are permitted to watch female inmates while they change clothes, shower, and use the bathroom. The plaintiff also alleged they were referred to by slurs and often denied clean underwear and basic sanitary items such as toilet paper and feminine hygiene products. These conditions, the plaintiffs contended, violated the prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment, the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment, and the prohibition against punishment of pretrial detainees under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

On the same day the complaint was filed, the plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction and to certify the class. The plaintiffs sought an order requiring the defendants to take immediate measures to repair broken and backed-up plumbing and other failures of basic infrastructure, treat and exterminate infestations of mold and vermin, and implement a regular system of inspection, maintenance and repair to prevent these and related conditions. The plaintiffs also sought for the defendants to provide female prisoners with privacy from being routinely viewed by male prison staff, to provide women with reasonable access to toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, clean undergarments, etc., and to provide these prisoners with out-of-cell exercise opportunities for at least one hour per day.

The motion for class certification consisted of four classes: (1) all current and future inmates at the Muskegon County Jail (“MCJ”), represented by plaintiff Stashia Collins, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief from unconstitutional conditions of confinement that affect all inmates (Overcrowding Injunctive Class); (2) all current and future female inmates at MCJ, represented by Ms. Collins, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief from unconstitutional conditions of confinement specific to female inmates (Female Injunctive Class); (3) all inmates incarcerated at MCJ within three years prior to the filing of the complaint in this case, represented by the plaintiffs, seeking damages for harm suffered as a result of unconstitutional conditions of confinement that affect all inmates (Overcrowding Damages Class); and (4) all female inmates incarcerated at MCJ within three years prior to the filing of the complaint in this case, represented by the plaintiffs, seeking damages for harm suffered as a result of unconstitutional conditions of confinement specific to female inmates (Female Damages Class).

On February 6, 2015, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, adding three additional named plaintiffs. On July 1, 2015, the defendants moved for summary judgment on the amended complaint, arguing that it failed to state any plausible Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment conditions of confinement claims.

On September 11, 2015, Judge Neff granted in part and denied in part the defendant’s motion. 2015 WL 9906265. The court dismissed Count III (Denial of Access to Feminine Hygiene Products, Toilet Paper and Adequate Underwear and Other Clothing) and Count IV (Severe Overcrowding and Other Abysmal Conditions) but retained Count I (Violation of Privacy and Bodily Integrity) and Count II (Denial of Exercise). In the same order, Judge Neff denied without prejudice the plaintiffs’ pending motions for class certification, a preliminary injunction, and expert testimony in support of a preliminary injunction but left the plaintiffs opportunity to re-file to conform to the court’s standards.

The plaintiffs appealed this order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit insofar as the district court’s order denied the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment with respect to Count III, and denied the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. On May 12, 2016, the Sixth Circuit dismissed the appeal as it pertained to the motion for summary judgment and the motion for class certification but the appeal was allowed to proceed as it related to the denial of preliminary injunction. The plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration of this decision but the motion was denied on December 12, 2016.

On March 31, 2016, the plaintiffs moved for joinder of four new plaintiffs and partial renewal of class certification. Specifically, the plaintiffs requested certification of a class of all current and future female inmates at the Muskegon County Jail (MCJ) seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. On February 7, 2017, the court entered an order holding these motions in abeyance.

On October 19, 2016, the parties agreed to dismiss Count V of the complaint and filed an order of dismissal. The court granted this motion that same day. The following year, the parties were able to come to a settlement agreement. On May 31, 2017, the parties had a settlement conference before Magistrate Judge Ellen S. Carmody, where the parties reviewed their settlement. The agreement, consisted of monetary and injunctive relief. Each plaintiff was to be paid damages in the amount of $20,000 and the defendants were required to change policies regarding dispersal of medication, hygiene products, exercise, and cross-gender viewing. The agreement dictated that, pending final approval by the court, this case would be dismissed with prejudice and the appeal and the motion for class certification would be withdrawn.

Having settled, the parties filed a proposed stipulation and order of dismissal with prejudice which the court granted on July 24, 2017. The district court did not retain jurisdiction to enforce the agreement due to it being a private settlement agreement. That same day, the Sixth Circuit dismissed the appeal. There has been no other activity on the docket as of June 27, 2018.

Robert Lake - 06/17/2015
Jake Parker - 06/27/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Unreasonable search and seizure
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Training
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Assault/abuse by staff
Bathing and hygiene
Conditions of confinement
Grievance Procedures
Over/Unlawful Detention
Recreation / Exercise
Sanitation / living conditions
Sex w/ staff; sexual harassment by staff
Totality of conditions
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Medical care, unspecified
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Muskegon County
Plaintiff Description Eleven women who are current and former inmates of Muskegon County Jail, individually and on behalf of a putative class.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU of Michigan
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Moot
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Voluntary Dismissal
Filing Year 2014
Case Closing Year 2017
Case Ongoing No reason to think so
Docket(s)
1:14-cv-01245-JTN (W.D. Mich.)
JC-MI-0010-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/24/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
JC-MI-0010-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/04/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 18]
JC-MI-0010-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/06/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order [ECF# 54] (2015 WL 9906265) (W.D. Mich.)
JC-MI-0010-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/11/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Transcript of Settlement Agreement [ECF# 182]
JC-MI-0010-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/05/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulation and Order of Dismissal with Prejudice [ECF# 188] (W.D. Mich.)
JC-MI-0010-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/24/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Neff, Janet T. (W.D. Mich.)
JC-MI-0010-0003 | JC-MI-0010-0005 | JC-MI-0010-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Allen, Marc S. (Michigan)
JC-MI-0010-0001 | JC-MI-0010-0002 | JC-MI-0010-9000
Aukerman, Miriam (Michigan)
JC-MI-0010-0001 | JC-MI-0010-0002 | JC-MI-0010-0004 | JC-MI-0010-9000
Carlson, Kevin M. (Michigan)
JC-MI-0010-0001 | JC-MI-0010-0002 | JC-MI-0010-9000
Drew, Stephen R. (Michigan)
JC-MI-0010-0004 | JC-MI-0010-9000
Johnson, Andrea J. (Michigan)
JC-MI-0010-0001 | JC-MI-0010-0002 | JC-MI-0010-9000
Korobkin, Daniel S. (Michigan)
JC-MI-0010-0001 | JC-MI-0010-0002 | JC-MI-0010-9000
Moss, Kary L. (Michigan)
JC-MI-0010-0001 | JC-MI-0010-0002
Nelson, Sofia V (Michigan)
JC-MI-0010-0001
Pitt, Michael L. (Michigan)
JC-MI-0010-0001 | JC-MI-0010-0002
Rivers, Beth M. (Michigan)
JC-MI-0010-0001 | JC-MI-0010-0002 | JC-MI-0010-9000
Steinberg, Michael J. (Michigan)
JC-MI-0010-0001 | JC-MI-0010-0002 | JC-MI-0010-9000
Sturdivant, Adam Christopher (Michigan)
JC-MI-0010-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Benson, Curt A. (Michigan)
JC-MI-0010-9000
Brege, Andrew James (Michigan)
JC-MI-0010-9000
Fahlsing, Joshua Patrick (Michigan)
JC-MI-0010-9000
Hughes, Douglas M. (Michigan)
JC-MI-0010-9000
Karafa, John M. (Michigan)
JC-MI-0010-0004 | JC-MI-0010-9000
Neagos, Horia Razvan (Michigan)
JC-MI-0010-9000
Vander Laan, Allan C. (Michigan)
JC-MI-0010-0004 | JC-MI-0010-9000

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