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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Heyer v. United States Bureau of Prisons PC-NC-0014
Docket / Court 5:11-ct-03118-D ( E.D.N.C. )
Additional Docket(s) 5:11-cv-00318-D  [ 11-318 ]
State/Territory North Carolina
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization Washington Lawyers' Committee
Case Summary
On June 20, 2011, two deaf prisoners filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina against the federal Bureau of Prisons. Represented by private counsel and the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, the plaintiffs filed pursuant to ... read more >
On June 20, 2011, two deaf prisoners filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina against the federal Bureau of Prisons. Represented by private counsel and the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, the plaintiffs filed pursuant to Bivens claiming violations of the Rehabilitation Act and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In addition, the plaintiffs alleged violations of their Fifth Amendment due process rights, First Amendment Freedom of Speech, and First Amendment Free Exercise of Religion. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants refused to provide them with effective communication and auxiliary aids necessary to accommodate their disability. The discriminatory conduct deprived the plaintiffs of their ability to receive adequate and informed medical treatment, participate in institutional disciplinary proceedings, effectively take part in any rehabilitative, educational, or religious programs, or communicate with those within and outside the institution. The plaintiffs requested declaratory and injunctive relief.

On April 11, 2012, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint. On June 22, 2011, the case was transferred to Judge James C. Dever, with a revised case number of 5:11-ct-3118. The defendants then filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment. The plaintiffs also filed for summary judgment on count two of their amended complaint.

On March 11, 2013, Judge Dever denied the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on count two, granted in part and denied in part the defendants' motion to dismiss, and denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment. Judge Dever dismissed count one under the Rehabilitation Act for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Judge Dever dismissed count five under the Fifth Amendment for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Eight claims of the plaintiffs' claims survived. 2013 WL 943406 (E.D.N.C. Mar. 11, 2013).

Discovery was contested and the plaintiffs filed a motion to compel the production of documents. On September 12, 2014, the district court issued an ordering denying the plaintiffs' motion to compel the production of documents from the defendants. 2014 WL 4545946 (E.D.N.C. Sept. 12, 2014).

On March 31, 2015, the Court granted in part the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, denied the plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment, and dismissed as moot the remaining counts of the amended complaint. 2015 WL 1470877 (E.D.N.C. Mar. 31, 2015). The plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal on May 27, 2015. The case went to the Fourth Circuit as Appeal No. 15-6826.

On November 5, 2015, after the plaintiffs submitted their appellate brief and while the defendants’ response brief was pending, Plaintiff Boyd filed a notice notifying the Fourth Circuit that he had “some limited ability to hear and understand speech in certain contexts.” See Notice, Appeal No. 15-6826, at Doc. 31. On this date, Boyd also filed a motion for voluntary dismissal of his appeal, and proposed that each party bear its own costs and attorneys’ fees. The U.S. opposed this proposal. The Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal because Boyd was not determined to be deaf. 849 F.3d 202 n.1. On January 4, 2016, the district court dismissed Boyd's motion for a voluntary dismissal because the court lacked jurisdiction.

On February 23, 2017, the Fourth Circuit ruled on the appeal of the District Court's grant of summary judgment, affirming it in part, vacating it in part, and remanding for further judgment. 849 F.3d 202. The Court of Appeals found that the defendant was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's medical needs by failing to provide him with an ASL interpreter for medical appointments, particularly when he was suffering from seizures as a result of inadequate medical care. The Fourth Circuit found that the plaintiff had adequately shown substantial risk of serious harm resulting from the defendant's actions. The court also reversed the summary judgment on plaintiff's First Amendment claims, finding that defendant's security complaints regarding the requested videophone were exaggerated, and that defendant substantially interfered with plaintiff's ability to communicate outside of the prison walls. The Fourth Circuit also found that the supplies given to the plaintiff to alert him of emergencies were inadequate.

The court referred the case to Magistrate Judge James E. Gates for a court-hosted settlement conference on May 18, 2017. Defendants moved for dismissal due to lack of jurisdiction, or in the alternative, judgment on the pleadings, on September 29, 2017. On November 2, 2017, the parties moved jointly to dismiss the case in part with prejudice. The court granted this motion on November 3. This limited the litigation to the plaintiff's First Amendment claim regarding access to a videophone for communication.

A bench trial was held before Judge Dever from November 6-7, 2017. Judge Dever denied the defendant's motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and for judgment on the pleadings on September 12, 2018. As of November 4, 2018, there has not yet been a judgment on the bench trial.

Jessica Kincaid - 04/22/2016
Elizabeth Heise - 11/04/2018

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Free Exercise Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Hearing impairment
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Language discrimination
Informed consent/involuntary medication
Language/ethnic/minority needs
Religious programs / policies
TTY/Close Captioning/etc.
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action Bivens
Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) United States Bureau of Prisons
Plaintiff Description Two deaf federal prisoners.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Washington Lawyers' Committee
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2011
Case Ongoing Yes
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
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 ]

5:11-cv-318 (E.D.N.C.)
PC-NC-0014-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/22/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
5:11−ct−03118−D (E.D.N.C.)
PC-NC-0014-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/12/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-NC-0014-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/20/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Verified First Amended Complaint [ECF# 24]
PC-NC-0014-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/11/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 46] (2013 WL 943406) (E.D.N.C.)
PC-NC-0014-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/11/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order (2014 WL 4545946) (E.D.N.C.)
PC-NC-0014-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/12/2014
Source: Bloomberg Law
Order (2015 WL 1470877) (E.D.N.C.)
PC-NC-0014-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/31/2015
Source: Bloomberg Law
Order (E.D.N.C.)
PC-NC-0014-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/04/2016
Source: Bloomberg Law
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 67]
PC-NC-0014-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/23/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Dever, James C. III (E.D.N.C.)
PC-NC-0014-0003 | PC-NC-0014-0005 | PC-NC-0014-0006 | PC-NC-0014-9000 | PC-NC-0014-9001
Gates, James E. (E.D.N.C.) [Magistrate]
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bergman, Daniel B. (District of Columbia)
PC-NC-0014-0001 | PC-NC-0014-0002
Fornaci, Phillip Jerome (District of Columbia)
PC-NC-0014-0001 | PC-NC-0014-0002 | PC-NC-0014-9000 | PC-NC-0014-9001
Gardner, Elizabeth [Elaine] Elaine (District of Columbia)
PC-NC-0014-0001 | PC-NC-0014-0002
Golden, Deborah Maxine (District of Columbia)
PC-NC-0014-0001 | PC-NC-0014-0002 | PC-NC-0014-9001
Hoffman, Ian S. (District of Columbia)
PC-NC-0014-0001 | PC-NC-0014-0002 | PC-NC-0014-9000 | PC-NC-0014-9001
Nath, Snayha M. (District of Columbia)
Pearce, Carolyn A. (California)
PC-NC-0014-0001 | PC-NC-0014-0002 | PC-NC-0014-9001
Riemann, Neil A. (North Carolina)
PC-NC-0014-0001 | PC-NC-0014-0002 | PC-NC-0014-9000 | PC-NC-0014-9001
Williamson, Tara L. (District of Columbia)
Defendant's Lawyers Acker, G Norman III (North Carolina)
Bredenberg, Michael D. (North Carolina)
Dannels, Jennifer D. (North Carolina)
Dodson, Robert J. (North Carolina)
Fesak, Matthew Lee (North Carolina)
Kelley, Christina A. (North Carolina)
Renfer, R. A. Jr. (North Carolina)
Wood, Seth Morgan (North Carolina)

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