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Case Name McBride v. Michigan Department of Corrections PC-MI-0036
Docket / Court 2:15-cv-11222 ( E.D. Mich. )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Post-WalMart decisions on class certification
Attorney Organization NDRN/Protection & Advocacy Organizations
Washington Lawyers' Committee
Case Summary
On March 31, 2015, three prisoner-plaintiffs filed this putative class action lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), alleging that MDOC was discriminating against them and other deaf and hard of hearing prisoners. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern ... read more >
On March 31, 2015, three prisoner-plaintiffs filed this putative class action lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), alleging that MDOC was discriminating against them and other deaf and hard of hearing prisoners. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, and was assigned to Judge Sean Cox. The plaintiffs were represented by Michigan Protection and Advocacy, the Washington Lawyers' Committee and private counsel.

The plaintiffs alleged that MDOC consistently failed to provide them with effective communication, depriving them of full participation in prison programs, services and activities including visitation, religious activities, and disciplinary and parole proceedings. They also alleged that since they couldn't hear guards’ orders, they were sometimes unable to obey prison regulations and were then unfairly disciplined. The plaintiffs alleged that this treatment violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. They also alleged that the absence of devices enabling them to communicate with their families and others violated their Free Speech rights under the First Amendment.

The defendant sought summary judgment on May 1, 2015. On October 30, 2015, the magistrate judge filed a Report and Recommendation to deny the motion. The court adopted this Report and Recommendation with an order denying the defendant's motion for summary judgment on March 24, 2016. 2016 WL 1156740.

On March 17, 2017, the defendant and plaintiffs filed separate motions for summary judgment. On June 30, 2017, the magistrate judge filed a Report and Recommendation to certify the plaintiffs' class. The court adopted this recommendation and certified the class as "all deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the custody of MDOC (whether now or in the future), who require[d] hearing-related accommodations, including but not limited to interpreters, hearing devices, or other auxiliary aids or services, to communicate effectively and/or to access or participate in programs, services, or activities available to individuals in the custody of MDOC.” with an order filed on July 20, 2017. 2017 WL 3085785. The court granted in part and denied in part the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and denied the defendant's motion for summary judgment on March 9, 2018.

The court (Judge Cox) accepted the recommendations of Magistrate Judge Grand and found that the devices that the defendant provided to the plaintiffs failed to meet the standard of reasonable accommodation. The court also adopted the recommendations, finding summary judgment on the plaintiffs' ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims, and agreed that a training program would be appropriate as well. Judge Cox ordered the defendant to make videophones available to all deaf and hard of hearing inmates, provide necessary auxiliary aids for deaf and hard of hearing inmates to equally participate in prison programs and services, including access to ASL interpreters, mandatory training for officers and staff on how to interact with deaf and hard of hearing inmates, and appropriate compliance monitoring. The court denied summary judgment claims based on the defendant's classification of deaf and hard of hearing prisoners. 294 F. Supp. 3d 695.

Both parties filed a joint motion for preliminary approval of a class action settlement to resolve remaining claims on September 26, 2018. The settlement agreement included terms requiring MDOC to provide certain accommodations for the plaintiffs and all other current and future class members, appointing a monitor to oversee enforcement of the settlement, and mandating that MDOC pay $1.3 million for plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs. In particular, MDOC would be required to provide hearing assessments, adequately accommodated facilities, communication technology, and auxiliary aids and services necessary to allow the class members to access MDOC services, programs, and activities. The agreement would also require MDOC to install non-auditory notification systems and develop and implement new procedures regarding the accommodations for MDOC guards and staff.

On January 15, 2019, the court granted the motion for preliminary approval of the settlement agreement and set a fairness hearing for March 21, 2019. After the hearing, the court issued an order granting the parties' joint motion for final approval of the settlement. The settlement is set for enforcement until 2021.

Sarah Prout - 09/04/2015
Katie Chan - 10/27/2017
Elizabeth Heise - 10/30/2018
Nathan Santoscoy - 04/19/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Auditing
Discrimination Prohibition
Monitor/Master
Monitoring
Recordkeeping
Training
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
Hearing impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Effective Communication (ADA)
Religious programs / policies
TTY/Close Captioning/Videophone/etc.
Plaintiff Type
State Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) Michigan Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Three deaf or hard of hearing prisoners who allege systemic violation of their civil rights, on their behalf and those similarly situated, for the Michigan Department of Corrections failure to provide necessary assistance to insure deaf prisoners can effectively communicate.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NDRN/Protection & Advocacy Organizations
Washington Lawyers' Committee
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 2019 - 2021
Filing Year 2015
Case Ongoing Yes
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)
2:15−cv−11222−SFC−DRG (E.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0036-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/29/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Michigan Department of Corrections Facing Class Action Disability Lawsuit
PC-MI-0036-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 03/31/2015
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Class Action Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PC-MI-0036-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/31/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation to Deny Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [ECF# 28] (2015 WL 13221229)
PC-MI-0036-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 10/30/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation to Grant Plaintiff's Motion for Class Certification [ECF# 94] (2017 WL 3097806)
PC-MI-0036-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/30/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation to Grant in Part and Deny in Part Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment and to Deny Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF# 96]
PC-MI-0036-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/08/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order Adopting 2/8/18 Report and Recommendation [ECF# 99] (294 F.Supp.3d 695) (E.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0036-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/09/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Motion for Approval of Class Action Settlement by Plaintiffs and Attached Settlement [ECF# 111]
PC-MI-0036-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/28/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Cox, Sean Francis (E.D. Mich.) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0036-0006 | PC-MI-0036-9000
Grand, David R. (E.D. Mich.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-MI-0036-0003 | PC-MI-0036-0004 | PC-MI-0036-0005 | PC-MI-0036-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bartenstein, Stephen Curtis (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0036-0002 | PC-MI-0036-0007 | PC-MI-0036-9000
Davis, Chris E. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0036-0002 | PC-MI-0036-0007 | PC-MI-0036-9000
Gerking, Megan E. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0036-9000
Golden, Deborah Maxine (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0036-0002
Hegreness, Matthew J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0036-0002
Lazerow, Andrew D. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0036-0002 | PC-MI-0036-0007 | PC-MI-0036-9000
Levitz, Phillip J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0036-0007 | PC-MI-0036-9000
Mincberg, Elliot M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0036-0002 | PC-MI-0036-0007
Singer, Abraham (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0036-0002 | PC-MI-0036-0007 | PC-MI-0036-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Govorchin, A. Peter (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0036-0007 | PC-MI-0036-9000
Grant, Gary L. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0036-9000
Jenkins, Robert J. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0036-9000
Long, James E. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0036-0007 | PC-MI-0036-9000
Miller, Jeanmarie (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0036-0007 | PC-MI-0036-9000
Soros, Allan J. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0036-0007 | PC-MI-0036-9000

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