University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name Porter v. Clarke PC-VA-0020
Docket / Court 1:14-cv-1588 ( E.D. Va. )
State/Territory Virginia
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Solitary confinement
Case Summary
On November 20th, 2014, four persons convicted of capital murder, sentenced to death, and awaiting execution of that sentence while confined on death row at Virginia’s Sussex I State Prison (SISP) filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia. The plaintiffs ... read more >
On November 20th, 2014, four persons convicted of capital murder, sentenced to death, and awaiting execution of that sentence while confined on death row at Virginia’s Sussex I State Prison (SISP) filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia. The plaintiffs sued the Virginia Department of Corrections and SISP under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Represented by private counsel, the plaintiffs asked the court to extend the declaratory relief awarded to Mr. Prieto in
Prieto v. Clarke to themselves, to enjoin defendants from failing to extend to the plaintiffs their rights and privileges afforded Mr. Prieto as a result of this court's order in his case, award them reasonable attorney's fees and costs pursuant to42 U.S.C. §1988.

Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed two violations. First, that the conditions of their confinement on death row and the procedures for placing them there violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Second, that their permanent segregation subjects them to an inhumane existence unrelated to any legitimate penological goal, amounting to the
imposition of cruel and unusual punishment violating the Eighth Amendment.

On Feb 4, 2015, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss. This motion was denied on April 17, 2015. On December 21, 2015 both parties filed motions for summary judgment.

On July 8, 2016, Judge Leonie M. Brinkema granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, denying plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment as moot. The court found that defendants made several significant changes to the conditions of SISP, resulting in new conditions of confinement that plaintiffs conceded do not violate the Eighth Amendment. The court also found that because the improvements voluntarily made by defendants have rendered plaintiffs' claims moot, it would be inappropriate under the specific facts of this action to reach the merits of plaintiffs' claims or to invoke the injunction authority of the court.

On August 4, 2016, the plaintiffs filed an appeal to U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, claiming that the improvements made to the conditions on death row did not moot their claims (16-07044). On January 25, 2017, the court (Judges Paul v. Niemeyer, William B. Traxler, Jr., and James A. Wynn, Jr.) heard oral arguments.

As of March 5, 2017, the court has not issued a decision.

Kristin D'Souza - 08/04/2016
Julie Singer - 03/05/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)
Totality of conditions
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Virginia
Plaintiff Description Five individuals currently on Virginia's Death Row located in Sussex I State Prison in Waverley, Virginia.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
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
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)
1:14-cv-1588 (E.D. Va.)
PC-VA-0020-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/28/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-VA-0020-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/20/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 166] (2016 WL 3766301) (E.D. Va.)
PC-VA-0020-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/08/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Brinkema, Leonie M. (E.D. Va.)
PC-VA-0020-0002 | PC-VA-0020-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Fogel, Jeffrey E. (Virginia)
PC-VA-0020-0001 | PC-VA-0020-9000
Glasberg, Victor Michael (Virginia)
PC-VA-0020-0001 | PC-VA-0020-9000
Rosenfield, Steven David (Virginia)
PC-VA-0020-0001 | PC-VA-0020-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Dwyre, Kate Elizabeth (Virginia)
PC-VA-0020-9000
O'Shea, Margaret Hoehl (Virginia)
PC-VA-0020-9000

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