University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Lopez v. Brown PC-CA-0071
Docket / Court 15-cv-02725 ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Prison Legal News
Solitary confinement
Case Summary
On June 17, 2015, death row prisoners at California's San Quentin prison, who had been kept in prolonged solitary confinement, filed this class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sued the State of ... read more >
On June 17, 2015, death row prisoners at California's San Quentin prison, who had been kept in prolonged solitary confinement, filed this class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sued the State of California, the San Quentin State Prison, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming violations of their Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that they were confined under inhumane and degrading conditions for excessively long periods, from three to twenty-six years, without meaningful review of their placement or hope of release. The plaintiffs claimed that they were deprived of basic human needs, suffered serious psychological and physical injury, had been coerced into providing information, and were subject to disproportionate punishment. Further, the plaintiffs claimed that they were placed in solitary confinement on the basis of allegations of gang affiliation without reliable evidence, even though they were not involved in any current gang activity.

On August 17, 2015, this case was reassigned to Judge Claudia Wilkens, who had also been assigned to a similar case, Ashker v. Brown.

On September 8, 2015, the case was referred to Magistrate Judge Nandor J. Vadas for settlement and a settlement conference was set for October 28, 2015.

As of May, 14, 2016, settlement negotiations were ongoing, and both parties continued to submit status reports.

On October 10, 2016, there was a settlement conference before Judge Vadas but the matter was not settled. Another settlement conference was scheduled for January 3, 2017, and it was rescheduled for February 15, 2017.

On January 17, 2017, the defendants moved to dismiss the case.

On February 15, 2017, the defendants and five of the six plaintiffs entered into a full settlement of the case. Under the settlement, the parties agreed to stay the litigation and suspend all activity until July 18, 2017. The litigation was to remain stayed for an additional ninety days, during which time the plaintiffs could move to have the stay lifted by showing current, ongoing, and systemic constitutional violations continued to exist as alleged in the plaintiffs' complaint. If the plaintiffs did not file such a motion by October 17, 2017, the parties agreed that the case would be voluntarily dismissed with prejudice. One plaintiff did not sign the settlement agreement, and because of this, the plaintiffs argued that the settlement agreement was invalid.

The parties continued to negotiate and the plaintiffs presented the defendants with a proposed settlement agreement that was signed by all six plaintiffs. The defendants requested further time to negotiate. On July 24, 2017, the parties requested to stay the litigation once again.

On August 21, 2017, Judge Wilken denied the defendants' motion to dismiss in light of the parties' ongoing efforts to settle the case.

On October 3, 2017, the parties were still negotiating and declared that they would update the court on their progress towards settlement on October 10, 2017. On October 10, 2017, the parties were still negotiating.

On November 9, 2017, the parties requested that the matter be voluntarily dismissed with prejudice, and Judge Wilken granted this order.

On January 10, 2018, there was a motion to intervene filed and on January 26, 2018, there was a motion for relief from judgment. Both motions were filed by the same individual, and both motions were denied by Judge Wilken on September 5, 2018.

Lakshmi Gopal - 05/15/2016
Victoria Fiengo - 10/11/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Male
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Defendant-type
Corrections
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Administrative segregation
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Disciplinary segregation
Grievance Procedures
Protective custody
Recreation / Exercise
Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)
Torture
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
State of California
Plaintiff Description Prisoners in prolonged solitary confinement
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Unknown
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Voluntary Dismissal
Filing Year 2015
Case Closing Year 2018
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing PC-CA-0054 : Ashker v. Brown (N.D. Cal.)
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 ]

  Prison Legal News Homepage
Prison Legal News
By: Prison Legal News
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
4:15-cv-02725-YGR (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0071-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/05/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-CA-0071-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/17/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulation and Order to Vacate and Re-Set Status Conference (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0071-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/19/2016
Source: Bloomberg Law
Order Denying Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 97] (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0071-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/21/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulation and Order for Voluntary Dismissal [ECF# 105] (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0071-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/09/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Motions to Intervene and for Relief From Judgment [ECF# 114] (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0071-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/05/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Vadas, Nandor J. (N.D. Cal.) [Magistrate]
PC-CA-0071-0002 | PC-CA-0071-9000
Wilken, Claudia Ann (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0071-0003 | PC-CA-0071-0004 | PC-CA-0071-0005 | PC-CA-0071-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Johns, Emily Rose Naomi (California)
PC-CA-0071-0002 | PC-CA-0071-9000
Siegel, Daniel Mark (California)
PC-CA-0071-0001 | PC-CA-0071-0005 | PC-CA-0071-9000
Weills, Anne Butterfield (New York)
PC-CA-0071-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Becerra, Xavier (California)
PC-CA-0071-0005
Ciccotti, Christine Marie (California)
PC-CA-0071-0002 | PC-CA-0071-0005 | PC-CA-0071-9000
Findley, Christopher Holmes (California)
PC-CA-0071-9000
Harris, Kamala D. (California)
PC-CA-0071-0002
O'Brien, Jillian Renee (California)
PC-CA-0071-9000
Russell, Jay C. (California)
PC-CA-0071-0005 | PC-CA-0071-9000

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