On December 9, 2013, a group of unidentified minors who were incarcerated in Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) adult prisons filed this class action lawsuit against the MDOC in the Michigan Circuit Court for the County of Washtenaw. Represented by attorneys from a civil rights law firm, the plaintiffs brought this action under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA), MCL 37.2301 et seq.
The plaintiffs alleged that the MDOC placed at least 500 minors in the three years leading up to this lawsuit without adequate supervision, and as a result these minors have been subjected to physical and sexual violence. The plaintiffs claimed that the MDOC's policies violated their rights under the ELCRA by creating a sexually hostile environment, and requested monetary damages and declaratory and injunctive relief.
On February 18, 2014, the MDOC moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiffs failed to comply with MCL 600.5507(2), a provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act which requires that a prisoner filing a lawsuit concerning prison conditions disclose the number of civil actions and appeals the prisoner previously filed. Because the plaintiffs had made insufficient disclosures, the MDOC argued the court should dismissed under MCL 600.5507(3). The plaintiffs argued that MCL 600.5507 only applied to complaints filed on behalf of indigent prisoners, which did not include the prisoners in this case. Judge Carol Kuhnke denied the motion on March 13.
On March 7, 2014, the plaintiffs moved for class certification. Judge Kuhnke granted the motion on October 30, after extensive discovery.
On March 25, 2014, the MDOC again moved for summary judgment, this time arguing that that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because the plain language of the ELCRA, as amended in 1999, provided that a "public service" does not include a state or county correctional facility with respect to prisoners. The plaintiffs argued that this amendment to the ELCRA was unconstitutional under the equal protection clauses of the Michigan and U.S. Constitutions. Judge Kuhnke heard oral arguments regarding this motion on April 23, and on April 30 entered an order denying the motion of summary judgment. Judge Kuhnke held that the amendment was indeed unconstitutional in that it deprived prisoners of equal protection under the law. The MDOC then appealed both denials of summary judgment.
On August 25, 2015, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued an opinion holding that the trial court had erred in both denials of summary judgment for the MDOC. The Court of Appeals held that this suit should have been dismissed pursuant to MCL 600.5507(3) since the plaintiffs had failed to disclose sufficiently as required by MCL 600.5507(2). In addition, the Court of Appeals found that the 1999 amendment to the ELCRA was not unconstitutional, and as such the plaintiffs were precluded from bringing suit under the ELCRA. The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the trial court to enter summary judgment in favor of the defendants.
On September 15, 2015, the plaintiffs moved to file an amended complaint to address the deficiencies the Court of Appeals noted. Judge Kuhnke granted the motion on October 1, and the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on October 2. The MDOC filed for summary judgment for this new complaint on October 8.
This case is still ongoing in Michigan state court.John He - 11/06/2015