University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. v. Coupe PC-DE-0009
Docket / Court 1:15-cv-00688-GMS ( D. Del. )
State/Territory Delaware
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Solitary confinement
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On August 6, 2015, Delaware's Community Legal Aid Society filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. The plaintiffs sued the Delaware Department of Correction under 42 U.S.C. §1983, the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Act, and ... read more >
On August 6, 2015, Delaware's Community Legal Aid Society filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. The plaintiffs sued the Delaware Department of Correction under 42 U.S.C. §1983, the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Act, and the Declaratory Judgment Act. Represented by the ACLU and private counsel, the plaintiff sought declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief. The plaintiff claimed constitutionally inadequate treatment, housing, and care of mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement.

Specifically, the plaintiff claimed the state was confining prisoners with mental illness in solitary confinement without providing proper medical and mental health treatment for serious medical and mental health needs and without allowing adequate out-of-cell time. The complaint alleged that defendants failed to promptly acknowledge or provide the minimum appropriate care for mentally-ill prisoners, and instead exacerbated their illnesses.

On March 16, 2016, the Court (Gregory M. Sleet) denied defendant's motion to dismiss, except for Count II of the Complaint (Violation Of Article I, Section 11 Of The Delaware Constitution). 2016 WL 1055741

The parties engaged in settlement discussions and mediation with Judge Thynge. On August 31, 2016, the plaintiff submitted a proposed agreement and order. On September 1, 2016, Judge Sleet issued an order approving the agreement.

The agreement includes specific actions and policies for improving mental health care for inmates, improving conditions of confinement and other aspects of restrictive housing, and reducing the length of disciplinary sanctions and the use of other forms of restrictive housing. The specific actions include adopting a definition of serious mental illness, creating a mechanism to identify and record prisoners as mentally ill and review their required level of care, adhering to a policy requiring that care be provided in accordance with treatment plans, creating a special needs unit, providing training to security staff for working with mentally ill patients, implementing policies for offering prisoners five hours of unstructured recreation per week and increasing out-of-cell-time, among others. The defendant will pay the attorneys' fees. Unless otherwise agreed by the parties with approval of the court, the agreement and order shall terminate after five years.

A prisoner housed in solitary confinement during the litigation and agreement subsequently filed letters to Judge Sleet (January 30, 2017, February 10 and 14, 2017), motions for preliminary injunction (February 7 and 10, 2017), and a motion for a writ of mandamus (February 8, 2017). On February 13, 2017, Judge Sleet dismissed the motions and letters because the prisoner filing them was not a party to the case, and because the case was closed.

Lakshmi Gopal - 05/14/2016
Julie Singer - 03/05/2017

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Content of Injunction
Mental impairment
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Administrative segregation
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Over/Unlawful Detention
Recreation / Exercise
Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Medication, administration of
Mental health care, general
Self-injurious behaviors
Suicide prevention
Untreated pain
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Act, 42 U.S.C. § 10801
Defendant(s) Delaware Department of Correction
Plaintiff Description Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (“CLASI”) is a non-profit Delaware corporation that represents indigent clients. CLASI has been designated, by the State of Delaware, as the organization with responsibility to protect and advocate for the rights of people with mental illness.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted Moot
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2016 - 2021
Filing Year 2015
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 ]

1:15-cv-688 (D. Del.)
PC-DE-0009-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/17/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-DE-0009-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/06/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 30] (2016 WL 1055741) (D. Del.)
PC-DE-0009-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/16/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Agreement and Order [ECF# 38]
PC-DE-0009-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/31/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Sleet, Gregory Moneta (D. Del.)
PC-DE-0009-0002 | PC-DE-0009-9001
Plaintiff's Lawyers Atkins, Daniel Gary (Delaware)
PC-DE-0009-0001 | PC-DE-0009-0003 | PC-DE-0009-9001
Chuff, Christopher Brian (Delaware)
PC-DE-0009-0001 | PC-DE-0009-0003 | PC-DE-0009-9001
Cline, Joanna J. (Delaware)
PC-DE-0009-0001 | PC-DE-0009-0003 | PC-DE-0009-9001
Dolinsky, Kyle A. (Pennsylvania)
PC-DE-0009-0001 | PC-DE-0009-0003 | PC-DE-0009-9001
Levine, James Harry Stone (Delaware)
PC-DE-0009-0001 | PC-DE-0009-0003 | PC-DE-0009-9001
McMillan, James Gordon III (Delaware)
PC-DE-0009-0001 | PC-DE-0009-0003 | PC-DE-0009-9001
Morse, Richard H. (Delaware)
PC-DE-0009-0001 | PC-DE-0009-0003 | PC-DE-0009-9001
Reibach, Ashleigh Kara (Delaware)
PC-DE-0009-0001 | PC-DE-0009-0003 | PC-DE-0009-9001
Schanne, John H. II (Delaware)
PC-DE-0009-0001 | PC-DE-0009-0003 | PC-DE-0009-9001
Stratton, David B (Delaware)
PC-DE-0009-0001 | PC-DE-0009-0003 | PC-DE-0009-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Handlon, Joseph Clement (Delaware)
PC-DE-0009-0003 | PC-DE-0009-9001
Staib, Jason Wade (Delaware)
PC-DE-0009-0003 | PC-DE-0009-9001

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