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Case Name C-Pod Inmates of Middlesex County Adult Correction Center v. Middlesex County PC-NJ-0024
Docket / Court 3:15-cv-07920-PGS-TJB ( D.N.J. )
State/Territory New Jersey
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Post-PLRA Jail and Prison Private Settlement Agreements
Solitary confinement
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On November 5, 2015, the plaintiffs, nine pretrial detainees, filed this class action in the United States District Court of New Jersey. The plaintiffs sued Middlesex County under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the deprivation of rights secured by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States ... read more >
On November 5, 2015, the plaintiffs, nine pretrial detainees, filed this class action in the United States District Court of New Jersey. The plaintiffs sued Middlesex County under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the deprivation of rights secured by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU and the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, asked the court to declare that the conditions in solitary confinement were unconstitutional, to enjoin Middlesex County to take all of its inmates out of solitary confinement, and to award costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. The plaintiffs claimed that the conditions in C-Pod, the solitary confinement unit in Middlesex County Jail, were unconstitutional. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that they were locked in a small cell alone almost continuously; could not interact with other inmates; could not be visited by family; could not participate in religious, educational or rehabilitative programs; and were never allowed outdoors.

The plaintiffs sought class action status. However, on January 4, 2016, Judge Peter G. Sheridan granted the plaintiffs' request to withdraw their pending motion for class certification without prejudice so that the ACLU attorneys could get acclimated to the case before proceeding with a dispositive motion.

The parties then began settlement conversations. On May 24, 2017, the Court stayed discovery in order to further facilitate the parties’ settlement discussions. The parties reached a settlement with eight of the nine plaintiffs signing the agreement by June 19, 2018. The ninth plaintiff indicated he was not unhappy with the agreement, but did not want to sign. After failing to show and respond to requests to explaining absence from a scheduled conference, Magistrate Judge Tonianne J. Bongiovanni recommended this plaintiff’s claims be dismissed with prejudice. 2018 WL 4006809. Judge Peter G. Sheridan adopted the recommendation and dismissed this plaintiff’s claims with prejudice on August 22, 2018. 2018 WL 4005749.

The eight remaining plaintiffs entered a private settlement agreement with the defendants on September 25, 2018. Under the settlement agreement, the county would continue to operate a precautionary supervision unit, but also provide 28 hours per week out of cells, access to recreation time, in-unit programming, and law library services. Protections used would involve less restrictive security measures. Disciplinary detention could no longer exceed 15 days for a single disciplinary charge and 30 days for multiple disciplinary charges. The county also implemented a mental health screening policy that allowed the director of mental health to stop inappropriate placements in solitary confinement. The settlement agreement permitted the plaintiffs’ counsel access to people detained in the jail, jail records, and the facility itself to ensure full compliance with the settlement. The defendants agreed to pay $11,123 in attorneys’ fees and cost. Under the agreement, any alleged non-compliance would first be brought to the defendant’s counsel, with the opportunity for mediation. The settlement agreement was enforceable for two years. If the mediation failed to resolve the issue, plaintiffs were permitted to move the Court for reinstatement or ask for a one-time one-year extension of the agreement. The two-year enforcement period began on the date the parties executed the agreement.

Judge Peter G. Sheridan entered a stipulated of dismissal on October 25, 2018. As of March 21, 2019, the settlement is still in force.

Kat Brausch - 02/01/2016
Gabriela Hybel - 03/27/2018
Emily Kempa - 05/27/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Content of Injunction
Reporting
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Disciplinary segregation
Law library access
Recreation / Exercise
Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)
Suicide prevention
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) Middlesex County
Plaintiff Description Pretrial detainees housed in solitary confinement in Middlesex County Jails.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought Yes
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 Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 2018 - 2020
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)
3:15-cv-07920-PGS-TJB (D.N.J.)
PC-NJ-0024-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/25/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-NJ-0024-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/05/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Magistrate Report and Reccomendation [ECF# 42] (2018 WL 4006809)
PC-NJ-0024-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/31/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement
PC-NJ-0024-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/25/2018
Source: ACLU
show all people docs
Judges Bongiovanni, Tonianne J. (D.N.J.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0024-0002 | PC-NJ-0024-9000
Sheridan, Peter G. (D.N.J.) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0024-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Borden, Tess Meiling (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0024-0003 | PC-NJ-0024-9000
DeBrosse, Jesse M (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0024-0001 | PC-NJ-0024-0003 | PC-NJ-0024-9000
Duddy, Fletcher C. (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0024-0001 | PC-NJ-0024-0003 | PC-NJ-0024-9000
Krakora, Joseph E (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0024-0001
LoCicero, Jeanne (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0024-0003 | PC-NJ-0024-9000
Sellitti, Jennifer N (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0024-0001 | PC-NJ-0024-9000
Shalom, Alexander (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0024-0003 | PC-NJ-0024-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Abouzeid, Danielle (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0024-0003 | PC-NJ-0024-9000
Dvorak, Lori A. (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0024-0003 | PC-NJ-0024-9000

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