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Case Name Chavez v. County of Santa Clara JC-CA-0123
Docket / Court 5:15-cv-05277 ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Solitary confinement
Attorney Organization Prison Law Office
Case Summary
On November 18, 2015, pretrial detainees at the Santa Clara County Jail filed this class lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Northern California. The plaintiffs had been imprisoned in solitary confinement from November 2014 to November 2015 without knowing why they had been placed there or ... read more >
On November 18, 2015, pretrial detainees at the Santa Clara County Jail filed this class lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Northern California. The plaintiffs had been imprisoned in solitary confinement from November 2014 to November 2015 without knowing why they had been placed there or opportunities to appeal the decision. While in solitary, the prison denied the plaintiffs access to adequate medical care. The plaintiffs sued Santa Clara County under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. They alleged classwide violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Represented by the Prison Law Office and several private attorneys, they asked the court for a declaration that Santa Clara County violated their constitutional rights. In addition, the plaintiffs sought an order to enjoin Santa Clara County from holding people in solitary confinement for prolonged periods and from using unnecessary and excessive force, and to require that the County provide constitutionally adequate healthcare and meaningful opportunities to challenge solitary confinement decisions.

The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on January 20, 2016, adding an excessive use of force claim. The case was referred to Magistrate Judge Nathanael M. Cousins for settlement discussions on April 28, 2016.

The plaintiffs moved for class certification, and Magistrate Judge Nandor J. Vadas granted the motion on September 20, certifying a class of "All people who are now, or in the future will be, incarcerated in the Santa Clara County jails." The court also certified a subclass of "All people who are now, or in the future will be, incarcerated in the Santa Clara County jails and who have a psychiatric and/or intellectual disability, as defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act . . . and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act."

On January 17, 2017, the parties agreed to vacate the trial date and stay motions practice so they could pursue settlement. In April, the parties updated the court with the status of a possible consent decree. The court then scheduled to visit the facilities the following June. However, by November 6, 2017, the case was reassigned to Magistrate Judge Robert M. Illman. The parties continued to meet over settlement conferences in front of Judge Cousins.

On October 23, 2018, the parties reached a proposed settlement, filed for a consent decree with the court, and proposed a plan to deliver notice to the class. On November 27, 2018, the magistrate judge approved the proposal and set a date for a final approval hearing. Nearly a dozen members of the class wrote expressing concerns and objecting to the class action settlement. Despite these letters, the court granted final approval of the consent decree.

The defendant agreed to collaborate with the plaintiffs' counsel in drafting the policies to fulfill their obligations under the remedial plan. Thirty days prior to implementing new policies, the defendant would submit these plans to the plaintiffs' counsel for review. The jail agreed to cease using unlawful segregation and force, as well as ensure compliance with the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. The remedial plan mandated that the parties agree on neutral experts to monitor compliance. The experts would complete comprehensive reviews of the county's progress and would have access to all parts of the jail. Additionally, the plaintiff's counsel would have the ability to monitor compliance and access to the jails to inspect at least twice per year. In the event of a dispute, the parties agreed to first engage in informal resolution with a mediator. The court retained jurisdiction in the event that mediation failed. Finally, the County agreed to pay the plaintiff's counsel $1.6 million for merits fees and expenses, and $200,000 per year for monitoring fees and expenses. The consent decree will remain in effect until the County is found in substantial compliance with the Remedial Plan for one year. As of this writing, the decree was still in force.

Kat Brausch - 01/30/2016
Virginia Weeks - 03/24/2018
Keagan Potts - 03/17/2019


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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
Monitoring
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Administrative segregation
Conditions of confinement
Disciplinary segregation
Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) County of Santa Clara
Plaintiff Description Pretrial detainees at Santa Clara County Jail alleging inhumane treatment by prolonged solitary confinement.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Prison Law Office
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
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
Filing Year 2015
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
1:15-cv-05277-NJV (N.D. Cal.)
JC-CA-0123-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/28/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief [ECF# 1]
JC-CA-0123-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/18/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Class Action Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief [ECF# 9]
JC-CA-0123-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/20/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Certifying Action as Class Action [ECF# 34] (N.D. Cal.)
JC-CA-0123-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/20/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Motion for Preliminary Approval of Consent Decree and Notice to the Class [ECF# 77] (N.D. Cal.)
JC-CA-0123-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/27/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Motion for Final Approval of Class Action Settlement [ECF# 99]
JC-CA-0123-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/27/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Decree [ECF# 109] (N.D. Cal.)
JC-CA-0123-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/22/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Cousins, Nathanael M. (N.D. Cal.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
JC-CA-0123-9000
Illman, Robert M. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
JC-CA-0123-0004 | JC-CA-0123-0006 | JC-CA-0123-9000
Vadas, Nandor J. (N.D. Cal.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
JC-CA-0123-0003
Plaintiff's Lawyers Knapp, Kelly Jean (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0123-0001 | JC-CA-0123-0002 | JC-CA-0123-9000
Litton, Addison Mills (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0123-0002 | JC-CA-0123-0006 | JC-CA-0123-9000
Lomio, Rita Katherine (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0123-9000
Mendelson, Margot Knight (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0123-9000
Norman, Sara Linda (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0123-9000
Nosewicz, Thomas M (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0123-9000
Santamaria, Jessica Valenzuela (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0123-0001 | JC-CA-0123-0002 | JC-CA-0123-0005 | JC-CA-0123-0006 | JC-CA-0123-9000
Specter, Donald H. (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0123-0001 | JC-CA-0123-0002 | JC-CA-0123-0005 | JC-CA-0123-9000
Walker, Jeffrey W. (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0123-0001 | JC-CA-0123-0002 | JC-CA-0123-9000
Wasley, Kendall Dawson (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0123-0001 | JC-CA-0123-0002 | JC-CA-0123-0005 | JC-CA-0123-0006 | JC-CA-0123-9000
Zambarda, Mark Anthony (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0123-0006 | JC-CA-0123-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Fedman, Emily L (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0123-9000
Harris, Aryn (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0123-0005 | JC-CA-0123-0006 | JC-CA-0123-9000
Lew, Ling Yang (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0123-9000
Press, Douglas M (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0123-9000
Other Lawyers Ells, Lisa Adrienne (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0123-9000

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