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Case Name Hamilton v. Vannoy PC-LA-0017
Docket / Court 3:17-cv-00194-SDD-RLB ( M.D. La. )
State/Territory Louisiana
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On March 29, 2017, plaintiffs, death row prisoners held in prolonged solitary confinement at Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola) filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. The plaintiffs sued the warden of Angola under 42 U.S.C. §1983. They ... read more >
On March 29, 2017, plaintiffs, death row prisoners held in prolonged solitary confinement at Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola) filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. The plaintiffs sued the warden of Angola under 42 U.S.C. §1983. They claimed that placing prisoners in solitary confinement merely because they have been sentenced to death violates their Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment and their Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. The plaintiffs, represented by the Cardozo Civil Rights Clinic, sought declaratory and injunctive relief as well as monetary relief and attorneys’ fees and costs. This case was assigned to Judge Shelley D. Dick.

The plaintiff noted in their complaint that anyone sentenced to death is automatically confined to solitary confinement on death row upon their arrival at Angola. The placement in solitary confinement is not based on violation of prison rules, behavioral considerations, or anything other than their death sentence. Over 75 percent of the 70 prisoners have been in solitary confinement for over a decade. The complaint also alleges that the plaintiffs are confined to windowless cells the size of an average home bathroom for 23 hours per day. In contrast to other prisoners at Angola, those on death row are denied any opportunity to challenge their placement in solitary confinement through any administrative means, nor are they given periodic reviews to determine whether they need to remain in solitary confinement.

In the complaint, the injunctive relief sought included permanently enjoining the defendants from violating the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of prisoners. The plaintiff also asked the court to grant a permanent injunction requiring the defendants to present a plan to the Court within 30 days that provides for the release from solitary confinement of the death row prisoners.

On December 15, 2017, the plaintiffs filed a motion to certify two classes. The first, a due process class, included “[a]ll current and future Death Row prisoners at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana, as well as other prisoners sentenced to death at Angola who are similarly situated.” The second, an Eighth Amendment class, included “[a]ll current and future Death Row prisoners who are now, or will be, on Death Row under the conditions described above for more than five continuous years.”

This case is ongoing, and a motion to certify the class is scheduled for September 13, 2018.

Jake Parker - 05/24/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Administrative segregation
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Disciplinary procedures
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
Defendant(s) The State of Louisiana
Plaintiff Description Due Process Class: All current and future Death Row prisoners at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana, as well as other prisoners sentenced to death at Angola who are similarly situated. Eighth Amendment Class: All current and future Death Row prisoners who are now, or will be, on Death Row under the conditions described above for more than five continuous years.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2017
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
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)
3:17-cv-00194-SDD-RLB (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0017-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/08/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint and Demand For Jury Trial [ECF# 1]
PC-LA-0017-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/29/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Dick, Shelly Deckert (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0017-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ginsberg, Betsy R. (New York)
PC-LA-0017-0001 | PC-LA-0017-9000
Malhotra, Garima (New York)
PC-LA-0017-0001 | PC-LA-0017-9000
Menon, Lekha
PC-LA-0017-0001
Muir, Robin L. (New York)
PC-LA-0017-0001 | PC-LA-0017-9000
Rhermoul, Hasnaa El
PC-LA-0017-0001
Schiavo, Nicole E. (New York)
PC-LA-0017-0001 | PC-LA-0017-9000
Seaver, Elizabeth A. (New York)
PC-LA-0017-0001 | PC-LA-0017-9000
Trenticosta, Nicholas J. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0017-0001 | PC-LA-0017-9000
van tol, Pieter (New York)
PC-LA-0017-0001 | PC-LA-0017-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Blanchfield, Andrew (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0017-9000
Jones, Christopher K. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0017-9000
LeBlanc, Crews Reynolds Jr. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0017-9000
Payne, Chelsea Acosta (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0017-9000

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