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Case Name Sabata v. Nebraska Department of Correctional Services PC-NE-0013
Docket / Court 4:17-cv-03107 ( D. Neb. )
State/Territory Nebraska
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Prison Conditions
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Solitary confinement
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National Prison Project
Appleseed
Rosen, Bien, Galvan & Grunfeld
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This is a longstanding class action filed over conditions in the Nebraska state prison system. In addition to the underlying litigation, the plaintiffs filed an emergency motion on April 10, 2020 seeking disclosure of the defendants' plan for the prevention, management, and ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This is a longstanding class action filed over conditions in the Nebraska state prison system. In addition to the underlying litigation, the plaintiffs filed an emergency motion on April 10, 2020 seeking disclosure of the defendants' plan for the prevention, management, and treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic. The motion was denied on June 8. The case is ongoing.


On August 15, 2017, eleven prisoners filed a putative class action complaint against the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) and the Nebraska Board of Parole (BOP) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Represented by the ACLU's National Prison Project, the National Association of the Deaf, and private counsel, the plaintiffs sought injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees, claiming that the prison conditions in Nebraska endangered the health, safety, and lives of prisoners and staff on a daily basis. The complaint alleged chronic overcrowding and under-staffing, a lack of staff training, a flawed parole system, overreliance on isolation, and inadequate health care. In particular, the plaintiffs claimed violations of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The case was assigned to Judge Robert F. Rossiter, Jr. and referred to Magistrate Judge Michael Nelson.

On November 6, 2017, the Department of Correctional Services and the Board of Parole moved to dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaint for failure to state a claim and lack of subject matter jurisdiction. They sought to have all claims against the Board dismissed entirely, and to dismiss all §1983 claims against both the Department and the Board. On January 16, 2018, the court denied the motion to dismiss the Board as defendant, but dismissed all §1983 claims, against the Board and the Department, with prejudice.

On July 27, 2018, the defendants moved for partial summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiffs had failed to exhaust administrative remedies as required under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. A few months later, the defendants moved to dismiss an individual plaintiff who had been released from prison, and also moved for summary judgment on the claims against one individual defendant (the Director of Supervision and Services of the Division of Parole Supervision).

The plaintiffs sought class certification on February 19, 2019. They sought to represent a class of "all persons who are now, or will in the future, be subjected to the health care (including medical, mental health and dental care) policies and practices of NDCS [the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services]." They also sought to certify two subclasses: an Isolation Subclass (“all NDCS prisoners who are now, or will in the future be, subject to conditions of confinement that provide limited contact with other prisoners, strictly controlled movement while out of cell, and out-of-cell time of less than twenty-four hours per week") and a Disability Subclass ("“all persons with disabilities who are now, or will in the future be, confined at any NDCS facility”).

On April 18, 2019, the defendants again sought summary judgment. Between November and December 2019, defendants moved to dismiss two other individual plaintiff who had been released from prison.

Plaintiffs filed an emergency motion on April 10, 2020 seeking disclosure of the defendants' plan for the prevention, management, and treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic. Plaintiffs argued that the discovery request was relevant to the case because their “class action already concerns issues of life and death for incarcerated individuals in NDCS facilities” and the COVID-19 crisis has placed purported class members at “a real and immediate risk of suffering or dying."

On June 8, 2020, the court issued a series of orders. First, the court denied the defendants' motion for partial summary judgment regarding exhaustion of administrative remedies. Second, defendants' motion for partial summary judgment regarding life sentences and Eighth Amendment claims were granted as to some defendants but not others. Third, an individual defendant was dismissed on summary judgment. Fourth, the plaintiff's request for class certification was denied. 2020 WL 3047479. The court also stated that discovery about COVID-19 was irrelevant to the plaintiff's claims about the medical care system.

The case is ongoing.

Chandler Hart-McGonigle - 11/21/2020
Gabriela Hybel - 02/21/2019
Bogyung Lim - 06/27/2020


compress summary

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
disability, unspecified
Hearing impairment
Mental impairment
Mobility impairment
Visual impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Administrative segregation
Assault/abuse by staff
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Counseling
Disciplinary procedures
Disciplinary segregation
Failure to discipline
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
Grievance Procedures
Restraints : physical
Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Suicide prevention
Torture
Totality of conditions
Medical/Mental Health
HIV/AIDS
Intellectual disability/mental illness dual diagnosis
Medical care, general
Medical care, unspecified
Mental health care, general
Self-injurious behaviors
Suicide prevention
Untreated pain
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.
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) Nebraska Board of Parole (BOP)
Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS)
Plaintiff Description Eleven Nebraska state prisoners who alleged that they were deprived of adequate health care (including medical, dental and mental care) and denied accommodations for their disabilities.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National Prison Project
Appleseed
Rosen, Bien, Galvan & Grunfeld
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 08/15/2017
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)
  Sabata v. Nebraska Department of Corrections et al
aclu.org
Date: Aug. 15, 2017
By: American Civil Liberties Union
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
4:17-cv-03107-RFR-MDN (D. Neb.)
PC-NE-0013-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/13/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief [ECF# 1]
PC-NE-0013-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/15/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 53] (D. Neb.)
PC-NE-0013-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/16/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Exhibit 3: Photos Referenced in Expert Declarations of Plaintiffs' Class Cert Motion
PC-NE-0013-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/19/2019
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Expert Declaration of Craig Haney in Support of Plaintiffs' Class Cert Motion [ECF# 249-42]
PC-NE-0013-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/19/2019
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Expert Declaration of Margo Schlanger in Support of Plaintiffs' Class Cert Motion [ECF# 249-50]
PC-NE-0013-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/19/2019
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Expert Declaration of Marc Stern in Support of Plaintiffs' Class Cert Motion [ECF# 249-58]
PC-NE-0013-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/19/2019
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Expert Declaration of Dr. Pablo Stewart [ECF# 249-38]
PC-NE-0013-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/19/2019
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Expert Declaration of Eldon Vail in Support of Plaintiffs' Class Cert Motion [ECF# 249-47]
PC-NE-0013-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/19/2019
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Expert Report of Jay Shulman, DDS [ECF# 249-53]
PC-NE-0013-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/19/2019
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Motion for Class Certification [ECF# 250]
PC-NE-0013-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/19/2019
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Reply Declaration of Margo Schlanger in Support of Motion for Class Certification [ECF# 357-13]
PC-NE-0013-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/12/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 476] (2020 WL 3047479) (D. Neb.)
PC-NE-0013-0012.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/08/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Buescher, Brian Craig (D. Neb.) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-0012 | PC-NE-0013-9000
Nelson, Michael D. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Rossiter, Robert F. Jr. (D. Neb.) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-0002 | PC-NE-0013-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Amdor, Diane (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Arulanantham, Rekha (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Bien, Michael W. (California) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-0001 | PC-NE-0013-9000
Bien-Kahn, Benjamin Joseph (California) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Conrad, Danielle M (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Day, Andrew D. (California) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Eldridge, Jennifer (Illinois) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-0001 | PC-NE-0013-9000
Emilio, Anna Bitencourt (Maryland) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Fathi, David Cyrus (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-0001 | PC-NE-0013-9000
Fettig, Amy (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Galvan, Ernest (California) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Goodman, Aaron T (California) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Gulliver, Colleen (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Janssen, Kara J. (California) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-0001 | PC-NE-0013-0003 | PC-NE-0013-9000
Jenkins, Dawn M. (Texas) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-0001 | PC-NE-0013-9000
Kuhlik, Lauren (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
McEwen, Robert E. (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-0001 | PC-NE-0013-9000
Miller, Amy A. (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-0001 | PC-NE-0013-9000
Patkin, Debra (California) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-0001
Patkin, Debra Joy (Maryland) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Shrader, Brittany (Maryland) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Sipple, Adam J (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Smith, Kenneth M. (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-0001 | PC-NE-0013-9000
Tarrell, David J (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Wedekind, Jennifer A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Young, Christopher M. (California) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-0001 | PC-NE-0013-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Ertz, Timothy R. (Missouri) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Forch, Jessica M. (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Goins, Benjamin M. (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Gydesen, Phoebe L (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Jones, Danielle L. (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Lopez, David A. (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
O'Brien, Katherine (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Post, Ryan S (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Rowley, Danielle L. (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Straus, Scott R (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000
Other Lawyers Renner, Shawn D (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0013-9000

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