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Case Name Rogers v. Colorado Department of Corrections PC-CO-0028
Docket / Court 1:16-cv-02733-STV ( D. Colo. )
State/Territory Colorado
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center
Case Summary
On November 3, 2016, a female prisoner in the custody of the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility filed this pro se lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The plaintiff sued the State of Colorado, the Colorado Department of Corrections, and the Warden of the Denver Women� ... read more >
On November 3, 2016, a female prisoner in the custody of the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility filed this pro se lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The plaintiff sued the State of Colorado, the Colorado Department of Corrections, and the Warden of the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking damages. She claimed that defendants violated the ADA as well as her constitutional rights to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment and against cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.

Specifically, the plaintiff alleged she was denied a Sorenson Video Phone (SVP) after she placed multiple requests with the Department of Corrections to provide one so that she could communicate with her parents, who were deaf. The SVP offers a service for the deaf community paid for by the government for those who qualify under the ADA. Although the plaintiff originally struggled to meet the court’s pleading standards, once she obtained counsel from the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center on March 31, 2017, she filed a third amended complaint on June 15, 2017, adding three new plaintiffs. The new complaint also added claims under the Rehabilitation Act and replaced allegations of Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment violations with claims of First Amendment violations.

The case was assigned to Magistrate Judge Gordon P. Gallagher and then later reassigned to Magistrate Judge Scott T. Varholak. On June 30, 2017, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the third amended complaint, claiming that the plaintiff lacked standing to assert her claims under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act and that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

The court disagreed with the defendants’ arguments and on September 29, 2017, denied the motion to dismiss. The court found that the plaintiff had standing to assert her ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims, that the plaintiff pleaded sufficiently plausible claims for relief.

On January 22, 2018, the plaintiffs filed a fourth amended complaint, adding two plaintiffs and removing the Fourteenth Amendment claim. The defendants filed an answer to this complaint on February 5, 2018. The plaintiffs dismissed an additional defendant on October 25, 2018 without explanation. Four days later, the plaintiffs filed a motion for partial summary judgment, arguing that the Colorado Department of Corrections could not prove that the TTY phones it had were as effective as videophones and that CDOC provided no affirmative defenses under the Effective Communication Claim. In response, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on October 29, 2018, arguing in part that the plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies through the prison grievance system.

The plaintiffs joined their case with Rabinkov v. Colorado Department of Corrections, another federal case against the CDOC regarding the provision (or lack thereof) of videophones to deaf prisoners or relatives of deaf individuals on November 20, 2018. On December 27, 2018, the plaintiffs filed a motion to certify a class of similarly-situated deaf prisoners; however, the motion was withdrawn less than a month later.

On January 14, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, and on January 17, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint. On January 25, 2019, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claim for failure to state a claim; this was dismissed by Judge Varholak on April 9, 2019. Defendants then moved for summary judgment and for dismissal on mootness grounds on May 6, and June 21, respectively.

On September 18, 2019, Judge Varholak ruled on several outstanding motions: the defendants’ motion to dismiss, filed on June 21, 2019, one plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, filed on January 17, 2019, and the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, filed on May 6, 2019. Judge Varholak denied the June 21 motion (finding that the defendants had not met the burden to show that the plaintiffs’ claims were moot), granted the January 17 motion (one plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment on ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims), and granted in part and denied in part the May 6 motion (finding that two out of three plaintiffs had failed to exhaust administrative remedies but denying the defendants’ motion to dismiss regarding the remaining plaintiff’s ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims, First Amendment claims, and claims for compensatory damages). Finally, Judge Varholak ordered the Colorado Department of Corrections to make videophones available and to adopt effective and comprehensive policies relating to videophones. 2019 WL 4464036.

On October 4, 2019, the plaintiffs filed a joint motion for referral to a settlement conference, and Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter was assigned to conduct a settlement conference. The parties gave no reason for the sudden change in tactic. Currently, the conference is scheduled for October 28, 2019. The case is ongoing.

Jake Parker - 06/15/2018
Elizabeth Helpling - 10/29/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
Hearing impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Communication skills
Conditions of confinement
Effective Communication (ADA)
Grievance Procedures
Phone
Screen readers and similar accessibility devices
TTY/Close Captioning/Videophone/etc.
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) The State of Colorado
Plaintiff Description A female prisoner with deaf family members who was denied Sorenson Video Phone service and other deaf prisoners.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2016
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)
1:16-cv-2733 (D. Colo.)
PC-CO-0028-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/18/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Notice and Claims for acts and omissions [ECF# 1]
PC-CO-0028-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/03/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Prisoner Complaint [ECF# 4]
PC-CO-0028-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/08/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Prisoner Complaint [ECF# 11]
PC-CO-0028-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/21/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Third Amended Complaint [ECF# 34]
PC-CO-0028-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/15/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 52] (D. Colo.)
PC-CO-0028-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/29/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Fourth Amended Complaint [ECF# 66]
PC-CO-0028-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/22/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint [ECF# 115]
PC-CO-0028-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/17/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 130] (2019 WL 1558081) (D. Colo.)
PC-CO-0028-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/09/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 158] (2019 WL 4464036) (D. Colo.)
PC-CO-0028-0008.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/18/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Varholak, Scott T. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-CO-0028-0005 | PC-CO-0028-0008 | PC-CO-0028-0009 | PC-CO-0028-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Lafferty, Martha M. (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PC-CO-0028-9000
Robertson, Amy Farr (Colorado) show/hide docs
PC-CO-0028-0001 | PC-CO-0028-0006 | PC-CO-0028-0007 | PC-CO-0028-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Alber, Christopher Wayne (Colorado) show/hide docs
PC-CO-0028-9000
Blaswell, Maritza D (Colorado) show/hide docs
PC-CO-0028-9000
Spalding, Kathleen L. (Colorado) show/hide docs
PC-CO-0028-9000

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