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Case Name Huerta v. Ewing JC-IN-0027
Docket / Court 2:16-cv-00397 ( S.D. Ind. )
State/Territory Indiana
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Post-WalMart decisions on class certification
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On October 13, 2016, pretrial detainees in the Vigo County jail filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU of Indiana and private counsel, sued the sheriff and other officials of Vigo County under 42 U.S.C ... read more >
On October 13, 2016, pretrial detainees in the Vigo County jail filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU of Indiana and private counsel, sued the sheriff and other officials of Vigo County under 42 U.S.C. §1983. They sought a declaratory judgment, preliminary and permanent injunction, and damages, claiming violations of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment Due Process clause and Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection clause.

The plaintiffs alleged that overcrowding had created unconstitutional conditions within the jail. Specifically, they alleged that they had been forced to sleep on the unsanitary floor; transported to other jails, depriving them of the opportunity to see their visitors and attorneys; and been denied necessary medical treatment. For example, one of the named plaintiffs was badly injured because he was sleeping on the floor when another inmate fell from the upper bunk and crashed onto him. Another named plaintiff was forced to sleep on the floor for seven months.

According to the complaint, a similar class action had been brought in 2000 to address overcrowding (Costa v. Harris). Although that case resulted in a private settlement agreement, the defendants failed to make substantial progress in addressing the problems. After 11 years with little change in conditions, the original plaintiffs filed a complaint about breach of contract, to no avail.

The plaintiff filed an amended complaint on November 17, 2016, in which some plaintiffs were added, and a second amended complaint on November 22, 2016. There were no significant changes between the first and the second amended complaint.

On November 17, 2016, the plaintiffs sought class certification. On May 19, 2018, Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson granted the plaintiffs’ motion, defining the class as: “All individuals in the care and custody of Vigo County, Indiana, including the current and future inmates who are or will be incarcerated in the Vigo County Jail and all current and future individuals who were transported to other county jails as a result of the overcrowding in the Vigo County Jail.” 2017 WL 2198632.

On November 21, 2016, the plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction to enjoin the defendant from the unconstitutional practice of overcrowding the jail and to compel the defendant to implement a concrete plan for construction of a new jail.

On June 22, 2018, plaintiffs sought partial summary judgment for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. On October 10, 2018, Judge Magnus-Stinson granted this motion and awarded injunctive relief. The injunction ordered the defendants to make a periodic report of the ongoing constitutional violations at the jail, to file a detailed report explaining how many staff-people they would add to improve the jail’s living environment, and to submit a concrete plan to construct and open a new jail. The court noted that the plaintiffs requested-- and the defendants did not respond to this request-- that the court retain jurisdiction over this matter even after the damages actions are resolved. This would end once a new facility is opened and there is agreement that constitutional requirements are satisfied. 2018 WL 4922038.

On December 19, 2018, the court ordered defendants to pay plaintiffs $75,000 for attorney's fees and costs.The defendants' first report filed on November 6, 2018, mentioned that the council voted to fund for hiring jail personnel and the commissioner selected the proposed site for a new jail. This report also mentioned that a plan to construct a new jail on the original proposed site failed because of the zoning restriction. The defendants' report filed on January 14, 2019, mentioned that the commissioner worked on deciding the alternative site for a new jail.

A settlement conference was held on February 25, 2019. Claims as to one individual plaintiff were resolved. All pending motions regarding this plaintiff were denied as moot and and all dates regarding this plaintiff were vacated. The same day, the parties filed a stipulation for the court to enter final judgment as to all claims for injunctive and declaratory relief pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 54(b).

Three days later the judge issued an order that granted the plaintiff's request for injunctive relief and declared that the conditions at Vigo County Jail violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The court ordered that the defendants appear before the court at least every three months to report on the action being taken to address the constitutional violations. Prior to each hearing before the court, the defendants must file a report with the court that states the number of staff necessary to comply with the injunctive relief granted and how and when the new staff will be added. Additionally, prior to each hearing before the court, the defendants are also required to submit a plan in writing to the court that details the progress and specifications for the new jail that will be opening. The court also ordered that defendants were required to provide prisoners with at least three hours per week of recreation outside of their cells, and the defendants must provide sufficient staff to ensure that the health and safety of the prisoners is safeguarded.

On March 12, 2019, the defendants filed a status report with the court. This report said that the defendants are considering three locations for a new Vigo County Jail, that defendants had interviewed six applicants but hiring new staff was delayed due to the resignation of 10 other correctional officers, that all prisoners were getting at least one hour of recreation three times per week, and that the staff was doing wellness checks on prisoners every hour, and for prisoners on suicide watch, the wellness checks were every 15 minutes. On April 12, the defendants filed another status report with the court which was very similar to the March status report.

The plaintiffs filed a motion for attorneys fees on April 8, 2019. The parties filed a stipulation regarding attorneys fees in May, and on May 30, 2019 the court issued an order consistent with the stipulation. The defendants were required to pay a total of $10,130.85 in attorneys fees and costs.

On April 15, 2019, the court issued an order that addressed the topics the defendants would include in their monthly status reports. The plaintiffs had filed a motion in March asking for additional information in the defendants' monthly reports, including the status of the property for the new Vigo County Jail, information on the frequency of recreation outside cell areas, incident reports involving prisoner violence, the number of jail employees and any progress in hiring more staff, and the number of prisoners in Vigo County Jail and their status (awaiting transfer, completing sentence at Vigo County Jail, or other).

In May of 2019, the defendants notified the court that they had found a location for the new Vigo County Jail and would be purchasing the property later that month.

In July 2019, the parties filed a joint stipulation to delay ruling on attorneys fees because the parties were negotiating. The court granted the request and deferred ruling on the matter. On August 8, 2019, the parties filed a joint stipulation for attorneys fees regarding the personal injuries of one of the plaintiffs. The court approved this stipulation the next day and ordered the defendants to pay $16,000 in attorneys fees on this claim.

Over the next seven months, the defendants filed monthly status reports with the court that were all similar in content to the first status report. In February of 2020, the Court issued an entry stating that the parties had reported a settlement of Plaintiffs’ individual personal injury claims, that counsel advised that there were unresolved issues with two Plaintiffs, and that “[i]f dismissal documents are not submitted by March 24, 2020, the Court will dismiss the personal injury claims with prejudice.” The parties did not file any dismissal documents, so on March 20, 2020, the court dismissed the plaintiff's personal injury claims, but the court dismissed the claims without prejudice to "re-open them for purposes of effectuating settlement only." The same day, the court entered final judgment pursuant to Rule 58 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The court entered final judgment against the plaintiffs and for the defendants on the plaintiff's individual personal injury claims.

Since then, the defendants have continued to file monthly status reports with the court. As of July 2020, the new Vigo County Jail was under construction, additional officer had been hired, interviews were scheduled in order to hire more staff, recreation was being offered 6-8 times per week to most housing cell blocks. Wellness checks were conducted every 60 minutes, and every 15 minutes for prisoners on suicide watch, and the guards were checking for symptoms of COVID-19.

As of July 2020, the defendants continue to file monthly status reports with the court.

Chiaki Nojiri - 03/13/2019
Sabrina Glavota - 07/16/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Goals (e.g., for hiring, admissions)
Hire
Monitoring
Reporting
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Post-PLRA Population Cap
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Bathing and hygiene
Conditions of confinement
Confidentiality
Counseling
Education
Funding
Grievance Procedures
Recreation / Exercise
Sanitation / living conditions
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Totality of conditions
Visiting
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Medication, administration of
Mental health care, general
Skin Infections
Tuberculosis
Untreated pain
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Sheriff of Vigo County
Vigo County Comissioners
Vigo County Council
Plaintiff Description All individuals in the care and custody of Vigo County, Indiana, including the current and future inmates who are or will be incarcerated in the Vigo County Jail and all current and future individuals who were transported to other county jails as a result of the overcrowding in the Vigo County Jail.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filed 10/13/2016
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Docket(s)
2:16−cv−00397 (S.D. Ind.)
JC-IN-0027-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/01/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief and Damages--Class Action and Individual Claims [ECF# 1]
JC-IN-0027-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/13/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief and Damages [ECF# 14]
JC-IN-0027-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/22/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 46] (2017 WL 2198632) (S.D. Ind.)
JC-IN-0027-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/19/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 107] (2018 WL 780509) (S.D. Ind.)
JC-IN-0027-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/08/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 146] (2018 WL 4922038) (S.D. Ind.)
JC-IN-0027-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 10/10/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Periodic Report Pursuant to Court's October 10, 2018 Order [ECF# 148]
JC-IN-0027-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/06/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants Periodic Report Pursuant to Court's November 15, 2018 Order [ECF# 162]
JC-IN-0027-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/19/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Status Report [ECF# 165]
JC-IN-0027-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/14/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Final Judgment as to All Claims for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief Pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 54(b) [ECF# 178] (S.D. Ind.)
JC-IN-0027-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/28/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Dinsmore, Mark. J. (S.D. Ind.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
JC-IN-0027-9000
Magnus-Stinson, Jane Elizabeth (S.D. Ind.) show/hide docs
JC-IN-0027-0002 | JC-IN-0027-0003 | JC-IN-0027-0005 | JC-IN-0027-0009 | JC-IN-0027-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Falk, Kenneth J. (Indiana) show/hide docs
JC-IN-0027-9000
Lohmeier, Bradley C. (Indiana) show/hide docs
JC-IN-0027-0001
Sutherlin, Michael K. (Indiana) show/hide docs
JC-IN-0027-0001 | JC-IN-0027-0004 | JC-IN-0027-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Friedrich, David P. (Indiana) show/hide docs
JC-IN-0027-0006 | JC-IN-0027-0007 | JC-IN-0027-0008 | JC-IN-0027-9000
McKee, Craig M (Indiana) show/hide docs
JC-IN-0027-0008 | JC-IN-0027-9000
Wright, Michael James (Indiana) show/hide docs
JC-IN-0027-0001 | JC-IN-0027-9000

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