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Case Name Coen v. Georgia Department of Corrections PC-GA-0023
Docket / Court 5:16-cv-00353 ( M.D. Ga. )
State/Territory Georgia
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On August 3, 2016, a prisoner with a hearing disability incarcerated at Central State Prison in Georgia filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. The plaintiff sued the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDOC) Commissioner, wardens, and counselors at his ... read more >
On August 3, 2016, a prisoner with a hearing disability incarcerated at Central State Prison in Georgia filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. The plaintiff sued the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDOC) Commissioner, wardens, and counselors at his prison under 42 USC § 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act, § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The complaint alleged that the current TTY system at the GDOC was inaccessible, inoperable, outmoded, and obsolete. The plaintiff had been in prison for nine years, and during that time was unable to communicate with family, friends, and lawyers. Further, he alleged that he had no access to religion or education in his native language (American Sign Language). He claimed that he had exhausted all administrative avenues for relief, and that prison administrators had ignored or denied all of his requests. The plaintiff initiated the lawsuit pro se, but was later represented by the ACLU, the National Association of the Deaf, and private counsel. He sought injunctive relief in the form of inmate calling services, TTY, and/or VRS services. He also asked for $15 million in damages for pain and suffering as well as violation of his constitutional rights. The case was assigned to Judge Marc Thomas Treadwell and then referred to Magistrate Judge Stephen Hyles.

The plaintiff filed an amended complaint on January 26, 2017, adding several defendants but no new claims. On February 15, 2017 Magistrate Judge Hyles ordered that the plaintiff’s action could go forward against all named defendants. 2017 WL 1380511. The plaintiff was released from prison on February 18, 2017. The plaintiff spent the next several months serving all of the defendants.

On September 8, 2017, multiple defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint and stay discovery.

Several months of relative inaction followed, until the plaintiff, now represented by the ACLU, the National Association of the Deaf, and private counsel, moved to file a second amended complaint on June 20, 2018. In the eighty-two paged proposed second amended complaint, the plaintiff sought to withdraw his RLUIPA claim and clarify other claims. In his new claims, he highlighted how the prison, probation, and parole systems fail deaf prisoners by not providing sign language interpretation to explain rules and conditions of their release and then punishing the deaf individuals for violating the rules. He sought to add claims related to his post-incarceration probation or parole. He also asked to add thirteen additional plaintiffs, seeking to represent a class of deaf or hard of hearing people currently or formerly incarcerated by GDOC. Finally, the plaintiff sought to eliminate all defendants who did not need to be parties to the case, while adding other defendants, including GDOC, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles (GBOP) and Georgia Department of Community Supervision (GDCS),

On September 13, 2018, Judge Treadwell issued an order denying the defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint as moot and granted the plaintiff’s motion to file a second amended complaint in part. 2018 WL 4365503. He granted the plaintiff’s motion to clarify his ADA and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act claims, to withdraw his RLUIPA claim, to add one of the thirteen proposed additional plaintiffs, to eliminate unnecessary defendants, and to add GDOC and GBOP as defendants. The plaintiff’s request to add claims relating to his post-incarceration probation or parole was denied because these claims did not arise out of the alleged failure to provide effective communication inside Georgia’s prisons. The court denied the plaintiff’s request to join all but one additional plaintiff because the other proposed plaintiffs remained incarcerated, and thus, had different interests—the incarcerated individuals had an interest in enjoining GDOC’s future behavior whereas the plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief was moot because he had been released.

On the same day, Judge Treadway also issued a show cause order for why the case should not be consolidated with another, similar case, Woody v. Bryson. Civil Action No. 5:16-CV-467-MTT.

Neither party replied to the order to show cause. The plaintiff moved to voluntarily dismiss his claims, and on September 28, 2018, the court dismissed the case without prejudice. From the docket and reported activity online, it was unknown what prompted the plaintiff to dismiss the case. The case is now closed.

Elizabeth Johnson - 02/07/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Free Exercise Clause
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
Hearing impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Effective Communication (ADA)
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.
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles
Georgia Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description A deaf prisoner incarcerated by the Georgia Department of Corrections, whose native language is American Sign Language.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
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
Source of Relief None
Filing Year 2016
Case Closing Year 2018
Case Ongoing No
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)
5:16-cv-00353 (M.D. Ga.)
PC-GA-0023-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/28/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-GA-0023-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/03/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint [ECF# 8]
PC-GA-0023-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/06/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Recommendation [ECF# 9] (2017 WL 1380511) (M.D. Ga.)
PC-GA-0023-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/15/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Revised Second Amended Complaint [ECF# 33]
PC-GA-0023-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/20/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 47] (2018 WL 4365503) (M.D. Ga.)
PC-GA-0023-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/13/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order to Show Cause [ECF# 48] (2018 WL 4365503) (M.D. Ga.)
PC-GA-0023-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/13/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulation for Dismissal Under Rule 41 [ECF# 50]
PC-GA-0023-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/28/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Treadwell, Marc Thomas (M.D. Ga.) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0023-0003 | PC-GA-0023-0006 | PC-GA-0023-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brennan-Krohn, Zoe (California) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0023-9000
Center, Claudia B. (California) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0023-0005 | PC-GA-0023-0007 | PC-GA-0023-9000
Emilio, Anna Bitencourt (Maryland) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0023-9000
Miller, Ralph I. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0023-9000
Mizner, Susan (California) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0023-9000
Swette, Alexandria E G (New York) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0023-9000
Tucker, Kosha S (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0023-9000
Young, Sean (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0023-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Cusimano, Angela Ellen (Georgia) show/hide docs
PC-GA-0023-0007 | PC-GA-0023-9000

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