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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Yeh v. United States Bureau of Prisons PC-PA-0047
Docket / Court 3:18-cv-00943 ( M.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On May 3, 2018, a deaf individual in the defendants' custody at Schuylkill Satellite Camp, a Federal Correctional Institution in Minersville, Pennsylvania, filed this lawsuit against the United States Bureau of Prisons. The plaintiff, represented by Stein and Vargas and by counsel from the National ... read more >
On May 3, 2018, a deaf individual in the defendants' custody at Schuylkill Satellite Camp, a Federal Correctional Institution in Minersville, Pennsylvania, filed this lawsuit against the United States Bureau of Prisons. The plaintiff, represented by Stein and Vargas and by counsel from the National Association of the Deaf, filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, claiming a violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the defendants violated the act by refusing to provide appropriate auxiliary aid to the plaintiff. The plaintiff sought injunctive relief and attorneys' fees and costs. The plaintiff filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on the same day, asking the court to order defendants to immediately install a videophone. The case is before Judge James M. Munley, but throughout the litigation certain issues have been litigated first before Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson.

That plaintiff had previously sought relief through the administrative process. He first filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) to the Department of Civil Rights Division, but the letter of findings from EEO determined that the text-telephone services provided to him were sufficient and appropriate. The plaintiff appealed these findings and requested a hearing on the matter. Following the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge issued a recommended decision sustaining the EEO's finding that the text-telephone services were appropriate. The plaintiff filed a Letter of Exceptions to this ALJ decision with the Department of Justice Complaint Adjudication Officer (CAO) on February 5, 2018. The CAO issued a decision finding that the current access to text-telephone does not provide the plaintiff with equal participation opportunities and also that the Bureau of Prisons had failed to provide evidence that videophones cause any undue administrative or financial hardships. However, the CAO cautioned the plaintiff that actual implementation would likely require significant patience, explaining that these "matters may take some time." Three months after this CAO decision, the plaintiff filed this complaint in federal court.

In the months that followed the May 2018 filing of the complaint, the defendants began taking steps to install a videophone, and the court ordered a series a status reports to track their progress. In June 2018, the Central Office of the BOP provided notice to the Schuylkill facility that a national contract for video services had been renewed and the BOP instructed facilities to prepare, purchase, and install these videophones. On August 10, 2018, the court held a preliminary injunction hearing and heard evidence that the defendants were preparing its infrastructure and computer systems to install three videophones and two monitoring stations. On November 28, 2018, the plaintiff made a phone call using the newly installed videophone at the Schuylkill facility.

On January 4, 2019, the court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction, adopting the report and recommendation of the magistrate judge. The court noted that requiring defendants to immediately install a videophone was not appropriate for a number of reasons, including the fact that the case management measures undertaken over the past few months had already ensured that a videophone was actually installed at the facility and that plaintiff had access to that phone.

Following this, the defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings and for a protective order to stay all discovery pending resolution of the motion for judgment on the pleadings. On March 8, 2019, the plaintiff filed a motion in opposition, arguing that judgment on the pleadings was not appropriate and that the court should retain the case and continue requiring case management reports because nothing would stop the defendants from denying the plaintiff access to the videophone in the future. On March 25, 2019, the court granted the motion for a protective order and stayed discovery pending resolution of the outstanding motion for judgment on the pleadings. The court retained jurisdiction and noted that the plaintiff could seek expedited discovery or other relief in the event that the defendant curtails or eliminates the plaintiff's videophone access.

On March 27, 2019, the plaintiff filed another reply to the defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that the defendants still refused to commit to providing the plaintiff access to a videophone for the remainder of his stay. The plaintiff also argued that because the defendants continued to assert that Section 504 did not provide a private right of action, a live controversy remained before the court that would justify the court retaining jurisdiction to ensure that the plaintiff had continued access to a videophone until his release from custody.

As of April 2019, the litigation is ongoing.

Chris Pollack - 04/01/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
Hearing impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Phone
TTY/Close Captioning/Videophone/etc.
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) United States Bureau of Prisons
Plaintiff Description Deaf individual in custody at federal correctional institution
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief defendants complied with administrative decision
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2018
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)
3:18-cv-00943 (M.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0047-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-PA-0047-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/03/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation [ECF# 57]
PC-PA-0047-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/12/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Order [ECF# 72] (2019 WL 1330446) (M.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0047-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/25/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Carlson, Martin C. (M.D. Pa.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-PA-0047-0003 | PC-PA-0047-0004
Munley, James Martin (M.D. Pa.) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0047-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bitencourt, Anna P (Maryland) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0047-0001 | PC-PA-0047-9000
Stein, Mi S (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0047-9000
Vargas, Mary C (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0047-0001 | PC-PA-0047-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Butler, Michael J. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0047-9000
Euliss, Richard D (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0047-9000

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