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Case Name Victory v. Berks County JC-PA-0038
Docket / Court 5:18-cv-05170-MAK ( E.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Speech and Religious Freedom
Case Summary
A woman incarcerated at Pennsylvania’s Berks County Jail filed this lawsuit against the County and several county officials and jail officials. Her complaint, filed November 30, 2018 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleged that the jail violated the Equal ... read more >
A woman incarcerated at Pennsylvania’s Berks County Jail filed this lawsuit against the County and several county officials and jail officials. Her complaint, filed November 30, 2018 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleged that the jail violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by discriminating against her on the basis of her sex: her “Trusty” security classification did not qualify her for lower-security housing in the off-site Community Reentry Center, but male inmates with the same security classification did qualify for such off-site housing, with increased freedom of movement, work-release privileges, and expanded educational opportunities. She sued on behalf of herself and others similarly situated. For the entire class, she sought declaratory judgment (under 28 U.S.C. §§2201-2202), as well as injunctive relief requiring the County to give female “Trusty” inmates housing, privileges, and programming comparable to those granted to their male counterparts. Individually, she alleged that jail officials had retaliated against her for filing grievances, and sought monetary damages. She was represented by the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project. The case was assigned to Judge Mark A. Kearney.

In December 2018, the plaintiff twice sought a preliminary injunction and was twice denied. On January 15, 2019, the court granted her third request for a preliminary injunction, 355 F. Supp. 3d 239 (E.D. Pa. 2019). Two days later, the Third Circuit stayed the injunction in part.

The First Amended Complaint, on January 17, joined as plaintiffs two other women incarcerated at the Berks County Jail, similarly unable to qualify for housing and privileges commensurate with their “Trusty” security classification. Together, the three plaintiffs moved for class certification, which the court denied.

In February 2019, the court dissolved the preliminary injunction of January 17; the lead plaintiff and one of her co-plaintiffs had been released from custody, and the third plaintiff had not properly exhausted administrative remedies. 2019 WL 653788.

On April 5, 2019, the court partially granted the County’s motion to dismiss. 2019 WL 1507769. Discovery could proceed on: injunctive relief to prohibit the disparate treatment; the lead plaintiff’s damage claims against the non-immune individual defendants; some of the lead plaintiff’s First Amendment retaliation claims; and the sex discrimination claim under the Pennsylvania Constitution. The court dismissed all other claims.

Two weeks later, the lead plaintiff filed the Second Amended Complaint, replacing the original co-plaintiffs with two other women similarly incarcerated at the Jail. They moved for a preliminary injunction on April 24, and the injunction was granted on May 20. In the meantime, one of the new co-plaintiffs had, without explanation, dismissed all of her claims with prejudice. On June 3, the two remaining plaintiffs moved for class certification. The same day, the court denied the County's motion to stay all proceedings. 2019 WL 2368579.

The court granted class certification on July 8, 2019: “All current and future female inmates committed to the Berks County Jail System who have the Trusty custody-level classification but denied assignment to the Community Reentry Center (“CRC”) and denied access to the privileges and services available to men assigned to the CRC.” 2019 WL 2950171. The same day, the court granted partial summary judgment to the County. While the Fourteenth Amendment claim was allowed to proceed, all other claims were dismissed. Several individual defendants were also dismissed.

On July 11, 2019, the court held Berks County in civil contempt for failure to comply with the May 20 preliminary injunction. 2019 WL 3068991. The lead plaintiff was granted compensatory sanctions and attorneys fees. However, this contempt finding was later reversed by the Third Circuit, which found that the May 20 preliminary injunction had not included an explicit needs-narrowness-intrusiveness finding as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act. The injunction was thus invalid and could not be a basis for a contempt finding. Throughout the litigation, the County brought a total of 5 interlocutory appeals (Third Circuit docket numbers 19-01329, 19-02193, 19-02648, 19-02695, and 19-03060). Only the appeals regarding the May 20 preliminary injunction and the July 11 contempt order were successful.

On October 17, 2019, the court granted partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs. 2019 WL 5266147. The court found that "Berks County violated [the plaintiffs'] rights when it discriminated against them in disparate treatment as to freedom of mobility, access to privileges, and visitation on the basis of their sex in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution." However, there remained questions of material fact as to whether the County provided equal access to furloughs for female "Trusty" inmates. This question, along with the question of a permanent injunction and the lead plaintiff’s individual damages, would be decided at trial.

The week before the trial, the County announced that the Community Reentry Center had been closed and that all male inmates had been returned to the jail proper.

The 3-phase trial was held from Tuesday, November 12 through Friday, November 15, 2019. In the first phase, the jury found that Berks County had violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by providing the plaintiffs less access to furloughs than their male counterparts. In the second phase, the jury found that the County’s violation of the Equal Protection Clause had caused the plaintiff emotional pain, and awarded the lead plaintiff $2,800 in damages. The third and final phase was tried without jury; the court ordered a permanent injunction against the County. 2020 WL 236911. {DID IT INCLUDE PLRA FINDINGS?} The court entered judgment on April 7, 2020, and ordered the County to pay approximately $510,000 in costs and attorneys’ fees. 2020 WL 1694600.

As of June 15, 2020, no appeal had been filed.

Gregory Marsh - 06/15/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Preliminary relief denied
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Corrections
Discrimination-basis
Sex discrimination
General
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Disparate Treatment
Work release or work assignments
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
State law
Defendant(s) Berks County
Plaintiff Description The plaintiffs in this case are a class of women incarcerated in the Berks County (Pennsylvania) Jail. They are classified at the lowest security classification the jail system has, and are thus eligible for lower-security housing. Men housed in the jail system enjoy lower-security housing; however, the women do not.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Granted
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Attorneys fees
Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2020 - n/a
Filed 11/30/2018
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)
  PRESS RELEASE: Berks County Abruptly Empties Men’s Community Reentry Center Rather Than Provide Incarcerated Women With Equal Access
Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project
Date: Nov. 11, 2019
By: Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
E.D. Pa.
04/07/2020
5:18-cv-05170-MAK
JC-PA-0038-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
E.D. Pa.
11/30/2018
Complaint - Class Action [ECF# 1]
JC-PA-0038-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
01/15/2019
Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law [ECF# 38] (355 F.Supp.3d 239)
JC-PA-0038-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
01/15/2019
Order [ECF# 39]
JC-PA-0038-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
01/25/2019
Order [ECF# 61]
JC-PA-0038-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
02/15/2019
Memorandum [ECF# 92] (2019 WL 653788)
JC-PA-0038-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
04/05/2019
Memorandum [ECF# 108] (2019 WL 1507769)
JC-PA-0038-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
04/22/2019
Second Amended Complaint [ECF# 114]
JC-PA-0038-0008.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
05/20/2019
Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law [ECF# 134]
JC-PA-0038-0009.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
05/20/2019
Order [ECF# 135]
JC-PA-0038-0010.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
06/03/2019
Memorandum [ECF# 144] (2019 WL 2368579)
JC-PA-0038-0011.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
07/08/2019
Memorandum [ECF# 184] (2019 WL 2950171)
JC-PA-0038-0012.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
07/08/2019
Order [ECF# 187]
JC-PA-0038-0013.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
07/11/2019
Memorandum with Findings of Fact [ECF# 191] (2019 WL 3068991)
JC-PA-0038-0014.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
07/11/2019
Order [ECF# 192]
JC-PA-0038-0015.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
07/11/2019
Order [ECF# 193]
JC-PA-0038-0016.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
07/29/2019
Order [ECF# 206]
JC-PA-0038-0017.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
08/07/2019
Order [ECF# 213]
JC-PA-0038-0018.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
10/17/2019
Order-Memorandum [ECF# 245]
JC-PA-0038-0020.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
10/17/2019
Memorandum [ECF# 247] (2019 WL 5266147)
JC-PA-0038-0021.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
01/15/2020
Memorandum with Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law [ECF# 338] (2020 WL 236911)
JC-PA-0038-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: Papers of Margo Schlanger
E.D. Pa.
04/07/2020
Memorandum [ECF# 348] (2020 WL 1694600)
JC-PA-0038-0022.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
04/07/2020
Judgment [ECF# 350]
JC-PA-0038-0019.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Heffley, Marilyn Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
JC-PA-0038-9000
Kearney, Mark A. (E.D. Pa.) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0038-0001 | JC-PA-0038-0003 | JC-PA-0038-0004 | JC-PA-0038-0005 | JC-PA-0038-0006 | JC-PA-0038-0007 | JC-PA-0038-0009 | JC-PA-0038-0010 | JC-PA-0038-0011 | JC-PA-0038-0012 | JC-PA-0038-0013 | JC-PA-0038-0014 | JC-PA-0038-0015 | JC-PA-0038-0016 | JC-PA-0038-0017 | JC-PA-0038-0018 | JC-PA-0038-0019 | JC-PA-0038-0020 | JC-PA-0038-0021 | JC-PA-0038-0022 | JC-PA-0038-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Davy, James (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0038-0002 | JC-PA-0038-9000
Feldman, Matthew A (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0038-0002 | JC-PA-0038-0008 | JC-PA-0038-9000
Love, Angus R. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0038-0002 | JC-PA-0038-0008 | JC-PA-0038-9000
Morgan-Kurtz, Alexandra T. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0038-9000
Sachse, Will W. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0038-9000
Ward, Cory A. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0038-9000
Yeh, Su Ming (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0038-0002 | JC-PA-0038-0008 | JC-PA-0038-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Connell, Matthew J. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0038-9000
Fiore, Laurie Ann (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0038-9000
Ryan, Samantha (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0038-9000

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