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Case Name Wilson v. Williams PC-OH-0034
Docket / Court 4:20-cv-00794 ( N.D. Ohio )
State/Territory Ohio
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: On April 13, 2020, medically vulnerable individuals incarcerated at the federal prison FCI Elkton sought release in light of the threat of COVID-19. On April 22, the Court ordered the prison to identify all such prisoners and evaluate each for transfer by any means ( ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: On April 13, 2020, medically vulnerable individuals incarcerated at the federal prison FCI Elkton sought release in light of the threat of COVID-19. On April 22, the Court ordered the prison to identify all such prisoners and evaluate each for transfer by any means (compassionate release, parole or community supervision, transfer furlough, or nontransfer furlough). For anyone ineligible for transfer to a community setting, the Court ordered transfer to another BOP facility that would enable social distancing or testing/single cell placement. The BOP appealed this order to the Sixth Circuit on April 27, and the Sixth Circuit denied the defendant's request for a stay. On May 21, the defendants applied for a stay of the preliminary injunction to the Supreme Court of the United States, which was denied on May 26, noting that the defendants had not yet appealed to the Sixth Circuit. The defendants appealed to the Sixth Circuit and moved to stay the order pending appeal scheduled the next day, which was granted by the Supreme Court on June 4. On June 9, the Sixth Circuit vacated the injunction.


As of April 13, 2020, the state of Ohio reported 6,975 total cases of COVID-19. By that time, at least three individuals incarcerated in the Elkton Federal Prison, located south of Youngstown, Ohio, had died of the disease.

On April 13, 2020, the plaintiffs, a group of incarcerated individuals at Elkton and its adjacent low-security facility, brought this lawsuit against the Warden of Elkton and the Director of the Federal Bureau of prisons, seeking habeas relief in the form of expedited consideration and immediate release of the putative class. The plaintiffs sought class action certification for all current and future individuals in custody at Elkton, including a medically-vulnerable subclass, representing a total of approximately 2,417 individuals. The plaintiffs alleged specifically that the prison failed to "provide meaningful protection" against the spread of the disease, citing experts who stated that social distancing within the prison was "impossible" and that the close proximity of showers, phones, and sinks made transmission even more likely. The plaintiffs also alleged a total lack of soap or hand sanitizer dispensers, and stated that Elkton "does nothing to protect high-risk prisoners." The plaintiffs sought expedited release of the Medically-Vulnerable subclass and judicial supervision of a prevention and mitigation plan.

The case was assigned to Judge James S. Gwin, who, on April 14, granted the plaintiffs' motion to expedite and ordered the defendants to respond by noon on April 17. The court scheduled a status conference for 3:15 pm on April 17, and ordered the defendants to submit a list of individuals who were immunocompromised. The defendants' response protested that steps taken at Elkton--including screening, quarantine procedures, and staff education--were sufficient, and that the plaintiffs were not suffering constitutional harm as a result of their incarceration during the COVID-19 crisis.

On April 22, the Court held the case was properly brought as a petition for writ of habeas corpus and ordered the prison to identify all medically vulnerable prisoners and evaluate each for transfer by any means (compassionate release, parole or community supervision, transfer furlough, or nontransfer furlough). For anyone ineligible for transfer to a community setting, the Court ordered transfer to another BOP facility that would enable social distancing or testing/single cell placement. 2020 WL 1940882.

On April 27, the defendants filed an interlocutory appeal to the Sixth Circuit and filed an emergency motion for a stay pending appeal the next day. The Sixth Circuit denied the defendant’s request for an administrative stay on April 30 and the request for a stay pending appeal on May 4. On May 6, the plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction, claiming that the defendants failed to conduct the required evaluations and transfers, and sought enforcement of the April 22 order. The district court also denied the defendant's motion for stay pending appeal on May 8. 2020 WL 2308441.

On April 29, plaintiffs moved to certify a class that would include all current and future people in post-conviction custody at Elkton, and a subclass of vulnerable people either over the age of 50 or with an underlying condition.

As of May 19, approximately one in four inmates (24%) at Elkton has been infected.
On May 19, the court noted that such a number was "unacceptable" and that the defendants had made only limited efforts to reduce the COVID-19 risks despite the preliminary injunction. 2020 WL 2542131. The court ordered the following:
First, the court ordered the defendants to lower the requirements for home confinement and provide a detailed description for those who were denied home confinement.
Second, the court ordered timely consideration of any compassionate release requests within 7 days, and a written explanation for any denials, together with appeal forms.
Finally, the court ordered the identification of subclass members within 48 hours.

On May 21, the defendants applied for a stay of the preliminary injunction pending appeal of the Sixth Circuit decision to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court denied the application for stay on May 26. They stated that the defendant was only seeking a stay of the April 22 preliminary injunction, which had been superseded by a newly issued order from the District Court enforcing the preliminary injunction and imposing additional measures. The Court noted that the defendant had not yet sought Sixth Circuit review of the May 19 order. 2020 WL 2644305.

On May 28, the defendants appealed the May 19 order enforcing the preliminary injunction to the Sixth Circuit. The next day, they moved to stay that order and renew the stay on the April 22 order pending appeal. The Sixth Circuit refused the stay the order on June 1 but stated that the case would be expedited on the schedule suggested by the parties. 2020 WL 2904706.

The district court also denied the defendants' emergency motion for stay pending appeal on June 4. The same day, the defendants submitted a reply to the U.S. Supreme Court, stating that they expected to begin the transfer of the first group of individuals to other facilities on June 5, even before the oral argument scheduled on the same day. In light of this, they sought to stay injunction until a decision is made by the Sixth Circuit, or by the Supreme Court, if necessary. The same day, the Supreme Court suspended the April 22 and May 19 orders pending the defendants' appeal for the Sixth Circuit. 2020 WL 2988458.

On June 9, the Sixth Circuit vacated the injunction. 961 F.3d 829. The Sixth Circuit first found that jurisdiction was proper as the PLRA does not apply in habeas challenges. However, they ruled that the defendant, by implementing a six-phase plan to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, had responded reasonably to the risk and therefore defendants actions were not deliberately indifferent. Therefore, the Sixth Circuit found that “while the harm imposed by COVID-19 on inmates at Elkton ultimately [is] not averted,” the plaintiffs’ Eighth Amendment rights had not been violated.

The plaintiffs sought expedited discovery compelling the defendants to respond within 14 days due to the time-sensitivity of the case on July 2.

On June 5, George Winkleman, an individual housed at FCI Elkton, sought to intervene. On June 10, Eric Henderson, an immunosuppressed individual currently housed at FCI Elkton, also sought to intervene. Both motions were denied on July 23.

On July 27, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. They argued that the plaintiffs have no habeas claim because they do not seek release from BOP custody and their claims could be remedied through means other than release. They also argued that the plaintiffs failed to state an Eighth Amendment violation because they cannot establish deliberate indifference.

On August 6, the court granted the request for expedited discovery. On August 20, the plaintiffs sought to amend the complaint and substitute class representatives.

The case is ongoing.

Chandler Hart-McGonigle - 11/22/2020
Averyn Lee - 09/25/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Bathing and hygiene
Conditions of confinement
Sanitation / living conditions
Totality of conditions
Medical/Mental Health
COVID-19 Mitigation Granted
COVID-19 Mitigation Requested
COVID-19 Release Granted
COVID-19 Release Requested
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Habeas
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Ex Parte Young (Federal) or Bivens
Habeas Corpus, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241-2253; 2254; 2255
Defendant(s) Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons
Warden of the Elkton Federal Correctional Institute
Plaintiff Description Incarcerated persons at Federal Correctional Institute Elkton and the adjacent low-security prison, located south of Youngstown, OH. The proposed class members are all current and future individuals in custody at Elkton, including a medically-vulnerable subclass.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
None yet
Source of Relief Litigation
None yet
Order Duration 2020 - n/a
Filed 04/13/2020
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)
  Bureau of Prisons COVID-19 Tracking
https://www.bop.gov/coronavirus/
Date: Apr 2020
By: Bureau of Prison (Bureau of Prisons)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Ohio Supreme Court justice calls for ‘unprecedented’ steps to prevent ‘catastrophe’ in state prisons
Ohio Capital Journal
Date: Apr 2020
By: Jake Zuckerman (Ohio Capital Journal)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
4:20-cv-00794 (N.D. Ohio)
PC-OH-0034-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/19/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1 (& 1-1 to 1-11)]
PC-OH-0034-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/13/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 7] (N.D. Ohio)
PC-OH-0034-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/14/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Answer, Return of Writ, and Response in Opposition to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Injunctive and Declaratory Relief [ECF# 10 (& 10-1 to 10-3)]
PC-OH-0034-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/17/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Petitioners' Reply Memorandum in Support of Their Emergency Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus [ECF# 18]
PC-OH-0034-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/18/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 22] (2020 WL 1940882) (N.D. Ohio)
PC-OH-0034-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/22/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Brief of Amici Curiae Public Health and Human Rights Experts [ECF# 23]
PC-OH-0034-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/22/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Emergency Motion for Stay Pending Appeal and Memorandum in Support of Emergency Motion to Stay [ECF# 29 & 29-1]
PC-OH-0034-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/28/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Emergency Motion for Stay Pending Appeal - Exhibit A [ECF# 29-2]
PC-OH-0034-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/28/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Emergency Motion for Stay Pending Appeal - Exhibit B [ECF# 29-3]
PC-OH-0034-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/28/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Emergency Motion for Stay Pending Appeal - Exhibit C [ECF# 29-4]
PC-OH-0034-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/28/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Corrected Emergency Motion for Stay Pending Appeal [ECF# 30 (& 30-1 to 30-4)]
PC-OH-0034-0037.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/28/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Petitioners' Motion for Class Certification and Memorandum in Support of Petitioners' Motion for Class Certification [ECF# 33 & 33-1]
PC-OH-0034-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/29/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Petitioners' Motion for Class Certification - Exhibit A [ECF# 33-2]
PC-OH-0034-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/29/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Petitioners' Opposition to Respondents' Emergency Motion to Stay Pending Appeal [ECF# 37]
PC-OH-0034-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/30/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 38] (N.D. Ohio)
PC-OH-0034-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/01/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opposition to Motion for Class Certification [ECF# 43]
PC-OH-0034-0017.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/01/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 46] (N.D. Ohio)
PC-OH-0034-0018.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/04/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Petitioners' Memorandum Regarding the Sixth Circuit's May 4, 2020 Order Denying Respondents' Motion for Stay Pending Appeal [ECF# 50]
PC-OH-0034-0019.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/06/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Petitioners' Emergency Motion for Enforcement of Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 51]
PC-OH-0034-0020.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/06/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Respondents' Opposition to Petitioners' Emergency Motion for Enforcement of Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 58]
PC-OH-0034-0021.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/08/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Reply in Support of Petitioners' Emergency Motion for Enforcement of Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 78 (& 78-1 to 78-4)]
PC-OH-0034-0022.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/14/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Resolving Docs. 51, 58, 78] [ECF# 85] (2020 WL 2542131) (N.D. Ohio)
PC-OH-0034-0014.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/19/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Application for a Stay of the Injunction Issued by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio and for an Administrative Stay
PC-OH-0034-0028.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/20/2020
Opposition to Application for a Stay of the Injunction Issued by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio and For an Administrative Stay
PC-OH-0034-0029.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/22/2020
Reply in Support of Application for a Stay
PC-OH-0034-0030.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/22/2020
Order in Pending Case (2020 WL 2644305)
PC-OH-0034-0031.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/26/2020
Respondents' Emergency Motion to Stay [ECF# 98 (& 98-1 to 98-10)]
PC-OH-0034-0023.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/29/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum in Opposition to Respondents' Emergency Motion to Stay [ECF# 102 (& 102-1 to 102-3)]
PC-OH-0034-0024.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/30/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Reply in Support of Application for a Stay
PC-OH-0034-0032.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/01/2020
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 107] (2020 WL 2904706)
PC-OH-0034-0025.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/01/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order (2020 WL 2988458)
PC-OH-0034-0033.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/04/2020
Order [Resolving Doc. 98] [ECF# 109] (2020 WL 3000464) (N.D. Ohio)
PC-OH-0034-0027.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/04/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion to Intervene in the Class Action and Motion for an Order Requiring Respondents to Show Cause Why They Should Not Be Held In Contempt for Violating Court's Injunction [ECF# 113 (incl. 113-1 to 113-4)]
PC-OH-0034-0039.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/05/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 54-2] (2020 WL 3056217)
PC-OH-0034-0035.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/09/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Emergency Motion to Intervene as Additional Plaintiff/Affected Party [ECF# 121]
PC-OH-0034-0036.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/10/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Respondents' Opposition to Motion to Intervene as Additional Plaintiff/Affected Party [ECF# 132 (& 132-1)]
PC-OH-0034-0038.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/23/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 159] (2020 WL 4227453) (N.D. Ohio)
PC-OH-0034-0040.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/23/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 164, 164-1]
PC-OH-0034-0041.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/27/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Cole, Ransey Guy Jr. (Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0025 | PC-OH-0034-0035
Cook, Deborah L. (Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0025 | PC-OH-0034-0035
Gibbons, Julia Smith (W.D. Tenn., Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0025 | PC-OH-0034-0035
Gwin, James S. (N.D. Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0002 | PC-OH-0034-0005 | PC-OH-0034-0014 | PC-OH-0034-0027 | PC-OH-0034-0040 | PC-OH-0034-9000
Sotomayor, Sonia (S.D.N.Y., Second Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0033
Plaintiff's Lawyers Calvo-Friedman, Jennesa (New York) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0029
Carey, David J. (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0001 | PC-OH-0034-0004 | PC-OH-0034-0012 | PC-OH-0034-0013 | PC-OH-0034-0015 | PC-OH-0034-0019 | PC-OH-0034-0020 | PC-OH-0034-0022 | PC-OH-0034-0024 | PC-OH-0034-0029 | PC-OH-0034-0035 | PC-OH-0034-9000
Cole, David (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0029
Datla, Kirti (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0029 | PC-OH-0034-0035
Fathi, David Cyrus (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0029
Francisco, Noel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0028 | PC-OH-0034-0030 | PC-OH-0034-0032
Levenson, Freda J. (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0001 | PC-OH-0034-0004 | PC-OH-0034-0012 | PC-OH-0034-0015 | PC-OH-0034-0019 | PC-OH-0034-0020 | PC-OH-0034-0022 | PC-OH-0034-0024 | PC-OH-0034-0029 | PC-OH-0034-0035 | PC-OH-0034-9000
Mead, Joseph W. (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0001 | PC-OH-0034-0004 | PC-OH-0034-0012 | PC-OH-0034-0015 | PC-OH-0034-0019 | PC-OH-0034-0020 | PC-OH-0034-0022 | PC-OH-0034-0024 | PC-OH-0034-0029 | PC-OH-0034-0035 | PC-OH-0034-9000
Singleton, David A. (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0001 | PC-OH-0034-0004 | PC-OH-0034-0012 | PC-OH-0034-0015 | PC-OH-0034-0019 | PC-OH-0034-0020 | PC-OH-0034-0022 | PC-OH-0034-0024 | PC-OH-0034-0035 | PC-OH-0034-9000
Vander Laan, Mark A. (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0001 | PC-OH-0034-0004 | PC-OH-0034-0012 | PC-OH-0034-0015 | PC-OH-0034-0019 | PC-OH-0034-0020 | PC-OH-0034-0022 | PC-OH-0034-0024 | PC-OH-0034-0035 | PC-OH-0034-9000
Zuckerman, Michael L. (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0004 | PC-OH-0034-0012 | PC-OH-0034-0015 | PC-OH-0034-0019 | PC-OH-0034-0020 | PC-OH-0034-0022 | PC-OH-0034-0024 | PC-OH-0034-0035 | PC-OH-0034-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bennett, James R. II (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0003 | PC-OH-0034-0008 | PC-OH-0034-0009 | PC-OH-0034-0010 | PC-OH-0034-0017 | PC-OH-0034-0021 | PC-OH-0034-0023 | PC-OH-0034-0037 | PC-OH-0034-0038 | PC-OH-0034-0041 | PC-OH-0034-9000
Carroll, Sarah (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0035
DeCaro, Sara E. (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0003 | PC-OH-0034-0008 | PC-OH-0034-0009 | PC-OH-0034-0010 | PC-OH-0034-0017 | PC-OH-0034-0021 | PC-OH-0034-0023 | PC-OH-0034-0037 | PC-OH-0034-0038 | PC-OH-0034-0041 | PC-OH-0034-9000
DeVito, David M. (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0021 | PC-OH-0034-0023 | PC-OH-0034-0038 | PC-OH-0034-0041 | PC-OH-0034-9000
Herdman, Justin E. (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0003 | PC-OH-0034-0008 | PC-OH-0034-0009 | PC-OH-0034-0010 | PC-OH-0034-0021 | PC-OH-0034-0023 | PC-OH-0034-0037 | PC-OH-0034-0038 | PC-OH-0034-0041
Ross, Casen B (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0035
Wright, Abby C. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0035
Other Lawyers Aiken, Matthew Guicen (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-9000
Buergel, Susanna M. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0007 | PC-OH-0034-9000
Chandra, Subodh (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0035
Debold, David (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-9000
Gelsomino, Sarah J (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0007 | PC-OH-0034-9000
Greene, Jacqueline C. (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0007 | PC-OH-0034-9000
Johnson, Darren W. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0007 | PC-OH-0034-9000
Kimball-Stanley, David C. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0007 | PC-OH-0034-9000
Mancina, Salvatore M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-9000
Osseck, Laura A. (Ohio) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0035 | PC-OH-0034-9000
Walls, La Coulton J (Illinois) show/hide docs
PC-OH-0034-0036 | PC-OH-0034-9000

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