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Case Name Martinez-Brooks v. Easter PC-CT-0021
Docket / Court 3:20-cv-00569 ( D. Conn. )
State/Territory Connecticut
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Post-WalMart decisions on class certification
Attorney Organization Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization (Yale)
Legal Services/Legal Aid
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: On April 27, 2020, four individuals held at the Federal Correctional Center (FCI) brought this emergency putative class action requesting the immediate release or home confinement of medically vulnerable individuals and implementation of safety measures to lower the risk of COVID-1 ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: On April 27, 2020, four individuals held at the Federal Correctional Center (FCI) brought this emergency putative class action requesting the immediate release or home confinement of medically vulnerable individuals and implementation of safety measures to lower the risk of COVID-19. On April 30, the petitioners requested an emergency temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction and sought preliminary certification of the proposed class. On May 5, the respondents filed for a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, which was denied a few days later. The court also granted in part and denied in part the motion for a temporary restraining order which required defendants to institute a process for release for medically vulnerable individuals. The court extended coverage of the process to include individuals already approved for release to a reentry center on May 29. On July 27, the parties reported that they came to a settlement agreement and the plaintiffs' class was certified for settlement purposes on August 11. The court approved the settlement agreement after a fairness hearing on September 18. The court retained jurisdiction to the extent necessary to enforce the terms of the agreement. On December 11, the court granted motion to enforce the settlement and, on January 19, the court granted in part and denied in part a second motion to enforce the settlement. The case remains ongoing.


On April 27, 2020, four individuals held at the Federal Correctional Center (FCI) in Danbury, Connecticut filed this putative class action at the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. Represented by the Legal Clinic of the Quinnipiac University School of Law, Yale Law School's Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization, and private attorneys, they brought the lawsuit against FCI Danbury and the Federal Bureau of Prisons as a habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, and as an injunctive and declaratory action under 28 U.S.C. §2201-02. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants failed to take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, resulting in confinement conditions that violated their Eighth Amendment rights.

The plaintiffs proposed a class of all detainees held or to be held in the custody of FCI Danbury. They also proposed a subclass of detainees aged 50 and over, or those medically vulnerable. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, and/or a writ of habeas mandating the release or immediate home confinement of medically vulnerable detainees, and the implementation of safety measures against the risk of disease and death posed by COVID-19. Pending the habeas actions, the petitioners sought an "enlargement" of custody for detainees to home confinement as a provisional remedy. The case was assigned to Judge Micheal P Shea.

The four plaintiffs are currently at higher risk of serious harm due to underlying medical conditions such as lupus, asthma, and hypertension. On April 30, the petitioners requested an emergency temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to implement measures to reduce the density of the population and maximize social distancing. They also sought preliminary certification of the proposed class for that order. On May 5, the respondents filed for a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that the plaintiffs had failed to exhaust available administrative remedies.

On May 12, the court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss. 2020 WL 2405350. It found that neither the PLRA (Prison Litigation Reform Act) or res judicata precluded the relief sought, and excused the plaintiffs from the exhaustion of administrative remedies, finding that they had shown that they would likely suffer irreparable harm if they were required to exhaust the administrative remedy process before seeking relief in court.

In the same opinion, the court also granted in part and denied in part the motion for a temporary restraining order. The court ordered a filing of a list of “medically vulnerable inmates at Danbury FCI,” defined as individuals in custody aged over 65 and/or who have underlying medical conditions specifically identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as a higher risk for COVID-19, and ordered the implementation of home confinement process for those individuals within three days. The court also ordered a timely process of evaluating compassionate release based on COVID-19 within seven days. Finally, the court ordered an individualized explanation for each denial of home confinement and a status report to be submitted to the court within thirteen days.

During a telephonic status conference held on May 26, the plaintiffs indicated that they knew of multiple individuals who qualified as medically vulnerable but who were not included on the list of medically vulnerable inmates that the defendants listed for home confinement, as required by the TRO. The defendants indicated a willingness to conduct a further search to identify additional medically vulnerable inmates. Therefore, the court ordered an extension of the deadline for compliance with the temporary restraining order by fourteen days, through June 9, 2020.

Another status conference was held on May 28, and the parties agreed to confer on a possible agreement on matters including home confinement review by a medical clinician, usage of a medical record code that allows automatic qualification for the medically vulnerable subclass, and a means of identifying inmates who should be included in the subclass but are not captured by the code. The court ordered the parties to submit a notice that would describe any agreements on these matters and indicate whether court intervention is needed by June 2.

The court also found that while more than two weeks have passed since the May 12 temporary restraining order, there has not been a single release to home confinement. Therefore, it ordered defendants to either release to home confinement all those listed as eligible for home confinement or provide a safety reason against home confinement by June 4 to ensure full compliance with the order. Additionally, the court discussed with both parties its need to better understand the home confinement review process under the temporary restraining order and ordered submission of any agreement about a process to generate a random sample of the records by June 4. Finally, the court agreed with the plaintiffs that mistakes may have caused the denial of home confinement for certain individuals and ordered re-review for home confinement by June 9.

On May 29, the court addressed the plaintiff’s request to take similar action with respect to those inmates already determined to be appropriate for placement in a Residential Reentry Center (RRC). 2020 WL 2813072. Recognizing that the schedule for such placement is unclear and that social distancing may still be inadequate at a communal half-way house, the court granted the plaintiff’s request in part. The defendants were ordered to release to home confinement those who were approved for community placement at an RRC, as long as they did not have a violent offense of conviction, a sexually-related offense of conviction, or a high-risk assessment score, or provide a safety reason against home confinement by June 9.

On June 8, the plaintiffs moved for sanctions against the defendant, seeking an order that would preclude the defendants from disputing that FCI Danbury’s system for responding to sick call requests was inadequate and untimely.

In June, the named plaintiffs filed a voluntary dismissal and on June 15 the court dismissed their claims. On June 16, the plaintiffs filed an amended habeas petition with new named plaintiffs. The case was then referred to Judge Thomas O. Farrish for settlement purposes. Two plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their claims on July 29.

On July 27, the parties reported that they came to a settlement agreement and that they planned to file a joint motion to certify the settlement class by August 3. Under the agreement, once identified as medically vulnerable, the defendant will consider the individual's suitability for home confinement. A medical clinician either employed or appointed by the BOP will verify that all medical conditions are identified for the home confinement review, and the review process will follow the standards previously outlined in the temporary restraining order, including speedy consideration for release to home confinement and substantial weight provided to each individual’s COVID risk factors. The agreement was tentatively scheduled to terminate on October 31, 2021. The plaintiffs filed a motion to certify the class for settlement purposes on August 3, which was granted on August 11. 2020 WL 4605224.

On August 25, an individual filed a motion to intervene, which was denied by the court three days later because the individual was not incarcerated at Danbury FCI, was not a member of the provisionally certified class, had no interest in a settlement between the Warden at FCI Danbury and a class of inmates at that facility, and a habeas relief was not available to those housed at BOP facilities not located within the District of Connecticut.

Between the end of August and beginning of September, multiple putative class members filed objections to the settlement.

On September 11, the plaintiffs submitted a motion for approval of a class action settlement, which required the defendants to adhere to the procedures and standards established in the temporary restraining order and provide for expedited consideration for home confinement, with jurisdiction retained by the court to enforce the settlement.

After a fairness hearing, the court approved the class action settlement agreement on September 18.

In light of the Court's approval of the settlement and its findings at the hearing, it disposed of the remaining pending motions, including the motion for preliminary injunction and the motion for sanctions. The court also denied multiple emergency motions to intervene, amend the complaint, or for bail because the filers either were or would become members of the class and if not, disposing of the action in their absences would not impair or impede their ability to protect their interests.

On October 12, pursuant to the settlement agreement, the parties jointly filed a motion to dismiss the case. The court retained jurisdiction over the settlement to the extent necessary to enforce its terms.

On October 28, one of the proposed intervenors appealed the denial of their motion. The appeal has not been assigned a USCA Case Number yet.

On December 6, the plaintiffs moved to enforce the settlement agreement and require the defendants to immediately release medically vulnerable class members who were approved for home confinement. The court granted the motion on December 11, finding that the defendants breached the agreement. 2020 WL 7297016. The court stated that the defendants were barred from delaying the transfer of any class member beyond fourteen days without communicating with the plaintiffs' counsel within 5 days of the fourteen-day period.

On December 17, the plaintiffs moved again to enforce the settlement agreement, which the court granted in part and denied in part on January 19, 2021. 2021 WL 165015. The court ordered that the parties meet and identify specific class members whose cases warranted re-review and ordered that the defendants re-review the identified inmates for home confinement within fourteen days. On the same day, an inmate at a prison in Louisiana filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied by the court on February 11 due to lack of jurisdiction, and a notice of appeal. The appeal has not been assigned a USCA Case Number yet.

A status conference wasscheduled for April 9. The case is ongoing.

Averyn Lee - 09/24/2020
Chandler Hart-McGonigle - 11/30/2020
Zofia Peach - 04/02/2021


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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
COVID-19
Mitigation Granted
Mitigation Requested
Release Granted
Release Requested
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Bathing and hygiene
Conditions of confinement
Sanitation / living conditions
Totality of conditions
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Mental health care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Habeas
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
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 Federal Correctional Institution at Danbury
Plaintiff Description Four detainees held at the Federal Correctional Center seeking immediate transfer of medically vulnerable individuals and implementation of safety measures to lower the risk of COVID-19. The plaintiffs proposed a class of all detainees held or to be held in the custody of FCI Danbury, and a subclass of detainees aged 50 and over, or those medically vulnerable.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization (Yale)
Legal Services/Legal Aid
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Granted
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2020 - n/a
Filed 04/27/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
D. Conn.
04/01/2021
3:20-cv-00569
PC-CT-0021-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
not recorded
Class Action Filed Against Bureau of Prisons for Gross Failures in COVID-19 Response at FCI Danbury
PC-CT-0021-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
D. Conn.
04/27/2020
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C §2241 and Request for Emergency Order of Enlargement [ECF# 1 & 1-1 to 1-14]
PC-CT-0021-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Conn.
04/30/2020
Petitioners' Emergency Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction and Memorandum of Law in Support [ECF# 14, 15 (& 15-1 to 15-8)]
PC-CT-0021-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Conn.
05/05/2020
Respondents' Motion to Dismiss Petitioners' Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 24, 24-1, 24-2]
PC-CT-0021-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Conn.
05/07/2020
Petitioners' Supplemental Memorandum and Second Supplemental Memorandum in Support of Motion for Temporary Restraining Order [ECF# 26 (& 26-1 to 26-5), 27 (& 27-1 to 27-6)]
PC-CT-0021-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Conn.
05/12/2020
Ruling On Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 30] (2020 WL 2405350)
PC-CT-0021-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Conn.
05/15/2020
Protective Order [ECF# 37]
PC-CT-0021-0007.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Conn.
05/28/2020
Conference Memorandum and Order [ECF# 68]
PC-CT-0021-0008.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Conn.
05/29/2020
Order [ECF# 70] (2020 WL 2813072)
PC-CT-0021-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Conn.
06/08/2020
Petitioners' Motion for Sanctions and Supporting Memorandum of Law [ECF# 83 (& 83-1 to 83-4)]
PC-CT-0021-0010.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Conn.
06/16/2020
Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2241 and Request for Emergency Order of Enlargement [ECF# 111 (& 111-1 to 111-14) ]
PC-CT-0021-0011.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Conn.
07/27/2020
Settlement Agreement [ECF# 134-1]
PC-CT-0021-0012.pdf | Detail
D. Conn.
08/03/2020
Petitioner's Motion to Certify Settlement Class and for Appointment of Class Representative and Class Counsel [ECF# 133 and 134 (& 134-1 to 134-4)]
PC-CT-0021-0013.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Conn.
08/11/2020
Order Certifying Class for Settlement Purposes Only and Ordering Notice [ECF# 141, 141-1] (2020 WL 4605224)
PC-CT-0021-0014.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Conn.
09/11/2020
Memorandum in Support of Motion for Approval of Settlement [ECF# 218]
PC-CT-0021-0015.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Conn.
12/11/2020
Order of Specific Performance [ECF# 289] (2020 WL 7297016)
PC-CT-0021-0016.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Conn.
12/22/2020
Memorandum Regarding Order Requiring Specific Performance of Class Settlement Agreement [ECF# 304]
PC-CT-0021-0017.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Conn.
01/19/2021
Order of Specific Performance of Class Settlement Agreement [ECF# 332] (2021 WL 165015)
PC-CT-0021-0018.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Farrish, Thomas O. Court not on record show/hide docs
PC-CT-0021-9000
Shea, Michael Peter (D. Conn.) show/hide docs
PC-CT-0021-0005 | PC-CT-0021-0007 | PC-CT-0021-0008 | PC-CT-0021-0009 | PC-CT-0021-0014 | PC-CT-0021-0016 | PC-CT-0021-0017 | PC-CT-0021-0018 | PC-CT-0021-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bialek, Tessa (Connecticut) show/hide docs
PC-CT-0021-0001 | PC-CT-0021-0003 | PC-CT-0021-0004 | PC-CT-0021-0010 | PC-CT-0021-0011 | PC-CT-0021-0012 | PC-CT-0021-0013 | PC-CT-0021-0015 | PC-CT-0021-9000
Doherty, Fiona (Connecticut) show/hide docs
PC-CT-0021-9000
Golub, David S (Connecticut) show/hide docs
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Harrington, Alexandra (Connecticut) show/hide docs
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Harrington, Alexandra (New York) show/hide docs
PC-CT-0021-0013 | PC-CT-0021-9000
Levine, Jonathan M. (Connecticut) show/hide docs
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Orihuela, Marisol (Connecticut) show/hide docs
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Russell, Sarah French (Connecticut) show/hide docs
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Shroff, Zal Kotval (Kansas) show/hide docs
PC-CT-0021-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Durham, John H. (Connecticut) show/hide docs
PC-CT-0021-0006
Howard, Darrin (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PC-CT-0021-0012 | PC-CT-0021-0013
Hughes, John B. (Connecticut) show/hide docs
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McConaghy, Michelle Lynn (Connecticut) show/hide docs
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Nelson, David Christopher (Connecticut) show/hide docs
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Orticelli, Jillian R. (Connecticut) show/hide docs
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Putnam, Nathaniel Michael (Connecticut) show/hide docs
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Other Lawyers Near, Allison (Connecticut) show/hide docs
PC-CT-0021-9000

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