University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Wragg v. Ortiz PC-NJ-0025
Docket / Court 1:20-cv-05496 ( D.N.J. )
State/Territory New Jersey
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Prison Conditions
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This class action was brought on behalf of all people confined at Federal Correctional Institution Fort Dix in New Jersey who are vulnerable to COVID-19 because of their age or underlying health conditions. Petitioners sought temporary enlargement of custody for all class members, ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This class action was brought on behalf of all people confined at Federal Correctional Institution Fort Dix in New Jersey who are vulnerable to COVID-19 because of their age or underlying health conditions. Petitioners sought temporary enlargement of custody for all class members, or if temporary enlargement is insufficient, the immediate release of all class members. The court denied the motion for preliminary injunction and dismissed the case on May 27, 2020. On June 10, the district court denied reconsideration of the order.


On May 4, 2020, the petitioners filed a class action lawsuit and petition for writs of habeas corpus in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and private counsel, the petitioners sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the warden at the Federal Correctional Institution ("FCI") at Fort Dix, under the federal habeas statute 28 U.S.C. § 2241, claiming that their custody violated the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Petitioners also filed suit under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, claiming that they were subject to unconstitutional conditions of confinement in violation of the Section 504 Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, which requires Fort Dix to reasonably accommodate people with disabilities. The case was assigned to Judge Renee Marie Bumb.

The petitioners alleged that the almost 3,000 people held at FCI-Fort Dix resided in units of up to 300 people, and that the warden had warned that “social distancing [was] not possible in this environment.” As of May 1, 2020, the BOP had reported 40 positive prisoner cases at Fort Dix, although petitioners estimated that the number of actual cases was significantly higher. The four named petitioners were all medically vulnerable due to underlying health conditions.

The petitioners sought to represent a class consisting of all current and future people in post-conviction custody at FCI-Fort Dix who are over the age of 50 or who experience medical conditions that make them uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19, including (a) lung disease, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (e.g. bronchitis or emphysema), or other chronic conditions associated with impaired lung function; (b) heart disease, such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease, or other chronic conditions associated with impaired heart function; (c) chronic liver or kidney disease (including hepatitis and dialysis patients); (d) diabetes or other endocrine disorders; (e) neurological and neurologic and neurodevelopment conditions, including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability, moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury; (f) hypertension; (g) compromised immune systems (such as from cancer, HIV, receipt of an organ or bone marrow transplant, as a side effect of medication, or other autoimmune disease); (h) blood disorders (including sickle cell disease); (i) inherited metabolic disorders; (j) history of stroke; (k) a developmental disability; (l) a current or recent (last two weeks) pregnancy; or (m) severe obesity. Petitioners also sought to represent a subclass consisting of all current and future people in post-conviction custody at Fort Dix who have qualifying disabilities within the meaning of the Rehabilitation Act.

Petitioners sought declaratory and injunctive relief. Specifically, petitioners requested temporary enlargement of custody (e.g., home confinement) or bail pending habeas corpus during the pendency of the petition for a writ of habeas corpus; if temporary enlargement did not bring the conditions at Fort Dix into compliance with the Eighth Amendment and the Rehabilitation Act, petitioners sought immediate release for class members.

The petitioners cited to Wilson v. Williams as an exemplar case in which the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio ordered enlargement of custody for medically vulnerable prisoners at FCI Elkton pending resolution of a class habeas petition on the merits, because of the outbreak already raging at the facility.

On May 6, 2020, petitioners filed an emergency motion for a preliminary injunction ordering temporary enlargement of custody (or bail pending habeas corpus) of petitioners and class members during the pendency of the petition for writs of habeas corpus. On May 18, 2020, respondents filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim, as well as an opposition to petitioners' motion for a preliminary injunction.

On May 27, the court denied the motion for preliminary injunction and granted the motion to dismiss, dismissing the case without prejudice. 2020 WL 2745247.

The plaintiffs subsequently requested reconsideration on June 2, which the court denied on June 10. The court noted that they "afforded Petitioners an opportunity
to put forward more facts to back up their conclusory, and to a degree contradictory, accusations, but they have not done so." They agreed with the defendant that the plaintiffs were attempting a "discovery fishing expedition."

As of October 26, 2020, there has been no further action on the docket.

Elena Malik - 06/01/2020
Averyn Lee - 06/12/2020
Justin Hill - 10/26/2020


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
disability, unspecified
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Bathing and hygiene
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Sanitation / living conditions
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Totality of conditions
Medical/Mental Health
COVID-19 Release Denied
COVID-19 Release Requested
Medical care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Habeas
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Habeas Corpus, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241-2253; 2254; 2255
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) Warden at Fort Dix
Plaintiff Description All current and future people in post-conviction custody at FCI Fort Dix who are over the age of 50 or who experience medical conditions that make them uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 05/04/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Docket(s)
1:20-cv-05496 (D.N.J.)
PC-NJ-0025-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/10/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint—Class Action for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief and Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus [ECF# 1 (& 1-1 to 1-8)]
PC-NJ-0025-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/04/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Motion and Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 9 (& 9-1 to 9-3)]
PC-NJ-0025-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/06/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Motion to Dismiss (Part 1/2) [ECF# 28, 28-1 to 28-3]
PC-NJ-0025-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/18/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Motion to Dismiss (Part 2/2) [ECF# 28-4 to 28-9]
PC-NJ-0025-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/18/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum of Law in Further Support of Petitioners' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction and in Opposition to Respondents' Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 30 (& 30-1 to 30-7)]
PC-NJ-0025-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/20/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Respondents' Reply Brief in Support of Their Motions to Dismiss [ECF# 33, 33-1, 33-2, 33-3]
PC-NJ-0025-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/21/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [ECF# 40] (2020 WL 2745247) (D.N.J.)
PC-NJ-0025-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/27/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
[Letter Requesting Reconsideration] [ECF# 49 (incl. 49-1 to 49-3)]
PC-NJ-0025-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/02/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [ECF# 55] (2020 WL 3074026) (D.N.J.)
PC-NJ-0025-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/10/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Bumb, Renee Marie (D.N.J.) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0025-0005 | PC-NJ-0025-0009 | PC-NJ-0025-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Borden, Tess Meiling (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0025-0001 | PC-NJ-0025-0002 | PC-NJ-0025-0003 | PC-NJ-0025-0008 | PC-NJ-0025-9000
Davy, James (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0025-0001 | PC-NJ-0025-0003 | PC-NJ-0025-0008
Gay, Faith (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0025-0003 | PC-NJ-0025-0008
Ghosh, Shomik (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0025-0003 | PC-NJ-0025-0008
Halligan, Caitlin J. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0025-0003 | PC-NJ-0025-0008
Hu, Kevin (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0025-0003 | PC-NJ-0025-0008
LoCicero, Jeanne (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0025-0001 | PC-NJ-0025-0002 | PC-NJ-0025-0003 | PC-NJ-0025-0008 | PC-NJ-0025-9000
Margolin, Joshua S (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0025-0003 | PC-NJ-0025-0008
Shine, Oscar (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0025-0003 | PC-NJ-0025-0008
Stiegler, Matthew (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0025-0001 | PC-NJ-0025-0003 | PC-NJ-0025-0008
Defendant's Lawyers Basiak, John Francis (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0025-0004 | PC-NJ-0025-0006 | PC-NJ-0025-0007 | PC-NJ-0025-9000
Carpenito, Craig (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0025-0004 | PC-NJ-0025-0006 | PC-NJ-0025-0007
Conye, Mark E. (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0025-0004 | PC-NJ-0025-0006 | PC-NJ-0025-0007 | PC-NJ-0025-9000
Pascal, Elizabeth Ann (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0025-0004 | PC-NJ-0025-0006 | PC-NJ-0025-0007 | PC-NJ-0025-9000
Ruymann, John Andrew (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0025-0004 | PC-NJ-0025-0006 | PC-NJ-0025-0007 | PC-NJ-0025-9000
Stinson, John T. (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PC-NJ-0025-0004 | PC-NJ-0025-0006 | PC-NJ-0025-0007 | PC-NJ-0025-9000

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -