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Case Name Brown v. Warren JC-NJ-0027
Docket / Court 1:20-cv-07907-NLH-KMW ( D.N.J. )
State/Territory New Jersey
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This putative class action was filed pro se by eight inmates in the Cumberland County Correctional Facility on June 26, 2020. The plaintiffs were later appointed legal counsel and, in an amended complaint, sought safety and testing remedies in light of COVID-19. The parties later ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This putative class action was filed pro se by eight inmates in the Cumberland County Correctional Facility on June 26, 2020. The plaintiffs were later appointed legal counsel and, in an amended complaint, sought safety and testing remedies in light of COVID-19. The parties later agreed on the appointment of a Special Master. As of October 2021, the Special Master has filed two reports and recommendations regarding the jail's COVID-19 testing procedures and cleaning supplies. The case is ongoing.


This putative class action was filed in forma pauperis in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in response to the COVID-19 procedures in the Cumberland County Correctional Facility on June 26, 2020, by five pre-trial detainees and three post-conviction inmates on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated plaintiffs. The plaintiffs sued the warden and assistant warden of the facility, in addition to the deputy county administrator, for violations of the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause and the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and usual punishment in light of the facility's COVID-19 protocols. The case was assigned to Judge Noel L. Hillman.

The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants recklessly failed to mitigate the risk of the virus to the health and safety of the pretrial inmates, in contravention to the Due Process Clause. The plaintiffs also alleged that the defendants violated the Eighth Amendment by being deliberately indifferent to an unreasonable risk of serious damage to the convicted incarcerated inmates through a failure to test for the virus and a failure to provide personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies. The plaintiffs requested class certification, with the class consisting of all persons confined, in the present or in the future, at the Cumberland County facility. They divided the class into two subclasses: persons confined pre-trial and those confined in pursuant to a conviction.

The plaintiffs requested injunctive relief or a writ of habeas corpus requiring the defendants to reduce the inmate population and to ensure that each remaining inmate be housed in an individual room. They also requested that the Court appoint an expert to make recommendations regarding which class members should be released from confinement. The plaintiffs further requested increased supplies, including hand soap, paper towels, toilet paper, facial tissue, and hand sanitizer. To prevent further transmission, the plaintiffs requested immediate testing for those displaying symptoms of COVID-19 and those exposed to anyone who has tested positive for the virus. The plaintiffs requested that the Court ensure that individuals who have tested positive or have been exposed to the virus be properly quarantined in a non-punitive setting, for medical requests to be answered within an hour, and for an independent monitor to ensure compliance with each of these conditions. Lastly, the plaintiffs requested the full amount of the COVID-19 grant fund at the jail in the amount of $3.4 million, in addition to another $62 million in damages to be shared equally among the class members.

On July 16, 2020, the Court determined that the complaint stated a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and that the action warranted appointment of counsel from the civil pro bono panel. On September 21, the Court ordered the appointment of the Ferrara Law Firm to represent the remaining plaintiffs in the action. On November 20, the Court granted permission for the Ferrara Law Firm to withdraw from the case and for Fox Rothschild LLP to be appointed new counsel in the matter.

On January 29, 2021, four of the original plaintiffs being held pre-trial filed an amended complaint on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated plaintiffs against the deputy warden and acting warden of the Cumberland County Department of Corrections. The plaintiffs reasserted their request for class certification with two subclasses, as in the original complaint. The amended complaint focused on four issues: the failure of the jail to provide adequate COVID-19 testing, the lack of access to personal protective equipment, the lack of hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies, and the jail's failure to implement social distancing policies. The plaintiffs again sued under the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments and added another cause of action under Article I of the New Jersey Constitution, which protects inmates from cruel and unusual punishment.

In the amended complaint, the plaintiffs requested that the Court declare the defendants in violation of the U.S. and New Jersey Constitutions and again requested an independent monitor be appointed to monitor jail conditions. The plaintiffs also again asked for injunctive relief, in which they requested that the Court require the jail to provide N95 masks to each inmate, to require masks in all common areas, to implement physical distancing, to provide each inmate with hand soap and sanitizer, to provide adequate cleaning supplies, to conduct immediate COVID-19 testing for all inmates and staff, and to ensure that individuals having COVID-19 or having been exposed to the virus be quarantined in a non-punitive setting.

On the same day they filed their amended complaint, the plaintiffs also moved for a preliminary injunction on an order to show cause. The plaintiffs sought immediate relief, including N95 masks, a cleaning service or additional cleaning materials, nutritious food, social distancing, testing for COVID-19 exposure, and a neutral monitor to inspect the jail and recommend to the court other steps to be taken to protect the inmates. On February 1 2021, the Court ordered defendants to show cause why an order should not be issued providing the plaintiffs with their requested preliminary relief.

On May 13, the parties entered into a consent order after the Court conducted several evidentiary hearings. The plaintiffs and defendants agreed to add an additional inmate as a plaintiff and Cumberland County, New Jersey as a defendant. The parties additionally agreed that all relief would be in the form of class relief and that the Court would appoint a Special Master, to be paid for by Cumberland County, who would file a report regarding the adequacy of the COVID-19 procedures at the jail. The procedures under review would include COVID-19 testing and contract tracing, quarantining and isolation practices, the availability of personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, and social distancing measures. The consent order provided that the appointed Special Master would file an initial report with recommendations within 45 days of the appointment. The Court appointed William J. Hughes, Jr. as Special Master on May 17, 2021. On July 2, 2021, the Court granted an additional 35 days for the Special Master to file his report.

On June 15, 2021, the Special Master filed a partial initial report and recommendation with the Court. The report focused on the narrow question of the procedures used to segregate, isolate, and quarantine inmates who are suspected of having COVID-19, have been exposed to the virus, or test positive for the virus. The Special Master recommended that the jail develop a formal written policy addressing the jail's response to COVID-19, containing procedures for testing, isolation, and quarantining. The report recommended that all new inmates be tested and that the jail create procedures to test symptomatic existing inmates. The Special Master also recommended required quarantining for inmates testing positive and that all who have been exposed to the virus are isolated from other inmates. The report recommended a wristband system for staff to identify isolated and quarantined inmates, with different bands for those who have tested positive and those who have been exposed to the virus.

On August 4, 2021, the Special Master filed a second partial initial report and recommendation with the Court. This report focused on the jail's use of Simple Green Cleaning Solution to protect against COVID-19, despite the fact that it does not protect against the virus. The report recommended that the jail immediately cease using the solution and that the jail be required to implement an effective disinfectant within 48 hours. The Special Master also recommended that the jail be required to stock storage lockers in each area of the jail holding inmates with cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment, including masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, disinfectant, and soap.

The case is ongoing.

Nicholas Gillan - 10/22/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Content of Injunction
Monitor/Master
Preliminary relief granted
COVID-19
Mitigation Granted
Mitigation Requested
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Bathing and hygiene
Conditions of confinement
Sanitation / living conditions
Totality of conditions
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Cumberland County
Cumberland County Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Eight inmates in the Cumberland County Jail on behalf of themselves and all similarly situated individuals
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Pending
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filed 06/26/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
D.N.J.
09/27/2021
1:20-cv-07907-NLH-KMW
JC-NJ-0027-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D.N.J.
06/26/2020
Complaint [ECF# 1]
JC-NJ-0027-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.N.J.
06/30/2020
Opinion [ECF# 2] (2020 WL 3567249)
JC-NJ-0027-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.N.J.
07/16/2020
Order [ECF# 7]
JC-NJ-0027-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.N.J.
01/29/2021
First Amended Class Action Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 43]
JC-NJ-0027-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.N.J.
01/29/2021
Brief in Support of Order to Show Cause for Immediate Temporary and Preliminary Injunctive Relief [ECF# 44-1]
JC-NJ-0027-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.N.J.
02/01/2021
Order to Show Cause Seeking Preliminary Injunctive Relief [ECF# 47]
JC-NJ-0027-0007.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.N.J.
04/19/2021
Plaintiffs' Pre Hearing Memorandum [ECF# 87]
JC-NJ-0027-0008.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.N.J.
05/13/2021
Consent Order for Appointment of a Federal Rue 53 Master and Other Relief [ECF# 126]
JC-NJ-0027-0009.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.N.J.
06/15/2021
Partial Initial Report and Recommendation of the Special Master [ECF# 146-1]
JC-NJ-0027-0010.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.N.J.
08/04/2021
Second Partial Initial Report and Recommendation of the Special Master (Urgent Action Required) [ECF# 156-1]
JC-NJ-0027-0011.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Donio, Ann Marie (D.N.J.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
JC-NJ-0027-9000
Hillman, Noel Lawrence (D.N.J.) show/hide docs
JC-NJ-0027-0003 | JC-NJ-0027-0004 | JC-NJ-0027-0007 | JC-NJ-0027-0009 | JC-NJ-0027-9000
Monitors/Masters Hughes, William J Jr (New Jersey) show/hide docs
JC-NJ-0027-0010 | JC-NJ-0027-0011 | JC-NJ-0027-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Confoy, Karen A (New Jersey) show/hide docs
JC-NJ-0027-0001 | JC-NJ-0027-0006 | JC-NJ-0027-0008 | JC-NJ-0027-0009 | JC-NJ-0027-9000
Ferrara, Michael A Jr (New Jersey) show/hide docs
JC-NJ-0027-9000
Kalish, Paul W (New Jersey) show/hide docs
JC-NJ-0027-0001 | JC-NJ-0027-0006 | JC-NJ-0027-0008 | JC-NJ-0027-0009 | JC-NJ-0027-9000
Pollock, Jeffrey Morrow (New Jersey) show/hide docs
JC-NJ-0027-0001 | JC-NJ-0027-0006 | JC-NJ-0027-0008 | JC-NJ-0027-0009 | JC-NJ-0027-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Zeff, Gregg L (New Jersey) show/hide docs
JC-NJ-0027-0009 | JC-NJ-0027-9000

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