On October 13, 2005, current and former female prisoners filed a class-action lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan against the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC).
Plaintiffs were originally members of a certified class-action suit pending in Michigan state court, Neal v. MDOC, LC No. 96-006986-CZ. [See PC-MI-0021
of this collection for a summary of the Neal case]. The Neal plaintiffs alleged violations of their state civil rights under the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act ("ELCRA") for sexual abuse, discrimination and other gender-based degrading treatment by MDOC staff.
During the Neal litigation, an amendment to ELCRA was passed that excluded prisoners from the Act's protection against discrimination. M.C.L. §37.2102(1). On February 10, 2005, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the claims of the Neal plaintiffs that arose after the effective date of the ELCRA amendment were no longer viable, as the amendment excluded prisoner claims from the Act's protection. Plaintiffs filed this action to challenge the constitutionality of the ELCRA amendment and to reassert their claims, now under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983. Plaintiffs sought injunctive and declaratory relief, monetary damages and class certification.
Following the filing of a first amended complaint, defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim and for a more definite statement. The District Court (John Corbett O'Meara) denied those motions on May 15, 2006. On July 14, 2006, plaintiffs filed a motion for partial summary judgment, on the issue of the constitutionality of the ELCRA amendment. Defendants countered by filing a cross-motion for summary judgment. On January 23, 2007, the District Court granted plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment, holding that the ELCRA amendment violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment was denied. Mason v. Granholm, 2007 WL 201008. The Court denied a stay pending appeal, 2007 WL 734990 (Mar. 07, 2007).
The Defendants filed a notice of appeal, however, on July 26, 2007 the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dismissed the appeal, because the District Court had only granted partial, and not total, summary judgment.
On August 31, 2007, the District Court denied class certification, holding that both liability and damages were too individuated to be appropriate for class resolution. 2007 WL 2541769. The same day, the Court also granted two individual Defendants' motions for summary judgment, and dismissed them from the case, one because no named plaintiff had been housed at the facility he worked for, and another on statute of limitations grounds. 2007 WL 2541431. (The Court denied reconsideration two months later, 2007 WL 3121570 (Oct. 23, 2007).) On June 20, 2008, the court dismissed several other Defendants because the claims against them were barred by the statute of limitations. 2008 WL 2513904. In a similar ruling on September 25, 2008, the Court dismissed several plaintiffs for the same reason. 2008 WL 4387940.
On Defendants' motion, the Plaintiffs's claims under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Punishment (CAT), were both dismissed on August 12, 2008: the District Court held that since neither was self-executing, and no implementing statute had been enacted, neither was "binding on this court." 2008 WL 3538981.
The case was set for trial in early 2009, but then that date was shifted to October 2009. Before that trial could be held, the matter settled. The settlement was entered in Neal v. Mich. Department of Corrections--it was for $100 million. In this case, on September 28, 2009, the parties agreed that the District Court's January 23, 2007 Opinion and Order declaring the amendment to ELCRA unconstitutional would be the final declaratory judgment, and that the parties would bear their own costs.Joshua Arocho - 07/16/2012