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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Disability Law Center v. Massachusetts Department of Correction PC-MA-0026
Docket / Court 1:07-cv-10463-MLW ( D. Mass. )
State/Territory Massachusetts
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Prison Conditions
Special Collection Post-PLRA Jail and Prison Private Settlement Agreements
Solitary confinement
Attorney Organization NDRN/Protection & Advocacy Organizations
Case Summary
On March 8, 2007, the Disability Law Center ("DLC") filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §12131, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §794 against the ... read more >
On March 8, 2007, the Disability Law Center ("DLC") filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §12131, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §794 against the Massachusetts Department of Correction ("DOC"). The DLC is the agency designated by the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act, 42 U.S.C. §§10801 et seq. to pursue legal, administrative, and other appropriate remedies to ensure that individuals with mental illnesses confined in Massachusetts prisons are protected from abuse and neglect.

The DLC claimed that the DOC failed to take into account mental illness when subjecting prisoners to long periods of disciplinary and other forms of isolation and segregation. The plaintiff asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that isolation of mentally ill prisoners constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and that DOC's failure to address the problem violates both the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and the American with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12131, et seq.

The parties began settlement negotiations in November 2007 and in 2008 sought mediation from the court. Discovery and litigation were generally stayed. For two years, the parties were unsuccessful in their negotiations, and on August 12, 2010, the court lifted the stay. Disability Law Ctr. v. Massachusetts Dep't of Correction, 2010 WL 3199883 (D. Mass. Aug. 12, 2010).

Extensive discovery ensued, and eventually, the parties renewed negotiations. In December 2011, the parties reached a settlement and sought court approval. On April 12, 2012, after a lengthy exploration of judicial authority to approve private settlements in which the defendant did not admit liability, Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf approved the settlement, holding that doing so would not violate the PLRA. The settlement agreement established detailed procedures, training, time limits, and recordkeeping to ensure that mentally ill prisoners are not placed in isolation or segregation without a full evaluation and determination that such placement will not cause further injury. Disability Law Ctr. v. Massachusetts Dep't of Correction, 960 F. Supp. 2d 271, 273 (D. Mass. 2012).

The court retained the case on its docket, on hold but ready to be revived in the event of a claimed breach of the settlement agreement, for three years, with an additional two years possible.

Denise Heberle - 04/16/2012
Jessica Kincaid - 07/15/2014

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Follow recruitment, hiring, or promotion protocols
Goals and Timekeeping
Mental impairment
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Administrative segregation
Disciplinary procedures
Disciplinary segregation
Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)
Medical/Mental Health
Intellectual disability/mental illness dual diagnosis
Mental health care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Massachusetts Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description A not-for-profit Massachusetts corporation and the authorized protection and advocacy agency for Massachusetts under the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NDRN/Protection & Advocacy Organizations
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 2012 - 2017
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Links Cruel Confinement: Abuse, Discrimination and Death Within Alabama's Prisons
Written: Jun. 04, 2014
(Southern Poverty Law Center )
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

1:07-cv-10463-MLW (D. Mass.)
PC-MA-0026-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/18/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
PC-MA-0026-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/08/2007
Answer to Complaint
PC-MA-0026-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/07/2007
Memorandum and Order [Lifting Stay of Discovery] (2010 WL 3199883) (D. Mass.)
PC-MA-0026-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/12/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Disablity Law Center's Renewed Motion to Compel Production of Documents by UMCHP (D. Mass.)
PC-MA-0026-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/21/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement
PC-MA-0026-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/12/2011
Joint Motion to Approve Settlement Agreement
PC-MA-0026-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/12/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
[Transcript of Settlement Hearing]
PC-MA-0026-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/09/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Approving Settlement (960 F.Supp.2d 271) (D. Mass.)
PC-MA-0026-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/12/2012
Judges Boal, Jennifer C. (D. Mass.) [Magistrate]
PC-MA-0026-0003 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Wolf, Mark Lawrence (D. Mass.)
PC-MA-0026-0005 | PC-MA-0026-0006 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Baker, Robert B. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0001 | PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Fleischner, Robert D. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0001 | PC-MA-0026-0004 | PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Glassman, Richard M. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0001 | PC-MA-0026-0004 | PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Guizzetti, Cynthia M. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0001 | PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Head, Carol E. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0004 | PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Hickey, Alison E (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Kurker, Allyson (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0001 | PC-MA-0026-0007
Murphy, Nancy J. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Pingeon, James R. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0001 | PC-MA-0026-0004 | PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Rollins, James S (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0004 | PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Silveira, Alison Hickey (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0004 | PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Svirida, Nancy (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0001 | PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Talley, Karen O. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0001 | PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Tenneriello, Bonita (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0001 | PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Thompson, Joel (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0001 | PC-MA-0026-0007
Walker, Leslie (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0001 | PC-MA-0026-0004 | PC-MA-0026-0007
Yamin, David (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0004 | PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Abeln, Anthony E. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Anderson, Charles W Jr. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0002 | PC-MA-0026-0004 | PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Bello, James A. (Massachusetts)
Grant, Sheryl (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0002 | PC-MA-0026-0004 | PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Quinn, Christopher (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Saltzman, William D (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0002 | PC-MA-0026-0004 | PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
White, Nancy Ankers (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0026-0002 | PC-MA-0026-0004 | PC-MA-0026-0007 | PC-MA-0026-9000
Other Lawyers Hughes, Stephen E (Massachusetts)

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