In 1996, female prisoners filed a complaint on behalf of themselves and all similarly-situated female prisoners against the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), its directors, and various wardens and deputies in the prison system. Plaintiffs the filed suit in the Washtenaw County (MI) circuit court specifically alleging eight causes of action based on the treatment of women prisoners in the state's prison system. Specifically, they alleged defendants': (1) failure to prevent and remedy sexual abuse and harassment of female prisoners deprived those prisoners of their rights to privacy and bodily integrity; (2) unreasonable searches and seizures, deprivations of liberty, and invasions of privacy and bodily integrity; (3) unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain and suffering and emotional distress and cruel and unusual punishment under the Michigan Constitution; (4) failures to prevent and remedy sexual abuse, harassment, retaliation, and violations of privacy violated equal protection; (5) employment and assignment of male officers in women's prisons, along with the failure to remedy sexual assaults and harassment, constituted sex discrimination and violated equal protection under the Michigan Constitution; (6) failure to prevent or remedy retaliation for reporting misconduct constituted a violation of free speech and association; and that the acts referenced in their complaint (7) violated the Michigan Civil Rights Act, MCL 37.2101 et seq.; and (8) constituted assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violations of the Michigan Constitution.
The trial court granted class certification in 1996. Defendants thereafter moved for summary disposition on the claims alleging violations of the state's Civil Rights Act (CRA), MCL 37.2101 et seq. The trial court denied the motion. The defendants appealed that decision, and the Michigan Court of Appeals decided both that issue and an issue related to subject-matter jurisdiction. Neal v Michigan Dep't of Corrections, 230 Mich App 202; 583 NW2d 249 (1998) (Neal I). Later, that court granted rehearing and issued a new opinion holding that the protections of the state's Civil Rights Act extend to prisoners, and that the circuit court had jurisdiction to consider plaintiffs' claims for declaratory and equitable relief.
Neal v Michigan Dep't of Corrections (On Rehearing), 232 Mich App 730; 592 NW2d 370 (1998) (Neal II). Neal II found that Michigan's correctional facilities are places of "public service" in which sex-based discrimination is prohibited under the Civil Rights Act, MCL 37.2101 et seq., and that the Civil Rights Act, MCL 37.2303(a), was intended to protect prisoners.
A special panel was later convened to resolve a conflict between Neal II and an earlier case, Doe v Dep't of Corrections, 236 Mich App 801; 601 NW2d 696 (1999). See Doe v Dep't of Corrections, 240 Mich App 199; 611 NW2d 1 (1999). The special panel found the rulings in Neal II to be persuasive and consistent with established rules of statutory construction. Id., at 201. The Legislature reacted by quickly amending the Civil Rights Act to make clear that its intent was never to include correctional facilities as places of "public service." The Michigan Supreme Court later denied defendants' application for leave to appeal Neal II. Neal v MI Dep't of Corrections, 467 Mich 857; 649 NW2d 82 (2002).
When the Neal case returned to the trial court, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, alleging the same eight causes of action. With the exception of one plaintiff, however, none of the original class representatives remained. Seventeen new women were added as representative plaintiffs. The factual bases for their individual claims were laid out in detail in the amended complaint. In addition, the amended complaint added nineteen new defendants (MDOC officials) to the case. The amended complaint included allegations at correctional facilities not identified in the original complaint. Defendants moved for partial summary disposition on several grounds, including the resolution of some claims in a separate case, also arguing that some plaintiffs had not complied with the state's Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), MCL 600.5501, and that the class should be de-certified in view of rulings made in a different case. Defendants additionally filed a separate motion for summary disposition.
Before the trial court decided any of defendants' motions, it permitted plaintiffs to file a second amended complaint to add allegations that the defendants who held supervisory positions aided and abetted civil rights violations, assisted or encouraged unlawful conduct and aided and incited others to violate class members' civil rights, and that the non-supervisory defendants interfered with plaintiffs' right to serve their sentences without discrimination. The trial court subsequently granted partial summary disposition to defendants, finding that it did not have subject-matter jurisdiction over any claims except those brought under the Civil Rights Act. The remainder of the claims had to be filed before the Court of Claims. The trial court denied defendants' motions for partial summary disposition on all other grounds and denied their motion to de-certify the Neal class. Defendants appealed the orders denying their motions.
In response to the trial court's order dismissing certain claims for want of subject matter jurisdiction, plaintiffs filed a complaint in the Court of Claims, Anderson v Michigan Dep't of Corrections, LC No. 03-000162-MZ, alleging the same claims that were dismissed from Neal. The newly filed case was consolidated with Neal. The trial court then certified the plaintiffs as a class in Anderson. Defendants appealed the grant of class certification in Anderson. The appeal was consolidated with the appeal in Neal.
On February 10, 2005, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued it unpublished per curiam ruling, which in part affirmed and in part reversed the trial court, remanding the case for further proceedings. It held that the defendants were entitled to summary disposition on the constitutional claims brought by plaintiffs against the individual defendants. The trial court correctly found, according to the appellate court, that defendants were not entitled to summary disposition on the plaintiffs' claims pleaded under the Civil Rights Act against individual defendants. Both Neal and Anderson were to be remanded in order for the trial court to hold hearings and make specific findings with respect to the elements necessary to support class certification on the record in both cases, but the defendants appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court.
On December 29, 2005, the Michigan Supreme Court issued a brief order remanding the consolidated case back to the intermediate appellate court, in order that it could consider and rule upon the defendants' argument regarding the applicability of the state's Prison Litigation Reform Act to preclude certain plaintiffs' claims. On remand, on February 23, 2006, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in an unpublished per curiam opinion that the plaintiffs' claims that accrued after the effective date (November 1, 1999) of the state's Prison Litigation Reform Act would be dismissed as to those plaintiffs who had not met the Act's requirement of exhaustion of administrative remedies. The case was remanded to the trial court to make this determination.
While the state litigation proceeded, a parallel federal case also existed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The plaintiffs in that case also included female MDOC prisoners. Private counsel represented the plaintiffs, who filed their federal case on March 27, 1996. The plaintiffs claimed violations of the Fourth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and asked for damages and injunctive relief. The claims rested upon allegations of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in Michigan's female prisons.
On February 4, 1997, U.S. District Judge John Corbett O'Meara granted defendants' motion to dismiss, in part, staying certain claims of the plaintiffs so that they could be pursued in administrative proceedings. On March 14, 1997, he denied the plaintiffs' request that their case be certified as a class action. These orders were unpublished, as was a June 16, 1997, ruling allowing the plaintiffs to amend the complaint. The defendants' summary judgment motions were denied in a July 28, 1997, unpublished order. Later entries in the PACER docket for this case show its' consolidation, for discovery purposes, in June 1998, with a separately-filed case in which the United States was a plaintiff and the state of Michigan the defendant.
During the next two years, according to docket entries, the parties engaged in substantial discovery efforts. The docket also reflects that, on March 7, 2000, Judge O'Meara dismissed the MDOC and a number of individual defendants, pursuant to the plaintiffs' stipulation. Settlement conferences occurred during this time period. According to a statement made in an unrelated case, Everson v. Michigan Department of Corrections, 222 F. Supp. 864 (E.D. MI. 2002) (District Judge Avern Cohn), we know that plaintiffs' monetary claims were settled for $3,787,000.00 with $2,390,700.00 being distributed among 31 named female inmates. The injunctive relief claims were also settled, and the Everson case mentions that that portion of the settlement is described, in part, in the 2000 Annual Report of the MDOC available at http://www.michigan.gov/documents/2000annualreport-2420-7.pdf. That report states, in part: "Both lawsuits have resulted in a number of major changes in the way female prisoners and staff interact both in prisons and corrections centers. They resulted in revisions to policies dealing with sexual harassment and misconduct, including combining several of these policies; screening of staff...; a requirement for male officers to "knock and announce" their presence in any areas where inmates could be in a state of undress; a committee to review retaliation charges against staff; uniforms for female prisoners (as well as for all prisoners); and exploration of the feasibility of excluding males from working in female housing units." 2000 Annual Report of the MDOC at p. 71-72.
We currently do not have many documents from the federal case; however, those we have show that on August 17, 2000, Judge O'Meara conditionally dismissed the federal case in view of the parties' joint motion based upon a settlement agreement. The dismissal was conditioned upon the defendants' substantial compliance with the settlements' terms. We do not have a copy of the agreement. Still later, on February 19, 2003, the parties filed a stipulation for partial dismissal pursuant to a previous settlement. Judge O'Meara's unpublished order of April 25, 2007, noted that the defendants had attested to their assignment of only female officers to housing units in facilities covered by the settlement agreement, so that dismissal was appropriate.
We have no further information on this case.Mike Fagan - 04/29/2008