Part 5 of Managing the Risks of COVID-19 in the County Jail Setting

June 8, 2020

Recent COVID-19 Prison Litigation – UPDATED

Mays, et al. v. Dart, et al.

[DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this blog post should be construed as legal or medical advice. Be sure to follow all CDC, IDPH, and IDOC guidance regarding the current COVID-19 pandemic. HC&B is also available for consultation regarding risk management and litigation in this uncertain time.]

Back on April 28, we discussed the District Court’s entry of a preliminary injunction against the Cook County Sheriff in Mays v. Dart, et al. regarding implementation of COVID-19 protocols at the Cook County Adult Detention Center. We have continued to monitor that case as it makes its way through the Courts. (see our previous installments here and here). The Sheriff has appealed the District Court’s ruling on the preliminary injunction, challenging both the injunction and the Court’s preliminary certification of the class plaintiffs. The Seventh Circuit has questioned whether it has jurisdiction to hear the question of the class certification, and has requested briefing from the Plaintiffs on the issue. The Court may well limit its consideration of the issues to the entry of the preliminary injunction, rather than address the thornier issue regarding the propriety of the certification of the class plaintiffs.

At the District Court level, the Hon. Judge Matthew F. Kennelly (as the emergency judge) issued an order denying the Sheriff’s request that the preliminary injunction be stayed pending the Sheriff’s appeal to the Seventh Circuit. The Court defended its entry of the preliminary injunction, finding that the Sheriff did not have a “strong” likelihood of prevailing on appeal, and that neither the Sheriff nor the public at large were likely to suffer harm by the enforcement of the preliminary injunction during the pendency of the Sheriff’s appeal.

Judge Kennelly further denied Plaintiffs’ requests for expedited discovery, and the case has been transferred to the Hon. Judge Robert W. Gettleman as the assigned judge. Judge Gettleman has allowed the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 700 to intervene in the case to represent the interests of the correctional officers and staff at the Jail. The parties continue to dispute whether expedited discovery is necessary, and discovery matters have been referred to the Hon. Magistrate Judge M. David Weissman for management. Judge Gettleman has otherwise ordered the completion of discovery by September 30, 2020. It is clear that this case is far from over, as the case continues its path on appeal and in the District Court.

We at HC&B are closely watching this and other cases and the likely effects on county jails and their populations as a result of pandemic-related litigation. If there are further developments of note, please watch this space for updates. The experienced attorneys at HC&B can assist in providing both legal and practical advice in managing the risks of the current pandemic, and preparing for and defending against anticipated litigation. We look forward to meeting the challenges presented by the current pandemic, and providing what assistance we can in keeping our first responders, corrections personnel, law enforcement and the public-at-large safe during this time of crisis. Please contact us if you have any concerns regarding the current pandemic, or questions regarding preparedness for the legal fallout from this unprecedented crisis.

Stay safe,

The Team at HC&B

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