[Pnews] Judge approves expanding class action suit against solitary confinement to include prisoners transferred out of Pelican Bay

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sat Feb 14 17:37:26 EST 2015


          Solitary Confinement Suit Will Be Amended

By KATHERINE PROCTOR*
http://www.courthousenews.com/2015/02/13/solitary-confinement-suit-will-be-amended.htm
2/13/2015 *

      SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A federal judge tentatively granted a motion 
by the Center for Constitutional Rights to file a supplementary 
complaint to its class action on behalf of hundreds of prisoners in 
prolonged solitary confinement at California's Pelican Bay prison.

      The May 2012 lawsuit claims that prolonged solitary confinement in 
state prisons Security Housing Units violates Eighth Amendment 
prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, and that the prisons' 
lack of meaningful review for such placement violates Fifth Amendment 
guarantees of due process.
      The Center for Constitutional Rights defined prolonged solitary 
confinement as lasting more than 10 years.
      CCR president Jules Lobel said in the Thursday hearing that 240 
Pelican Bay prisoners fall into this category.
      Lobel asked U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken for permission to 
amend the complaint to add a class of prisoners recently transferred 
under the state's Step Down Program from solitary confinement at Pelican 
Bay to solitary confinement at the state prison at Tehachapi.
      Adriano Hrvatin, of the state's justice department, represented 
the prison. He argued that the CCR's proposed class definition did not 
meet requirements of commonality and typicality, since "inmates are 
going to fall in and out of the class with the passage of time."
      Lobel responded that though prolonged solitary confinement is not 
always a permanent state, it "causes lasting, permanent damage to the 
person," and there must be a "procedural mechanism" to make prisoners' 
claims heard, even if they are transferred or released.
      He also argued that the class representatives, once designated, 
should be allowed to continue to represent the class even if they cease 
to be one of the class's members.
      Wilken responded that attorneys in similar past situations have 
simply found new class representatives.
      Wilken proposed that the trial be bifurcated - a trial in December 
to determine whether the Pelican Bay prisoners' confinement was cruel 
and unusual, and if it was found to be so, the CCR would then file the 
supplementary complaint.
      The CCR intends to file for summary judgment on July 2.
      Pelican Bay is a "supermax" prison in Crescent City.

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