Mays v. Dart

Decision Date27 April 2020
Docket NumberCase No. 20 C 2134
Citation456 F.Supp.3d 966
Parties Anthony MAYS, individually and on behalf of a class of similarly situated persons; and Judia Jackson, as next friend of Kenneth Foster, individually and on behalf of a class of similarly situated persons, Plaintiffs-Petitioners, v. Thomas DART, Defendant-Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois

Alexa Van Brunt, Locke E. Bowman, III, MacArthur Justice Center, Steven Grimes, Thomas Francis McAndrew, Winston & Strawn LLP, Stephen H. Weil, Sarah Copeland Grady, Loevy & Loevy, Chicago, IL, Alec Karakatsanis, Pro Hac Vice, Next Charles Lewis Gerstein, Pro Hac Vice, Civil Rights Corps, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs-Petitioners.

James Matthias Lydon, Robert Thomas Shannon, Adam Robert Vaught, Gretchen Harris Sperry, Lari Ann Dierks, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, Chicago, IL, for Defendant-Respondent.


MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge:1

Anthony Mays and Kenneth Foster, both of whom are detained at Cook County Jail while awaiting trial on criminal charges, have sued Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart, who operates the Jail, on behalf of a class of similarly situated persons. Mays and Foster allege the Sheriff has violated the constitutional rights of persons detained at the jail by failing to provide them with reasonably safe living conditions in the face of the current coronavirus pandemic. They assert claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and for writs of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241.

On April 9, 2020, the Court granted the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order in part. The Court directed the Sheriff to: (1) establish and implement, within two days' time, a policy requiring prompt coronavirus testing of detained persons with symptoms consistent with coronavirus disease; (2) within two days' time, eliminate the use of "bullpens" to hold groups of new detainees during the intake process; (3) begin to provide inmates and staff, within one day, soap and/or hand sanitizer sufficient to enable them to frequently clean their hands, and sanitation supplies sufficient to enable them to regularly sanitize surfaces in areas used in common; (4) establish and carry out, within two days' time, a policy requiring sanitation of all such surfaces between each use; and (5) within three days' time, distribute facemasks to all detained persons quarantined due to their exposure to a person exhibiting symptoms consistent with coronavirus disease. The Court overruled the plaintiffs' request for additional temporary relief, including a mandate for implementation of "social distancing" throughout the Jail and to provide facemasks to every detained person. The Court also concluded that the plaintiffs seeking habeas corpus relief had failed to exhaust available state court remedies.

The plaintiffs have now moved for entry of a preliminary injunction and other relief. They again seek writs of habeas corpus, based on newly discovered facts that they contend provide a basis to excuse their failure to exhaust state court remedies. They also seek conversion of the temporary restraining order to a preliminary injunction, and they again request an order requiring implementation of social distancing throughout the Jail, as well as transfer of detained persons from the Jail to other locations within the Sheriff's control, including electronic home monitoring. The plaintiffs also request the convening of a three-judge court under the Prison Litigation Reform Act to consider entering a "prisoner release order" within the meaning of that statute.

For the reasons stated below, the Court converts the terms of the temporary restraining order to a preliminary injunction and enters further preliminary injunctive relief regarding social distancing but denies the plaintiffs' other requests for relief.

Factual Background

The following discussion of relevant facts concerning coronavirus, the Cook County Jail facilities, and the parties' claims and defenses is taken from undisputed facts, the affidavits and documentary evidence submitted by the parties, and the testimony and exhibits offered at the evidentiary hearing held on April 23, 2020.

A. The coronavirus pandemic

The rapid global spread of the novel coronavirus has led to a pandemic of extraordinary scale. The Court's decision on the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order includes a discussion of the gravity of the public health threat associated with this virus. Mays v. Dart , No. 20 C 2134, 453 F.Supp.3d 1074, 1084–85 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 9, 2020).

Symptoms of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus—what has come to be known as COVID-19, which the Court will refer to as coronavirus disease—include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, and the health effects can be very severe, including serious damage to the lungs and other internal organs, and death. People who are sixty-five years of age or older and those with certain pre-existing health conditions, including chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, a body mass index of forty or higher, and other conditions have a heightened vulnerability to severe illness if they contract the coronavirus.

The rapid transmission of coronavirus has been attributed to several characteristics. Respiratory droplets containing the virus emitted by an infected person, though coughing or sneezing for example, can travel several feet and may persist in the air for several hours. In addition, because the virus can persist on some surfaces for up to three days, transmission can occur even without physical proximity to an infected person. Moreover, those who contract the virus may be asymptomatic for days or even for the entire duration of the infection but can still transmit the virus to others, making it more challenging to readily identify infected individuals and respond with necessary precautions.

There is currently no known effective treatment for coronavirus disease and no vaccine to prevent people from contracting it. Medical professionals and public health experts agree—and the evidence in this case demonstrates beyond peradventure—that the only way to curb the spread of the virus is through a multi-faceted strategy that includes testing to identify those who have been infected; isolation of those who test positive or develop symptoms consistent with the disease; quarantining those who may have come into contact with the virus; frequent sanitation of surfaces; frequent handwashing; and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as facemasks. And a key tactic recommended by public health experts to curb the spread of coronavirus disease has been to keep people apart from each other—what has come to be known as "social distancing." The Centers for Disease Control's Interim Guidance on Management of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Correctional and Detention Facilities ("CDC Guidelines"),2 defines social distancing as "the practice of increasing the space between individuals and decreasing the frequency of contact to reduce the risk of spreading a disease (ideally to maintain at least 6 feet between all individuals, even those who are asymptomatic)." Id. at 4.

Social distancing has effectively been mandated by most state governments as a critical strategy in combatting the pandemic. Here in Illinois, the state has been under a statewide stay-at-home order first imposed by Governor J.B. Pritzker effective March 20, 2020, the goal of which is to limit person-to-person contacts to curb transmission of the virus. Activities not deemed "essential" have been shut down. People have been strongly urged, and in many situations directed (by governments, employers, commercial establishments, and so on) to maintain space between themselves and others. In addition, the wearing of PPE, primarily facemasks, has been strongly advised and now required in some situations, particularly when people may come into contact with others.

The effect of the stay-at-home orders imposed in Illinois and most other states, along with advice by national officials to limit contacts and group activities, has been dramatic: schools have been closed; commercial establishments and workplaces have ceased operations, resulting in massive job losses; public events have largely been cancelled; and access to public spaces has been limited or barred entirely. Entire sectors of the national economy have slowed to a snail's pace. Society has paid a very high price to curb the spread of this highly contagious virus.

B. Operation of the Cook County Jail

The Sheriff runs the Cook County Jail. As the Court stated in its written decision on the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO), the Jail is "a very large physical facility—actually a campus of separate physical facilities—whose population, if one considers including both detainees and staff, is the size of a small (but not all that small) town." Mays , 453 F.Supp.3d at 1083. Managing the Jail is extraordinarily challenging because of the size of its population and physical facilities, the diverse needs of the detainees, the Sheriff's public safety obligations, and his obligations to the criminal justice system. The Sheriff's public safety obligations require him to consider the appropriate custodial conditions for each detained person. As the Court has noted, the Jail's population "runs the gamut from persons with lengthy criminal records who are accused of committing violent crimes to non-violent offenders in custody for the first time who, perhaps, remain in custody only because they and their families were unable to post bond money." Id. And the Sheriff's obligations to the people in his custody, most of whom are detained awaiting trial on crimes for which they are therefore entitled to a presumption of innocence, require him to provide care sufficient to account for each individual's physical and mental health conditions. This...

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  • Ruderman v. Kolitwenzew
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Central District of Illinois
    • May 12, 2020 more challenging to readily identify infected individuals and respond with necessary precautions." Mays v. Dart, No. 20 C 2134, 456 F.Supp.3d 966, 976, (N.D. Ill. Apr. 27, 2020).Symptoms of COVID-19 vary greatly between individuals. Symptoms generally appear two to fourteen days after ex......
  • Ochoa v. Kolitwenzew
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    • U.S. District Court — Central District of Illinois
    • June 2, 2020 more challenging to readily identify infected individuals and respond with necessary precautions." Mays v. Dart, No. 20 C 2134, 456 F.Supp.3d 966, 976 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 27, 2020).Symptoms of COVID-19 vary greatly between individuals. Symptoms generally appear two to fourteen days after exp......
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    • May 21, 2020
    ...class action. See, e.g., Wilson v. Williams , 455 F. Supp. 3d 467, 475–76 (N.D. Ohio Apr. 22, 2020) ; Mays v. Dart , No. 20 C 2134, 456 F. Supp. 3d 966, 991–92 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 27, 2020) (citing cases). Those courts generally apply the provisions of Rule 23 to determine whether a representat......
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