Case: CRIPA Investigation of the Shelby County Juvenile Court

NA | No Court

Filed Date: 2012

Case Ongoing

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On August 11, 2009, the United States Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division ("DOJ") began an investigation of the administration of juvenile justice for children facing delinquency charges before the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County ("JCMSC") and the conditions of confinement at the detention center operated by JCMSC. The investigation was conducted pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U…

On August 11, 2009, the United States Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division ("DOJ") began an investigation of the administration of juvenile justice for children facing delinquency charges before the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County ("JCMSC") and the conditions of confinement at the detention center operated by JCMSC. The investigation was conducted pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, et seq. In its April 26, 2012 findings report, the DOJ concluded that JCMSC failed to protect the rights of children appearing before it on delinquency matters by neglecting to (1) provide constitutionally required due process, (2) administer justice in a non-discriminatory manner, and (3) provide reasonably safe conditions of confinement.

JCMSC processes more than 11,000 delinquency matters each year arising in the city of Memphis and other communities in Shelby County, Tennessee. The DOJ investigation included a comprehensive review of JCMSC's policies and practices, including observing delinquency hearings; reviewing documents, case files, and statistical data; and interviewing court personnel, probation counselors, detained youths, and attorneys. The DOJ ultimately concluded that JCMSC failed to provide timely and adequate notice of charges to children appearing on delinquency matters; failed to protect children from self-incrimination during probation conferences; failed to hold timely probable cause hearings; and failed to provide adequate due process protections before transferring children to adult criminal court. The DOJ also concluded that JCMSC administered justice in a discriminatory manner and that black children were disproportionately represented in almost every phase of the Shelby County juvenile justice system. Finally, the DOJ concluded that JCMSC used dangerous and excessive restraint techniques to detain children. Rather than diverting children or releasing them to a parent or guardian, JCMSC subjected children to dangerous and excessive restraint chair techniques and pressure point control tactics and failed to protect them from self-harm.

On December 17, 2012, the parties entered a settlement agreement. The agreement mandated that JCMSC immediately develop and implement specific policies and training and review mechanisms to guarantee due process and equal protection and to ensure reasonably safe conditions of confinement. Two monitors and a facility consultant were appointed to assess compliance with the settlement agreement. The parties agreed that these individuals would conduct compliance reviews four months after the date of the agreement and every six months thereafter until the agreement was terminated. The parties agreed that the agreement would terminate when JCMSC achieved substantial compliance with all substantive provisions of the agreement and maintained that compliance for 12 consecutive months. As of July 2018, the monitors and consultant have issued eleven reports covering due process compliance, the most recent in June 2018, and ten reports covering equal protection compliance, the most recent in December 2017. The most recent due process report, although highlighting several remaining areas of concern, concluded that JCMSC had achieved substantial compliance with all but nine requirements of the agreement and appeared to be making progress with complying with the remaining ones. The most recent equal protection report, on the other hand, indicated that racial disparities at each stage had stayed the same or even widened over time. Although the report said that JCSMC appeared to be making serious efforts to address these disparities, it also noted a continuing failure on its part to take the findings of past compliance reports into account, and a continuing lack of changes in existing procedures and policies, especially at the referral, detention, and non-judicial stages.

The agreement is still in effect.

Summary Authors

Nate West (11/2/2014)

Alexander Walling (7/23/2018)


Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Austin, Roy L. (District of Columbia)

Gayle, Winsome (District of Columbia)

Perez, Thomas E. (District of Columbia)

Preston, Judith (Judy) C. (District of Columbia)

Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)

Stanton, Edward L. III (Tennessee)

Expert/Monitor/Master

Glos, Bernard (Illinois)

Lieber, Michael (Florida)

Roush, David W. (New York)

Simkins, Sandra (New Jersey)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Austin, Roy L. (District of Columbia)

Gayle, Winsome (District of Columbia)

Perez, Thomas E. (District of Columbia)

Preston, Judith (Judy) C. (District of Columbia)

Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)

Stanton, Edward L. III (Tennessee)

Expert/Monitor/Master

Glos, Bernard (Illinois)

Lieber, Michael (Florida)

Roush, David W. (New York)

Simkins, Sandra (New Jersey)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Investigation of the Shelby County Juvenile Court

April 25, 2012 Findings Letter/Report

Investigation of the Shelby County Juvenile Court

April 26, 2012 Findings Letter/Report

Memorandum of Agreement Regarding the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County

Dec. 17, 2012 Settlement Agreement

Department of Justice Enters into Agreement to Reform the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee

Dec. 18, 2012 Press Release

Provisions from Memorandum of Agreement

June 5, 2013 Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

Compliance Report #1—April 2013

June 5, 2013 Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County (JCMSC) MOA Protection from Harm Stipulations: Draft Findings Recommendations Letter

June 10, 2013 Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

Appendix 1: DOJ Mandated Training –Bold DMC Related

June 12, 2013 Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

First Compliance Report – Equal Protection

June 12, 2013 Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

Assessment of Shelby County’s Juvenile Detention Facility

June 13, 2013 Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

Resources

Title Description External URL

Success in Shelby County: A Roadmap to Systemic Juvenile Reform

Sandra Simkins

In 2012 the Department of Justice published a comprehensive investigation into the Juvenile Court System of Shelby County in Memphis Tennessee.The investigation revealed serious problems in the area … Jan. 1, 2014 http://ssrn.com/abstract=2449034

Docket

Last updated May 12, 2022

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: Tennessee

Case Type(s):

Criminal Justice (Other)

Key Dates

Filing Date: 2012

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division

Plaintiff Type(s):

U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Shelby County, Tennessee (Shelby), County

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Corrections

Case Details

Causes of Action:

34 U.S.C. § 12601 (previously 42 U.S.C. § 14141)

Title VI, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Equal Protection

Special Case Type(s):

Out-of-court

Availably Documents:

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Private Settlement Agreement

Order Duration: 2012 - None

Content of Injunction:

Hire

Discrimination Prohibition

Retaliation Prohibition

Develop anti-discrimination policy

Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention

Reporting

Monitoring

Issues

General:

Assault/abuse by staff

Commitment procedure

Conditions of confinement

Courts

Disciplinary procedures

Disparate Treatment

Excessive force

Failure to train

Juveniles

Placement in detention facilities

Restraints : physical

Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)

Youth / Adult separation

Discrimination-basis:

Race discrimination

Race:

Black