Case: In the Matter of: Petition Requesting the Indiana Supreme Court to Engage in Emergency Rulemaking to Address the Issue of Imprisoned Persons and the COVID-19 Crisis

20-00234 | Indiana state trial court

Filed Date: March 30, 2020

Closed Date: April 8, 2020

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

COVID-19 Summary: ACLU of Indiana filed a petition in light of the COVID-19 pandemic seeking Indiana corrections facilities to compose a list of prisoners who either face heightened risk of disease infection, or merit temporary or permanent release. The ACLU's petition for emergency rule-making was denied. On March 30, 2020, the ACLU of Indiana filed this petition requesting the Indiana Supreme Court to engage in emergency rule-making and take immediate action aiming to prevent the spread of CO…

COVID-19 Summary: ACLU of Indiana filed a petition in light of the COVID-19 pandemic seeking Indiana corrections facilities to compose a list of prisoners who either face heightened risk of disease infection, or merit temporary or permanent release. The ACLU's petition for emergency rule-making was denied.


On March 30, 2020, the ACLU of Indiana filed this petition requesting the Indiana Supreme Court to engage in emergency rule-making and take immediate action aiming to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Indiana Department of Correction facilities. The petitioners noted that the nature of the facilities makes social distancing and adequate sanitation impossible. Due to the highly contagious nature of the disease, especially for elderly individuals or those suffering from underlying medical conditions, correctional facilities generally posed a significant risk of outbreak among prisoners. They are especially vulnerable when overcrowded; 77% of Indiana’s jails were overcrowded or at capacity in 2018.

The ACLU grounded its argument in the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of state officials acting with deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s serious medical needs, and the Seventh Circuit’s recognition that the Fourteenth Amendment rights of pretrial detainees may be violated simply by subjecting individuals to an objectively unreasonable risk of harm. The ACLU asked the Indiana Supreme Court to engage in emergency rule-making pursuant to its authority to adopt rules governing the conduct of litigation in its judicial system that would require trial courts to identify pretrial detainees and prisoners eligible for home detention during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The petition alleged that Indiana law provides for mechanisms through which at-risk people may obtain temporary or permanent release to ensure their well-being. The ACLU sought the court to order the Indiana Department of Correction and each county sheriff to

  • Immediately compile a list of all prisoners who are at heightened risk due to old age or suffer from underlying health conditions.
  • Immediately compile a list of pretrial detainees who are being held based on non-violent misdemeanor charges; non-violent felony charges that would be eligible for home detention or work-release sentence if conviction were secured; the inability to pay bond and the court has determined that the individual is bailable; arrest for an allegation of parole/probation violation, where the violation does not constitute a separate, violent offense.
  • Immediately compile a list of convicted prisoners who are within six months of their expected release date.
  • Transmit the above lists to the Indiana court with a recommendation as to whether the prisoner merits consideration for either temporary or permanent release given the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ACLU also requested the Indiana Supreme Court to order other state courts to review its dockets for prisoners that remain incarcerated solely due to their inability to pay bail. The ACLU also requested the Supreme Court to order trial courts to take all necessary and appropriate actions to reduce future people committed to jails as pretrial detainees, and to reduce the sentences of prisoners so they may be released to shelter at home. Finally, the ACLU requested the Court to ask the Indiana Department of Correction to have the Indiana Parole Board advance parole considerations to the greatest extent possible, permitting prisoners who merit parole to shelter at home.

The Court allowed any interested party to file a response to the ACLU's petition. The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, Indiana Sheriffs Association, and Indiana Department of Correction filed responses opposing the ACLU's petition. The Indiana Public Defender Council and Indiana State Public Defender filed responses supporting the petition.

On April 8, 2020, the Indiana Supreme Court issued an order denying the ACLU's motion for emergency rule-making. The Court stated that it did not have original jurisdiction to order the Indiana Department of Correction to take actions, but noted that a joint letter was issued on April 3, 2020 co-signed by Chief Justice Loretta Rush, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, House of Representatives Speaker Todd Huston, and Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray. The letter encouraged local judges, sheriffs, and county leaders to review their prisoner populations to determine if any low-risk, non-violent individuals could be released under supervision. The Indiana Supreme Court also noted that it had issued emergency orders under Indiana Administrative Rule 17 authorizing courts to review and modify sentences after consultation with local prosecutors, public defenders, and other criminal justice leaders. 2020 WL 1698362

Those emergency orders were issued as part of In re the Matter of Administrative Rule 17 Emergency Relief in the Indiana Trial Courts Related to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), No. 20S-CB-123, 2020 WL 1649746 (April 3, 2020).

This case is now closed.

Summary Authors

Justin Hill (4/20/2020)

People


Judge(s)

Rush, Loretta H (Indiana)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Falk, Kenneth J. (Indiana)

Pactor, Steve J (Indiana)

Rose, Gavin Minor (Indiana)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Curtis, Courtney Elizabeth (Indiana)

Fisher, Thomas M. (Indiana)

Hill, Curtis T. Jr. (Indiana)

Hudson, Kian James (Indiana)

Johnson, Glenn Ritchie (Indiana)

Lin, Winston (Indiana)

Judge(s)

Rush, Loretta H (Indiana)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Falk, Kenneth J. (Indiana)

Pactor, Steve J (Indiana)

Rose, Gavin Minor (Indiana)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Curtis, Courtney Elizabeth (Indiana)

Fisher, Thomas M. (Indiana)

Hill, Curtis T. Jr. (Indiana)

Hudson, Kian James (Indiana)

Johnson, Glenn Ritchie (Indiana)

Lin, Winston (Indiana)

Miller, Daniel Raymond (Indiana)

Moers, Davis Diana (Indiana)

Murray, Sierra Aspen (Indiana)

Naylor, Christopher Wayne (Indiana)

Oliver, James R (Indiana)

Parker, J Thomas (Indiana)

Payne, Julia Catherine (Indiana)

Smith, Margaret Lee (Indiana)

Staton, Courtney Leanne (Indiana)

Templeton, Caroline Gail (Indiana)

Other Attorney(s)

Corley, Bernice Angenett Nickole (Indiana)

Karozos, Amy E (Indiana)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Case Summary

Indiana state supreme court

April 8, 2020 Docket

Petition for Emergency Rulemaking

Indiana state supreme court

March 30, 2020 Pleading / Motion / Brief

Order

Indiana state supreme court

141 N.E.3d 1243, 2020 WL 1649746

April 3, 2020 Order/Opinion

Joint Letter from the Chief Justice, Governor, and Leadership of the General Assembly of Indiana

No Court

April 3, 2020 Press Release

Published Order

Indiana state supreme court

142 N.E.3d 911, 2020 WL 1698362

April 8, 2020 Order/Opinion

Resources

Title Description External URL

Parole News Blog links to Clearinghouse

Parole News

Link to Clearinghouse: "Profile of the Graziano v. Pataki federal case, produced by the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse" Aug. 7, 2016 http://parolenews.blogspot.com/...

Docket

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: Indiana

Case Type(s):

Criminal Justice (Other)

Special Collection(s):

COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

Key Dates

Filing Date: March 30, 2020

Closing Date: April 8, 2020

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

ACLU of Indiana

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

ACLU Affiliates (any)

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Case Details

Causes of Action:

State law

Constitutional Clause(s):

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Due Process

Due Process: Substantive Due Process

Special Case Type(s):

Appellate Court is initial court

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Defendant

Nature of Relief:

None

Source of Relief:

None

Issues

General:

Conditions of confinement

Courts

Over/Unlawful Detention

Parole grant/revocation

Placement in detention facilities

COVID-19:

Mitigation Denied

Mitigation Requested

Release Denied

Release Requested