Case: NC NAACP v. Cooper

20-cv-500110 | North Carolina state trial court

Filed Date: April 20, 2020

Case Ongoing

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

COVID-19 Summary: This is a state prison case filed in light of COVID-19, alleging that the failure to protect inmates from COVID-19 amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. The court granted a preliminary injunction on June 16, requiring the defendants to begin making plans for the release of inmates and to improve conditions in the prison by testing and management. The North Carolina Conference of the NAACP, Disability Rights North Carolina, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carol…

COVID-19 Summary: This is a state prison case filed in light of COVID-19, alleging that the failure to protect inmates from COVID-19 amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. The court granted a preliminary injunction on June 16, requiring the defendants to begin making plans for the release of inmates and to improve conditions in the prison by testing and management.


The North Carolina Conference of the NAACP, Disability Rights North Carolina, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation, and four individual plaintiffs brought this suit and petition for writ of mandamus against North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, the Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, and several parole commissioners. The suit was filed in the North Carolina Superior Court for Wake County on April 20, 2020. The complaint was filed amidst the outbreak of COVID-19, at a time when prisons across the country were among the institutions hardest hit by the disease. Plaintiffs alleged that the state's failure to protect prisoners from COVID-19 in prisons amounted to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the state's constitution. Plaintiffs therefore requested declaratory relief, injunctive relief including creating more distance between inmates, and costs and attorney's fees.

On the 13th of May, the court denied plaintiff's request for a writ of mandamus and the temporary restraining order.

Meanwhile, between April 28 and June 3, the court had held a series of hearings regarding a preliminary injunction. On June 16, the court issued an order granting the preliminary injunction, finding that defendants were indeed in violation of the state constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The injunction mandated that defendants work with partners that would be willing to help serve prisoners, authorized the defendants to start finding which prisoners would be candidates for release, and told parties to work together to come up with a plan to test inmates and prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the prisons.

On August 17, 2020, plaintiffs filed a motion to enforce the injunction, or in the alternative, require defendants to show cause why they should not be held in civil contempt. Plaintiffs claimed that defendants violated the injunction's commands in three ways:

  1. failure to develop and share an effective plan for early release of incarcerated people to safely manage their large and shifting prison population;
  2. continuing to subject incarcerated people who are entitled to medical isolation to punitive conditions; and
  3. contravening the goal of the order restricting inter-prison transfers by transferring individuals on the basis of old COVID-19 test results.

Juge Rozier Jr. appointed a Special Master in response.

The parties reached a landmark settlement on February 25, 2021 and requested to stay proceedings for six months. Under its terms, at least 3,500 people in state custody would be released early during the stay. Also, defendants agreed to take measures to maintain the population level achieved by the end of the 180-day period, and to implement or maintain certain COVID-19 mitigation measures. These measures would include:

  • Vaccination education;
  • Vaccine incentive for the incarcerated population;
  • Cohort reviews;
  • COVID-19 positive isolation; 
  • Provision of adequate mitigation supplies like masks and sanitation products;
  • Transfer protocols;
  • Testing protocols;
  • Anonymous complaint system; and
  • Family notification.

Pending satisfaction of the settlements terms, plaintiffs would dismiss their case with prejudice and the parties would bear their own costs.

This case is on-going pending satisfaction of the settlement agreement.

Summary Authors

Jack Hibbard (7/16/2020)

Jordan Katz (5/4/2022)

People


Judge(s)

Rozier, Jr., Vinston (North Carolina)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Atkinson, Daryl (North Carolina)

Blagrove, Dawn N. (North Carolina)

Carpenter, Whitley (North Carolina)

Como, Irena (North Carolina)

Grafstein, Lisa (North Carolina)

Graunke, Kristi L. (North Carolina)

Joyner, Irving (North Carolina)

Kang, Leah J. (North Carolina)

Pollitt, Susan H. (North Carolina)

Judge(s)

Rozier, Jr., Vinston (North Carolina)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Atkinson, Daryl (North Carolina)

Blagrove, Dawn N. (North Carolina)

Carpenter, Whitley (North Carolina)

Como, Irena (North Carolina)

Grafstein, Lisa (North Carolina)

Graunke, Kristi L. (North Carolina)

Joyner, Irving (North Carolina)

Kang, Leah J. (North Carolina)

Pollitt, Susan H. (North Carolina)

Siegel, Daniel K. (North Carolina)

Simpson, Elizabeth Guild (North Carolina)

Watson, K. Ricky Jr. (North Carolina)

Woollard, Luke (North Carolina)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Brennan, Stephanie A. (North Carolina)

Graves, Norlan (North Carolina)

Rodriguez, Orlando L (North Carolina)

Expert/Monitor/Master

Brinkley-Rubinstein, Lauren (North Carolina)

Fliss, Mike Dolan (North Carolina)

Ranapurwala, Shabbar I. (North Carolina)

Rosen, David (North Carolina)

Yamey, Gavin (North Carolina)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

20-cv-500110

Emergency Original Petition for Writ of Mandamus

April 8, 2020

April 8, 2020

Pleading / Motion / Brief

Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief and Petition for Writ of Mandamus

April 26, 2020

April 26, 2020

Complaint

20-cv-500110

Order for Additional Information

North Carolina NAACP v. Cooper

May 1, 2020

May 1, 2020

Order/Opinion

20-cv-500110

Re: NAACP v. Cooper, 20CVS500110, Supplemental Information for Drafting of Order

NAACP v. Cooper

June 8, 2020

June 8, 2020

Order/Opinion

20-cv-500110

Preliminary Injunction

June 16, 2020

June 16, 2020

Order/Opinion

20-cv-500110

Defendants' Response to Request for Additional Information

July 16, 2020

July 16, 2020

Pleading / Motion / Brief

20-cv-500110

Plaintiffs' Supplemental Filing Regarding the Court's October 27 & 29, 2020 Orders for Additional Information

North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP v. Cooper

Nov. 30, 2020

Nov. 30, 2020

Pleading / Motion / Brief

20 CVS 500110

Joint Motion for Stay

North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP v. Cooper

Feb. 25, 2021

Feb. 25, 2021

Settlement Agreement

20 CVS 500110

Settlement Agreement

North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP v. Cooper

Feb. 25, 2021

Feb. 25, 2021

Settlement Agreement

Docket

Last updated Aug. 24, 2022, 3:05 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: North Carolina

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Special Collection(s):

COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

Key Dates

Filing Date: April 20, 2020

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

ACLU of North Carolina, NAACP of North Carolina, Disability Rights of North Carolina, and several individuals

Plaintiff Type(s):

Non-profit NON-religious organization

Attorney Organizations:

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)

ACLU Affiliates (any)

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, State

Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, State

Defendant Type(s):

Corrections

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

State law

Constitutional Clause(s):

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Availably Documents:

Complaint (any)

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Litigation

Form of Settlement:

Private Settlement Agreement

Content of Injunction:

Preliminary relief granted

Issues

General:

Conditions of confinement

Deinstitutionalization/decarceration

Sanitation / living conditions

Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)

Totality of conditions

Crowding:

Crowding / caseload

COVID-19:

CDC Guidance ordered implemented

Contact tracing ordered

COVID reporting ordered

COVID testing ordered/modified

Independent monitor/inspector imposed/assisted

Inspection ordered/regulated

Mitigation Granted

Mitigation Requested

Non-retaliation ordered

Population-Medically vulnerable

Population reduction/cap

PPE-ordered provided to prisoners for free

PPE-ordered worn by staff

Quarantine/isolation ordered

Release Granted

Release granted-group

Release-process created/modified

Release Requested

Sanitizer/Handsoap ordered made available/used

Transfer-ordered or process created/modified

Type of Facility:

Government-run