Case: ACLU v. Montgomery County

2:21-cv-02316 | U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Filed Date: May 20, 2021

Case Ongoing

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

This is a case about Montgomery County Correctional Facilities (MCCF) restricting access to clients, prospective clients, and witnesses, by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA). On May 20, 2021, ACLU-PA filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania. The ACLU-PA sued MCCF and Montgomery County. In addition, ACLU-PA sued MCCF’s Warden, its Director of Inmate Services, and its Assistant Director of Inmate Services. The suit was brought under 42 U.S.C…

This is a case about Montgomery County Correctional Facilities (MCCF) restricting access to clients, prospective clients, and witnesses, by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA). On May 20, 2021, ACLU-PA filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania. The ACLU-PA sued MCCF and Montgomery County. In addition, ACLU-PA sued MCCF’s Warden, its Director of Inmate Services, and its Assistant Director of Inmate Services. The suit was brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; it sought declaratory and injunctive relief as well as costs. The case was assigned to Judge Karen Marston.

ACLU-PA claimed that MCCF’s policy of requiring formal documentation of an established attorney-client relationship for professional visitations violated ACLU-PA’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. More specifically, ACLU-PA alleged that this policy amounted to retaliation against ACLU-PA because the organization pursued civil rights litigation on behalf of people incarcerated at MCCF. Also, under the Fourteenth Amendment, ACLU-PA alleged that this policy violated incarcerated persons’ rights at MCCF to access the courts.

A core aspect of ACLU-PA’s legal practice is vindicating the rights of incarcerated persons. To that end, ACLU-PA must regularly speak to current and potential clients in detention centers. When it investigates claims on behalf of its detained clients or potential clients, ACLU-PA relies on witnesses who are detained at the same center. ACLU-PA argued that it must be able to meet with both clients and witnesses who are detained to properly defend the rights of its detained clients.

For many years , the MCCF allowed allowed meetings between persons detained at their facility and ACLU staff to take place without asking the attorney to provide documentation of a pre-existing attorney-client relationship. But, on March 15, 2021, MCCF announced a new policy that required proof of a pre-existing attorney-client relationship prior to any virtual visit. This case's complaint alleged that at this point MCCF began unilaterally cancelling appointments between ACLU-PA and persons detained at their facility. Appointments were cancelled even with detained persons with whom ACLU-PA had previously met, individuals who had reached out to ACLU-PA regarding legal representation, and incarcerated persons with whom an attorney-client relationship was developing. In their complaint, ACLU-PA claimed that MCCF had not required proof of representation for non-ACLU-PA-affiliated attorneys.

When the ACLU-PA notified the county of its intent to seek a preliminary injunction, settlement negotations began and quickly concluded. Just two days after the case was filed, the parties stipulated to a consent order; it was signed by the court on May 24, 2021. As part of that order, MCCF agreed that it would no longer require proof of an existing attorney-client relationship for any lawyer to conduct a confidential “video, telephone, or in-person visit[] with individuals detained at the MCCF.” The parties also agreed that nothing in the consent order was an admission of liability on behalf of MCCF. The Court retained jurisdiction to enforce the Consent Order.

Summary Authors

Jordan Katz (10/12/2021)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attrorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/59922772/parties/american-civil-liberties-union-of-pennsylvania-v-montgomery-county/


Judge(s)

Marston, Karen Spencer None (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Bailey, Leslie C. (District of Columbia)

Freedman, John A. (District of Columbia)

Lopez, Janine M (District of Columbia)

Roper, Mary Catherine (Pennsylvania)

Tutt, Andrew T. (District of Columbia)

Walczak, Witold J. (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Stein, Joshua M (Pennsylvania)

Judge(s)

Marston, Karen Spencer None (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Bailey, Leslie C. (District of Columbia)

Freedman, John A. (District of Columbia)

Lopez, Janine M (District of Columbia)

Roper, Mary Catherine (Pennsylvania)

Tutt, Andrew T. (District of Columbia)

Walczak, Witold J. (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Stein, Joshua M (Pennsylvania)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

2:21-cv-02316

Docket [PACER]

American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania v. Montgomery County

May 24, 2021

May 24, 2021

Docket
1

2:21-cv-02316

Complaint

American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania v. Montgomery County

May 20, 2021

May 20, 2021

Complaint
3

2:21-cv-02316

Consent Order

American Civil Liberties Union v. Montgomery County

May 24, 2021

May 24, 2021

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/59922772/american-civil-liberties-union-of-pennsylvania-v-montgomery-county/

Last updated July 23, 2022, 3:01 a.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link Date / Link
1

COMPLAINT against GARY CHESNEY, BRIAN KNIEZEWSKI, SEAN P. MCGEE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MONTGOMERY COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY ( Filing fee $ 402 receipt number 0313-15137191.), filed by AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF PENNSYLVANIA. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Designation Form)(ROPER, MARY) (Entered: 05/20/2021)

May 20, 2021

May 20, 2021

PACER

Summons Issued

May 20, 2021

May 20, 2021

PACER

Summonses Issued as to GARY CHESNEY, BRIAN KNIEZEWSKI, SEAN P. MCGEE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY and MONTGOMERY COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY. E-mailed to counsel on 5/20/21 (mbh, )

May 20, 2021

May 20, 2021

PACER
2

Proposed Order to Approve Consent Judgment filed by AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF PENNSYLVANIA..(ROPER, MARY) Modified on 5/24/2021 (fb). (Entered: 05/22/2021)

May 22, 2021

May 22, 2021

PACER
3

CONSENT ORDER THAT THIS ORDER IS ENTERED BASED ON A NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT BETWEEN THE PARTIES AND IS NOT TO BE CONSTRUED AS AN ADMISSION OF LIABILITY BY ANY OF THE PARTIES. THE PARTIES AGREE THAT THIS COURT MAY ADMINISTRATIVELY CLOSE THIS MATTER, SUBJECT TO REOPENING BASED ON MOTION OF EITHER PARTY. SIGNED BY HONORABLE KAREN S. MARSTON ON 5/24/21. 5/24/21 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED.(mbh, ) (Entered: 05/24/2021)

May 24, 2021

May 24, 2021

RECAP

Case Details

State / Territory: Pennsylvania

Case Type(s):

Speech and Religious Freedom

Key Dates

Filing Date: May 20, 2021

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

ACLU of Pennsylvania

Plaintiff Type(s):

Non-profit NON-religious organization

Attorney Organizations:

ACLU Affiliates (any)

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Montgomery County (Montgomery), County

Montgomery County Correctional Facility (Eaglebille, Montgomery), County

Defendant Type(s):

Corrections

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Due Process: Substantive Due Process

Freedom of speech/association

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 2021 - None

Content of Injunction:

Preliminary relief request withdrawn/mooted

Issues

General:

Access to lawyers or judicial system

Type of Facility:

Government-run