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Case Name Georgia Advocacy Office v. Jackson JC-GA-0034
Docket / Court 1:19-cv-01634-WMR-JFK ( N.D. Ga. )
State/Territory Georgia
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Jail Conditions
Special Collection Solitary confinement
Attorney Organization NDRN/Protection & Advocacy Organizations
Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR)
Case Summary
On April 10, 2019, two female detainees in the South Fulton Municipal Regional Jail and the Georgia Advocacy Office filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The plaintiff sued the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office and the South Fulton Municipal ... read more >
On April 10, 2019, two female detainees in the South Fulton Municipal Regional Jail and the Georgia Advocacy Office filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The plaintiff sued the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office and the South Fulton Municipal Jail under 42 U.S.C.§ 1983 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The plaintiffs, represented by the Southern Center for Human Rights and the Georgia Advocacy Office, sought class certification, declaratory relief, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, and damages. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants violated the Eighth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause, and the Americans with Disabilities Act through their use of prolonged solitary confinement on individuals with mental disabilities; through conditions of confinement that deprived the plaintiffs of basic human needs; excluded plaintiffs and other women from the competency restoration program on the basis of sex; and by denying plaintiffs’ access to important services and programs solely by reason of their disabilities.

Over 200 female detainees within South Fulton Municipal Jail with psychiatric disabilities were detained in 23-hour solitary confinement. The conditions within the mental health pods deprived women of basic human needs. During visits to the South Fulton Jail, plaintiffs’ counsel described seeing women unresponsive on the floor, covered in their own food and feces, feces smeared on the walls, pods that had mold growing on the walls, urine puddles on the floor, and women sleeping on metal cots without any bedding. Plaintiffs described that they spent on average less than one hour per day outside of their cells to the pod common area often alone and unable to have any social interactions with others. The plaintiffs argued that the solitary confinement and the totality of the conditions increased their risk of psychological harm. No programs or therapy were provided to the female detainees in the South Fulton Municipal Jail. In contrast, male detainees in the Fulton County Jail system with mental disabilities were provided with therapeutic restorative programs.

On April 12, 2019, the plaintiffs moved to certify a principal class that consisted of women who experienced mental disabilities and were or would be in the future confined in the Fulton County Jail system, and a subclass for women who experienced mental disabilities who were or would be deemed incompetent to stand trial while confined in the Fulton County Jail system. Defendants moved to dismiss the class action on May 3, 2019. They argued that the plaintiffs failed to state a proper claim upon which relief could be granted against the defendants. Further, the defendants argued that: (1) they had Eleventh Amendment immunity from all claims in their official capacities; (2) even under the assumption that the plaintiffs’ claims were true, the Fourteenth Amendment did not prohibit the plaintiffs from having limited out of cell time; and (3) the plaintiffs did not fully exhaust their administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).

On May 7, 2019, the plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction ordering the defendants to remedy unconstitutional conditions in the South Fulton Municipal Regional Jail. The plaintiffs requested that the court order for defendants to offer at least four hours of daily out of cell time to all female detainees in the mental health pods, including one hour per day of outdoor time; and within a month, establish and present the Court for approval a plan to be implemented within another month for providing a medically sound environment for women with mental disabilities. The defendants filed an amended motion to dismiss. The amended motion brief provided the same arguments as the original, with the addition of several affidavits from the defendants.

On July 23, 2019, Judge William M. Ray granted plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction. The court granted the motion because: plaintiffs were likely to prevail on the merits of their claim that defendants were deliberately indifferent to the mental health needs of the plaintiffs; the defendants had discriminated against the plaintiffs; and that the potential for harm to the plaintiffs outweighed potential harm to the defendants. Defendants were ordered to: (1) within 7 days to develop a system to monitor plaintiffs' out of cell time and permit each woman to at least three hours of free time; (2) within 30 days offer at least four hours of out of cell time; and (3) establish and file a plan with the court outlining how to provide sanitary conditions and out of cell therapeutic programs.

On July 30, 2019, Judge Ray denied defendant's motion to dismiss, finding that the dismissal was not warranted based on immunity, failure to state a claim, or lack of exhaustion.

On August 20, 2019, the defendants filed a motion for reconsideration of the preliminary injunction order.

On September 10, 2019, Judge Ray granted in part and denied in part plaintiffs' motion for class certification. The class was defined as "a psychiatric disability class consisting of all women who experience psychiatric disabilities who are now or will in the future be confined in the mental health pods for female detainees in the Fulton County Jail system." But the court declined to certify the requested subclass.

On October 18, 2019, the defendants appealed the court's order for preliminary injunction to the Eleventh Circuit (Docket No. 19-14227). But in the district court, the parties continued with discovery and the plaintiffs sent requests for interrogatories and discovery to the defendants.

On December 6, 2019, the plaintiffs moved to modify the preliminary injunction to reflect changes made by the defendants regarding housing for women with psychiatric disabilities. The plaintiffs discovered that the South Fulton Jail began housing these women in the "G-Pod"—a disciplinary segregation unit where women were given one hour per day or less out-of-cell time. The plaintiffs requested that the preliminary injunction also cover these women so that they would also be provided adequate mental health care. Regarding this motion, at the hearing on February 14, 2020, the court granted the request to extend the injunction to cover women who would qualify for the protection in the original order, regardless of their housing assignment. The February 26 order provided the court’s legal analysis: in light of the jail’s reconfiguration, the original injunction was both over- and under-inclusive, as G-pod housed women without psychiatric disabilities while women with those disabilities in other pods were excluded. And the district court had the authority to modify it in this limited and minimally intrusive way, finding that it created no new obligations for the jail beyond what the court had already ordered. Additionally, the court found that the phrase “makes the order final,” in 18 U.S.C. §3626(a)(2), a portion of the PLRA, permitted the court to extend the preliminary injunction beyond the 90-day period provided by the statute.

Shortly after, in March 2020, the parties filed a joint motion to stay the discovery period because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which the court granted on May 31, 2020. On May 19, however, the court did grant the defendants’ motion for clarification on its modification order, such that “a psychiatric disability” means “a serious mental illness, as classified by the Sheriff and his designees.”

Discovery disputes continued in the district court, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on January 27, 2021 and the plaintiffs filed their respective response motion on March 2, 2021. Subsequently, the plaintiffs filed contempt motion, alleging the defendants’ failure to comply with the preliminary injunction on March 26, 2021.

Regarding the defendants’ appeal, on July 14, 2021, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that the July 23, 2019, preliminary injunction had expired under the PLRA. The panel, composed of Judges Tjoflat, Wilson, and Grant, vacated the preliminary injunction, and thus found that the appeal was moot. It disagreed with the district court’s interpretation of 18 U.S.C. §3626(a)(2). Under the text of the PLRA, the Eleventh Circuit reasoned, the entry of a permanent injunction is necessary to prevent a preliminary injunction from expiring after 90 days. Judge Wilson dissented, arguing the PLRA does not require a permanent injunction be issued to prevent a preliminary injunction from expiring after 90 days, the case was not moot, and the finalized preliminary injunction complied with the PLRA. 4 F.4th 1200.

Back in the district court on the same day, Judge Ray found that because of the Eleventh Circuit decision, the plaintiffs’ contempt motion was moot.

On July 23, 2021, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a second preliminary injunction. The case is ongoing.

Kimberly Goshey - 06/11/2019
Chelsea Rinnig - 01/15/2020
Lily Sawyer-Kaplan - 08/30/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
Mental impairment
Discrimination-area
Accommodation / Leave
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Access to public accommodations - governmental
Administrative segregation
Bathing and hygiene
Conditions of confinement
Confinement/isolation
Reasonable Accommodations
Reasonable Modifications
Rehabilitation
Sanitation / living conditions
Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)
Totality of conditions
Medical/Mental Health
Mental health care, general
Mental Disability
Intellectual/developmental disability, unspecified
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Defendant(s) Fulton County Sheriffs Office
South Fulton Municipal Regional Jail
Plaintiff Description The Georgia Advocacy Office (GAO) and two female detainees with psychiatric disabilities held in solitary confinement at South Fulton Municipal Regional Jail. GAO is a private non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of Georgia residents with disabilities.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NDRN/Protection & Advocacy Organizations
Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 04/10/2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
N.D. Ga.
08/25/2021
1:19-cv-01634
JC-GA-0034-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
N.D. Ga.
04/10/2019
Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
JC-GA-0034-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
07/23/2019
Order [ECF# 65]
JC-GA-0034-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
07/30/2019
Order [ECF# 70] (2019 WL 8438456)
JC-GA-0034-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
09/10/2019
Order [ECF# 86] (2019 WL 8438493)
JC-GA-0034-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
02/26/2020
Order [ECF# 143] (2020 WL 1883877)
JC-GA-0034-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
07/14/2021
Opinion of the Court (4 F.4th 1200)
JC-GA-0034-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: U.S. Court of Appeals website
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Judges Grant, Britt Cagle (Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
JC-GA-0034-0005
Ray, William McCrary II (State Appellate Court, N.D. Ga.) show/hide docs
JC-GA-0034-0002 | JC-GA-0034-0003 | JC-GA-0034-0004 | JC-GA-0034-0006 | JC-GA-0034-9000
Tjoflat, Gerald Bard (M.D. Fla., Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
JC-GA-0034-0005
Wilson, Charles R. (M.D. Fla., Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
JC-GA-0034-0005
Plaintiff's Lawyers Caplan, Michael A. (Georgia) show/hide docs
JC-GA-0034-9000
Geraghty, Sarah E. (Georgia) show/hide docs
JC-GA-0034-0001 | JC-GA-0034-9000
Hollie, Atteeyah Eshe (Georgia) show/hide docs
JC-GA-0034-9000
Klorfein, Jarred A (Georgia) show/hide docs
JC-GA-0034-9000
Kuhns, Anne Jessamyn Isham (Georgia) show/hide docs
JC-GA-0034-0001 | JC-GA-0034-9000
Littman, Aaron Michael (Georgia) show/hide docs
JC-GA-0034-0001 | JC-GA-0034-9000
Orland, Devon (Georgia) show/hide docs
JC-GA-0034-0001 | JC-GA-0034-9000
Primerano, Ryan (Georgia) show/hide docs
JC-GA-0034-0001 | JC-GA-0034-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Arrington, Michelle (Georgia) show/hide docs
JC-GA-0034-9000
Blaylock, Thomas (Georgia) show/hide docs
JC-GA-0034-9000
Burwell, Kaye Woodard (Georgia) show/hide docs
JC-GA-0034-9000
Joiner, Amelia Michele (Georgia) show/hide docs
JC-GA-0034-9000
Moore-Palmer, Ashley Jenell (Georgia) show/hide docs
JC-GA-0034-9000
Rosenberg, Steven E. (Georgia) show/hide docs
JC-GA-0034-9000
Other Lawyers Hughes, Aileen Bell (Georgia) show/hide docs
JC-GA-0034-9000

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