University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name People ex rel. Stoughton o/b/o Little v. NYS Department of Corrections JC-NY-0076
Docket / Court 260154/2020 ( State Court )
Additional Docket(s) 260154/2020  [ 20-260154 ]  Trial Court (NY)
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization Legal Services/Legal Aid
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: 106 individuals held at New York City's Rikers Island jail on non-criminal technical parole violations secured their release after alleging that their continued incarceration constituted deliberate indifference to the risk of serious medical harm in violation of the Fourteenth ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: 106 individuals held at New York City's Rikers Island jail on non-criminal technical parole violations secured their release after alleging that their continued incarceration constituted deliberate indifference to the risk of serious medical harm in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and state constitutional right to due process.


On March 25, 2020, 110 individuals held at Rikers Island on non-criminal technical parole violations filed this habeas petition in New York State trial court (which is called the New York Supreme Court). Represented by the Legal Aid Society of New York, petitioners sought immediate release on the grounds that continuing to hold them on parole warrants constitutes deliberate indifference to the risk of serious medical harm in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and state constitutional right to due process. The respondents in the case were the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Corrections and the Acting Commissioner of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

The plaintiffs alleged they were especially vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 due to their age and/or underlying medical condition. The plaintiffs cited the exponential growth of the disease in New York jails as support for their immediate release; on March 20, one prisoner was reported as having contracted COVID-19. Five days later, there were 75 confirmed cases. Specifically within Riker’s Island, the plaintiffs alleged that the rate of infection was 85 times higher than the average in the United States.

The same day as the petition was filed, Judge Doris Gonzalez ordered the defendants to show cause for why the petitioners should not be released. On March 27, 2020, the Court heard arguments and then ordered 106 of the 110 petitioners be released immediately.

Nine remaining petitioners who were denied relief appealed to the New York State Supreme Court. On July 23, 2020, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's denial of relief, agreeing that the "individual petitioners provided insufficient factual information
necessary to assess their flight risks, as well as the particular medical vulnerabilities that heightened their risks for serious illness or death if they contracted COVID-19." The Supreme Court noted that the DOC had taken significant steps to reduce the spread of COVID within jails and prisons in holding that the petitioners failed to state a claim for a violation of the state constitution.

The case is now closed.

Justin Hill - 03/29/2020
Rachel Harrington - 10/13/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
COVID-19
Release Denied
Release Granted
Release Requested
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Conditions of confinement
Sanitation / living conditions
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Habeas
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Acting Commissioner of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
Commissioner of the New York City Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Individuals held at Rikers Island on non-criminal technical parole violations
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Legal Services/Legal Aid
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Habeas relief
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 03/25/2020
Case Closing Year 2020
Case Ongoing No
Court Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
State Supreme Court
03/25/2020
Writ of Habeas Corpus
JC-NY-0076-0001.pdf | Detail
State Supreme Court
07/23/2020
Opinion
JC-NY-0076-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: State Court Website
show all people docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Elgarten, Kerry (New York) show/hide docs
JC-NY-0076-0001
Gottesman, Lauren (New York) show/hide docs
JC-NY-0076-0001
Harpaz, Elon (New York) show/hide docs
JC-NY-0076-0001
McEvilley, Lorraine (New York) show/hide docs
JC-NY-0076-0001
McGrath, Michelle (New York) show/hide docs
JC-NY-0076-0001
Ndiaye, Marie (New York) show/hide docs
JC-NY-0076-0001
Stoughton, Corey (New York) show/hide docs
JC-NY-0076-0001

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