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Case Name 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 CJ-IN-0005
Docket / Court 20S-MS-00234 ( State Court )
State/Territory Indiana
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Prison Conditions
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization ACLU Affiliates (any)
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 ... read more >
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.

Justin Hill - 04/20/2020

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Mitigation Denied
Mitigation Requested
Release Denied
Release Requested
Conditions of confinement
Over/Unlawful Detention
Parole grant/revocation
Placement in detention facilities
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Appellate Court is initial court
Causes of Action State law
Plaintiff Description ACLU of Indiana
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Affiliates (any)
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 03/30/2020
Case Closing Year 2020
Case Ongoing No
Court Docket(s)
State Supreme Court
CJ-IN-0005-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: State Court Website
General Documents
State Supreme Court
Petition for Emergency Rulemaking
CJ-IN-0005-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
not recorded
Joint Letter from the Chief Justice, Governor, and Leadership of the General Assembly of Indiana
CJ-IN-0005-0003.pdf | External Link | Detail
Source: State Court Website
State Supreme Court
Order (141 N.E.3d 1243)
CJ-IN-0005-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
State Supreme Court
Published Order (142 N.E.3d 911)
CJ-IN-0005-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
Source: State Court Website
show all people docs
Judges Rush, Loretta H Court not on record show/hide docs
CJ-IN-0005-0002 | CJ-IN-0005-0003 | CJ-IN-0005-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Falk, Kenneth J. (Indiana) show/hide docs
CJ-IN-0005-0001 | CJ-IN-0005-9000
Pactor, Steve J (Indiana) show/hide docs
CJ-IN-0005-0001 | CJ-IN-0005-9000
Rose, Gavin Minor (Indiana) show/hide docs
CJ-IN-0005-0001 | CJ-IN-0005-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Curtis, Courtney Elizabeth (Indiana) show/hide docs
Fisher, Thomas M. (Indiana) show/hide docs
Hill, Curtis T. Jr. (Indiana) show/hide docs
Hudson, Kian James (Indiana) show/hide docs
Johnson, Glenn Ritchie (Indiana) show/hide docs
Lin, Winston (Indiana) show/hide docs
Miller, Daniel Raymond (Indiana) show/hide docs
Moers, Davis Diana (Indiana) show/hide docs
Murray, Sierra Aspen (Indiana) show/hide docs
Naylor, Christopher Wayne (Indiana) show/hide docs
Oliver, James R (Indiana) show/hide docs
Parker, J Thomas (Indiana) show/hide docs
Payne, Julia Catherine (Indiana) show/hide docs
Smith, Margaret Lee (Indiana) show/hide docs
Smith, Derrian Andre (Indiana) show/hide docs
Staton, Courtney Leanne (Indiana) show/hide docs
Templeton, Caroline Gail (Indiana) show/hide docs
Other Lawyers Corley, Bernice Angenett Nickole (Indiana) show/hide docs
Karozos, Amy E (Indiana) show/hide docs

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