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Case Name Jones v. Wolf IM-NY-0077
Docket / Court 1:20-cv-00361 ( W.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization Prisoners' Legal Services of New York (PLSNY)
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: Immigration detainees held by ICE, each being over the age of 50 or having a serious underlying condition, petition the court for protection due to COVID-19. The court granted a temporary restraining order to the most vulnerable petitioners, as defined by the CDC, which grants ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: Immigration detainees held by ICE, each being over the age of 50 or having a serious underlying condition, petition the court for protection due to COVID-19. The court granted a temporary restraining order to the most vulnerable petitioners, as defined by the CDC, which grants selected petitioners protection through social distancing by single celling and PPE. The order was amended to require the defendants to post informational signage and to test vulnerable detainees bi-weekly for COVID-19.


On March 25, 2020, an emergency petition for writ of habeas corpus and a complaint for injunctive relief was filed by immigration detainees held by ICE, each petitioner being over the age of 50 or having a serious underlying condition. The petitioners are twenty-four civil immigration detainees currently held at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility (“BFDF”) in Batavia, New York. They are represented by Prisoners' Legal Services of New York, Journeys End Refugee Services, and private counsel. The petitioners claimed that their continued detention during the COVID-19 global pandemic violates their 5th Amendment right to be free from deliberate indifference to their serious medical needs. On March 26, the petitioners also filed a motion for temporary restraining order seeking immediate release from ICE detention.

On March 26, 2020, the court ordered that the petitioners must file a memorandum the following day explaining each petitioner’s (1) detention status, (2) medical evidence supporting the claim that they face a grave risk of developing complications or death if he or she contracts COVID-19, and (3) the proposed terms and conditions of release. A memorandum was filed on behalf of each petitioner detailing these components of their individual situations. Following the initial filing and this order, multiple medical doctors filed declarations and memorandums in support of the emergency petition and injunction.

On April 2, 2020, the court issued a decision and order regarding the motion for a temporary restraining order to grant release. 467 F. Supp. 3d 74. The court granted the motion in part, holding that the current conditions of detainment during the COVID-19 pandemic violated their substantive Due Process rights; however, the court also denied the motion in part, finding that immediate release was not the appropriate remedy. The court ordered the to petitioners provide information about who are “vulnerable individuals” as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”). In a memorandum submitted to the court by Captain Abelardo Montalvo, M.D., 13 of the petitioners were identified as meeting the CDC’s definition of vulnerable individuals and 8 of whom had their own cells.

On April 7, 2020, the court ordered more information from a medical doctor to be submitted to the court regarding (1) if individuals with epilepsy and/or those who are over 50 years of age and confined to detention facilities similar to BFDF meet the CDC’s criteria for vulnerable individuals, (2) the types and qualities of personal protective equipment (“PPE”) available to the vulnerable petitioners, (3) the types of PPE available to the staff interacting with the vulnerable petitioners.

On April 9, 2020, after many more declarations and memorandums from medical professionals, the court granted in part the temporary restraining order requiring the continuation for “social distancing” measures with respect to the petitioners identified as “vulnerable.” 2020 WL 1809677. This requires placing these petitioners in single-occupancy cells, accommodation to eat meals in those cells and to bathe and shower in isolation, provision of sufficient shower disinfectant, masks, and soap, and a requirement that staff wear masks when interacting with these detainees.

An update on the conditions at BFDF was filed on April 20, followed by various declarations filed on April 24. On April 24, the court ordered that in light of the petitioner's substantial submissions and the government's opposition to entering a preliminary injunction, the temporary restraining order was extended until May 1, 2020. On April 27th, the court converted the temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction in light of 46 of the 319 detainees testing positive for COVID-19. 2020 WL 1986923. The preliminary injunction was planned to extend until at least May 16, 2020.

On April 30, a text order was issued explaining that the defendants had released four of the petitioners, rendering moot their petitions. The preliminary injunction remained in place with respect to the other plaintiffs. That same day, the defendants provided the court with a status update in which they asserted compliance with the terms of the preliminary injunction.

On May 20, Judge Vilardo amended the April 27 preliminary injunction to require the defendants to post signs advising detainees to wear masks and maintain 6 feet of distance, and to require bi-weekly testing of detainees housed in vulnerable detainees' units. 2020 WL 2557832.

The defendants submitted weekly status reports detailing the conditions of confinement for each vulnerable petitioner (cell occupancy, meal and bathing accommodations, PPE availability); the total number of infected detainees; the total number of infected staff members; and the total number of positive and negative COVID tests.

On August 31, Judge Vilardo converted the preliminary injunction into a permanent injunction. 2020 WL 5107566. The status of each of the original 27 petitioners was included in the order; 15 had been released, and most of the remaining petitioners were housed in single-occupancy cells. The final injunction ordered that the terms of the preliminary injunction were to remain in place until the Governor of New York lifted the social-distancing restrictions (i.e, permitted individuals to get closer that six feet apart without a mask). However, because the actions taken by the defendants pursuant to the injunction remedied the constitutional violations, Judge Vilardo found that release was "unnecessary."

On February 22, 2021, the plaintiffs moved to modify the permanent injunction. The parties attended oral argument on February 25, and the court directed the defendants to submit to the court a plan for vaccinating detainees who would otherwise qualify for vaccination and ordered the plaintiffs to file a brief regarding employee testing. The parties submitted their respective papers on March 3, and further oral argument was scheduled for March 4, 2021. The case remains ongoing.

Emma Himes - 05/12/2020
Mary Novakovic - 10/10/2020
Justin Hill - 12/19/2020
Zofia Peach - 03/04/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Recordkeeping
COVID-19
CDC Guidance ordered implemented
Contact tracing ordered
COVID reporting ordered
Mitigation Denied
Mitigation Granted
Mitigation Requested
PPE-ordered provided to prisoners for free
PPE-ordered worn by staff
Quarantine/isolation ordered
Release Denied
Release Granted
Release Requested
Sanitizer/Handsoap ordered made available/used
Social distancing ordered
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Bathing and hygiene
Conditions of confinement
Habeas Corpus
Sanitation / living conditions
Totality of conditions
Immigration/Border
Detention - conditions
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Habeas Corpus, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241-2253; 2254; 2255
Defendant(s) Acting Secretary
Administrator, Buffalo Federal Detention Facility
Field Office Director, Buffalo Field Office
Plaintiff Description ICE detainees in New York over the age of 50 or with underlying medical conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Prisoners' Legal Services of New York (PLSNY)
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2020 - n/a
Filed 03/25/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
W.D.N.Y.
03/03/2021
1:20-cv-00361
IM-NY-0077-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
W.D.N.Y.
03/25/2020
Emergency Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 and Complaint for Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
IM-NY-0077-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D.N.Y.
03/26/2020
Motion for Temporary Restraining Order [ECF# 8]
IM-NY-0077-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D.N.Y.
03/26/2020
Memorandum of Law [ECF# 9]
IM-NY-0077-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D.N.Y.
03/26/2020
Order [ECF# 10]
IM-NY-0077-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D.N.Y.
04/02/2020
Decision & Order [ECF# 44] (467 F.Supp.3d 74)
IM-NY-0077-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D.N.Y.
04/07/2020
Order [ECF# 54]
IM-NY-0077-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D.N.Y.
04/09/2020
Order [ECF# 71] (2020 WL 1809677)
IM-NY-0077-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D.N.Y.
04/27/2020
Order [ECF# 89]
IM-NY-0077-0008.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D.N.Y.
05/20/2020
Order [ECF# 109] (2020 WL 2557832)
IM-NY-0077-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D.N.Y.
05/20/2020
Order [ECF# 109]
IM-NY-0077-0010.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D.N.Y.
08/31/2020
Order [ECF# 135]
IM-NY-0077-0011.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Vilardo, Lawrence Joseph (W.D.N.Y.) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0077-0004 | IM-NY-0077-0005 | IM-NY-0077-0006 | IM-NY-0077-0007 | IM-NY-0077-0008 | IM-NY-0077-0009 | IM-NY-0077-0010 | IM-NY-0077-0011 | IM-NY-0077-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Graziano, Robert F. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0077-0001 | IM-NY-0077-0003 | IM-NY-0077-9000
McLean, Siana (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0077-0001 | IM-NY-0077-0003 | IM-NY-0077-9000
Moravec, Joseph David (Maryland) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0077-0001 | IM-NY-0077-0002 | IM-NY-0077-0003 | IM-NY-0077-9000
Peng, John H. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0077-0001 | IM-NY-0077-0003 | IM-NY-0077-9000
Phillips, Nicholas John (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0077-0001 | IM-NY-0077-0003 | IM-NY-0077-9000
Zaiman, Grace Ellen (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0077-0001 | IM-NY-0077-0003 | IM-NY-0077-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Khalil, Adam A. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0077-9000

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