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Case Name Foster v. Minnesota Department of Corrections PC-MN-0004
Docket / Court 09-cv-20-633 ( State Court )
State/Territory Minnesota
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization ACLU Affiliates (any)
Case Summary
This putative class-action petition for writ of habeas corpus and mandamus was filed on April 15, 2020 in the Minnesota state district court for the Sixth Judicial District. The case was brought by several inmates at Moose Lake Correctional Facility in Carlton County, Minnesota. The case came about ... read more >
This putative class-action petition for writ of habeas corpus and mandamus was filed on April 15, 2020 in the Minnesota state district court for the Sixth Judicial District. The case was brought by several inmates at Moose Lake Correctional Facility in Carlton County, Minnesota. The case came about in response to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Represented by lawyers from the ACLU of Minnesota and the state public defender's office, the petitioners brought suit against the Minnesota Department of Corrections, Commissioner Paul Schnell, Minnesota Correctional Facility -- Moose Lake, and Warden William Bolin. While the petition commended the state's performance in terms of containing the virus state-wide, they argued that the defendants were not taking adequate measures to protect their prison population. The petitioners contended this was particularly so in the Moose Lake detention center. According to the petition, the center had failed to promote adequate social distancing, supply PPE and sanitation devices, and had insufficient infrastructure to handle a mass outbreak among the population. They alleged that the center was therefore in violation of Minnesota common law duty of care, as well as the Minnesota state Constitution's guarantee of Due Process and prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. They also alleged that defendants violated Minnesota statutory law which required the penal system to set and abide by minimum health standards. The petitioners requested a writ of habeas corpus immediately releasing them from custody, a writ of mandamus to either require respondents to meet proper health standards or show cause, and to appoint a special master to help the parties establish and enforce rules governing the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. They also sought attorney's fees and costs.

The case was assigned to Judge Leslie Beiers. On July 13, 2020, the Court issued its order denying writs of mandamus and habeas corpus. With regard to habeas relief, the Court found that the DOC and Moose Lake center were not deliberately indifferent to the suffering of the inmates and had, in fact, taken numerous steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. These steps sometimes included releasing inmates, implementing mask requirements, and increasing sanitation efforts. With respect to the writ of mandamus, the Court held that the respondents did not fail to perform a duty clearly imposed by law, because they had taken many steps to avoid the spread of COVID-19 in the prison.

A week later, the petitioners appealed. The case is ongoing as of August 26, 2020.

Jack Hibbard - 08/26/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
COVID-19
Mitigation Denied
Mitigation Requested
Release Denied
Release Requested
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Bathing and hygiene
Conditions of confinement
Sanitation / living conditions
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Habeas
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Minn. Dept. of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell
Minnesota Correctional Facility -- Moose Lake
Minnesota Department of Corrections
Moose Lake Warden William Bolin
Plaintiff Description Three inmates at Moose Lake detention center in Minneapolis
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Affiliates (any)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 04/15/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  ACLU-MN Sues to Release MCF-Moose Lake Inmates Endangered by COVID-19
ACLU of Minnesota
Date: Apr. 15, 2020
By: American Civil Liberties Union Minnesota
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
D. Minn.
06/23/2020
09-CV-20-633
PC-MN-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: State Court Website
General Documents
State Trial Court
04/15/2020
Memorandum in Support of Petitioners' Motion for Writs of Habeas Corpus, Mandamus and Appointment of a Special Master
PC-MN-0004-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: ACLU
State Trial Court
04/15/2020
Petition for Writs of Habeas Corpus, Mandamus
PC-MN-0004-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: ACLU
State Trial Court
06/05/2020
Respondents’ Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Petitioners' Writs of Habeas Corpus and Appointment of Special Master
PC-MN-0004-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
State Trial Court
06/15/2020
Petitioners' Reply to Respondents' Opposition to Petition for Writs of Habeas Corpus and Mandamus
PC-MN-0004-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
State Trial Court
07/13/2020
Memorandum and Order Denying Writs of Mandamus and Habeas Corpus and Dismissing Petition
PC-MN-0004-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
show all people docs
Judges Beiers, Leslie E. Court not on record show/hide docs
PC-MN-0004-0005 | PC-MN-0004-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bratlie, Ian (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0004-0001 | PC-MN-0004-0002 | PC-MN-0004-0004
Forrest, Steven Robert (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0004-0003 | PC-MN-0004-9000
Lew, Dan (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0004-0001 | PC-MN-0004-0002 | PC-MN-0004-0004
Middlebrook, Cathryn (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0004-0001 | PC-MN-0004-0002 | PC-MN-0004-0004
Nascimento, Isabella Salomao (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0004-0001 | PC-MN-0004-0002 | PC-MN-0004-0004
Nelson, Teresa J. (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0004-0001 | PC-MN-0004-0002 | PC-MN-0004-0004
Shulman, Daniel R (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0004-0001 | PC-MN-0004-0002 | PC-MN-0004-0004 | PC-MN-0004-9000
Ward, William (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0004-0001 | PC-MN-0004-0002 | PC-MN-0004-0004
Defendant's Lawyers Ellison, Keith (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0004-0003
Miltich, Cicely (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0004-0003

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