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Case Name Busby v. Bonner JC-TN-0012
Docket / Court 2:20-cv-02359 ( W.D. Tenn. )
State/Territory Tennessee
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Jail Conditions
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National (all projects)
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This is a habeas action filed by individuals in the Shelby County Jail who alleged that their underlying medical conditions made them especially vulnerable to COVID-19. They alleged violations of the Fourteenth Amendment, ADA, and Rehabilitation Act and requested release. The ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This is a habeas action filed by individuals in the Shelby County Jail who alleged that their underlying medical conditions made them especially vulnerable to COVID-19. They alleged violations of the Fourteenth Amendment, ADA, and Rehabilitation Act and requested release. The court denied both preliminary relief and motions to dismiss; a bench trial is set for May 2021.


Two individuals with medical conditions that rendered them especially vulnerable to COVID-19 filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus on May 20, 2020 against the Shelby County Sheriff's Office in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. They sought to represent a class of Shelby County Jail detainees with disabilities or who were medically vulnerable to COVID-19. Represented by lawyers from the ACLU as well as private counsel, they alleged violations of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.), and the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. § 701).

Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that conditions in the jail, like housing detainees in close proximity to one another, constituted a failure to provide reasonable safety as well as unlawful punishment of pretrial detainees. They also claimed that defendants were violating the ADA and Rehabilitation Act because they had not made reasonable modifications to their policies to avoid discriminating against detainees with disabilities, who were particularly likely to be affected by COVID. Judge Sheryl H. Lipman was assigned the case.

Simultaneously with the initial petition, plaintiffs sought class certification, a temporary restraining order (TRO) or writ of habeas corpus that would immediately release the named plaintiffs, and a TRO, preliminary injunction, permanent injunction and/or writ of habeas corpus that would create a process by which class members could be released. Plaintiffs filed a motion to expedite consideration of the TRO and preliminary injunction.

The following day, Judge Lipman granted the motion to expedite consideration of the TRO and preliminary injunction, instructing defendants to file a response by May 26. Defendants did so, filing a motion to dismiss, a response in opposition to the motion for class certification, and a response in opposition to the motion for a temporary restraining order. Defendants' responses indicated that they had a thorough process for dealing with COVID-19 and were trying to decrease the population of the jail.

By June 10, Judge Lipman issued an order denying defendant's motion for dismissal. She explained that habeas relief was properly sought because plaintiffs challenged the "fact," not conditions, of confinement. Judge Lipman also denied in part and granted in part plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. The court granted class certification but narrowed its scope. The certified class consisted of detainees (1) age 65 or older; or with (2) chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma; (3) serious heart conditions; (4) immunodeficiencies; (5) severe obesity; (6) diabetes; (7) chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis; (8) chronic liver disease; or (9) hemoglobin disorders. The court also certified a subclass defined as "All persons currently or in the future held at the Jail in pretrial custody during the COVID19 pandemic who are at increased risk of COVID-19 complications or death because of disabilities as defined in the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act." 2020 WL 3108713.

Two days later, Judge Lipman addressed the motion for a temporary restraining order. She found that the factual record was not developed enough to rule and ordered the parties to agree on an "Independent Inspector" who would visit the jail and report back to the court.

A few days later, plaintiffs submitted an amended complaint which added two more named plaintiffs.

Meanwhile, by June 18 the parties had settled on Michael K. Brady as Independent Inspector. The Inspector filed his report on June 30, 2020. He found that the jail was run by "consummate professionals" but still needed to make several adjustments to ensure the safety of its detainees, including issuing additional masks, improving sanitation, and sequestering new arrivals and high-risk detainees.

On June 30, defendants submitted another motion to dismiss, this time targeting plaintiffs’ amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

The court denied the motion on July 24, 2020. Judge Lipman criticized defendants' "needless filing" of a second motion to dismiss. She noted that defendants' arguments either had been raised and rejected in the first motion to dismiss or should have been raised in the earlier motion. Judge Lipman then rejected the new arguments on the merits because (1) pretrial detainees can bring unconstitutional punishment claims; (2) neither the ADA nor the Rehabilitation Act required proof of discriminatory intent; and (3) habeas relief was available for detainees alleging that their continued detention violated the ADA and Rehabilitation Act. 2020 WL 4668756.

On August 7, the court rejected plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunctive relief and habeas relief. Judge Lipman noted that habeas relief was only available if plaintiffs showed that it was impossible for the jail to detain them in compliance with the Constitution, ADA, and Rehabilitation Act. But she found that "any shortcomings are remediable," while acknowledging continuing concerns about the lack of social distancing, testing, and quarantine at the jail. 2020 WL 4668757.

In a second amended petition for habeas corpus dated September 15, 2020, plaintiffs alleged that defendants had "temporarily made improvements to certain conditions, apparently in preparation for the inspections by court-appointed inspector," but those improvements "lapsed shortly after the inspections occurred." The amended petition also added additional named plaintiffs and included a more detailed request for injunctive relief.

The case is ongoing. As of October 28, 2020, a bench trial is set for May 24, 2021.

Jack Hibbard - 07/15/2020
Timothy Leake - 10/28/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Post-PLRA Population Cap
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
disability, unspecified
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Bathing and hygiene
Conditions of confinement
Over/Unlawful Detention
Sanitation / living conditions
Totality of conditions
Medical/Mental Health
COVID-19 Mitigation Requested
COVID-19 Release Denied
COVID-19 Release Requested
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Habeas
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Habeas Corpus, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241-2253; 2254; 2255
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) Shelby County Sheriff
Plaintiff Description Four named jail detainees on behalf of a class of detainees (1) age 65 or older; or with (2) chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma; (3) serious heart conditions; (4) immunodeficiencies; (5) severe obesity; (6) diabetes; (7) chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis; (8) chronic liver disease; or (9) hemoglobin disorders, and a subclass of detainees at elevated risk of COVID-19 due to disabilities.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National (all projects)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 05/20/2020
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)
  Busby v. Bonner
aclu.org
Date: Jun. 17, 2020
By: American Civil Liberties Union
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
W.D. Tenn.
10/06/2020
2:20-cv-02359
JC-TN-0012-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
W.D. Tenn.
05/20/2020
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 and Class Action Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
JC-TN-0012-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: ACLU
W.D. Tenn.
05/20/2020
Petitioners-Plaintiffs' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order [ECF# 2 (& 2-1 to 2-8)]
JC-TN-0012-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: ACLU
W.D. Tenn.
05/26/2020
Respondents-Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 25 & 25-1]
JC-TN-0012-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Tenn.
05/26/2020
Respondents-Defendants' Response in Opposition to Petitioners-Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification [ECF# 26]
JC-TN-0012-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Tenn.
05/26/2020
Respondents-Defendants’ Response in Opposition to Petitioners-Plaintiffs’ Motion for Temporary Restraining Order [ECF# 27-1]
JC-TN-0012-0013.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Tenn.
05/26/2020
Respondents-Defendants’ Response in Opposition to Petitioners-Plaintiffs’ Motion for Temporary Restraining Order [ECF# 27 (& 27-2 to 27-6)]
JC-TN-0012-0014.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Tenn.
05/29/2020
Petitioners-Plaintiffs' Brief in Opposition to Respondents-Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 35 (& 35-1 to 35-5)]
JC-TN-0012-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Tenn.
06/04/2020
Respondents-Defendants' Reply to Petitioners-Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 37]
JC-TN-0012-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Tenn.
06/10/2020
Order Denying Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss and Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification [ECF# 38] (2020 WL 3108713)
JC-TN-0012-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Tenn.
06/12/2020
Order Addressing Motion for Temporary Restraining Order [ECF# 45]
JC-TN-0012-0008.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Tenn.
06/16/2020
First Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C § 2241 and Class Action Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 50]
JC-TN-0012-0015.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Tenn.
06/18/2020
Inspection Order [ECF# 56]
JC-TN-0012-0016.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Tenn.
06/19/2020
Motion for Expediting Discovery [ECF# 57]
JC-TN-0012-0009.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Tenn.
06/22/2020
Respondents-Defendant's Response in Opposition to Petitioners-Plaintiffs' Motion for Expedited Discovery [ECF# 64]
JC-TN-0012-0010.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Tenn.
06/23/2020
Order Granting in Part and Limiting in Part Plaintiffs' Motion for Expedited Disocovery [ECF# 69]
JC-TN-0012-0011.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Tenn.
06/30/2020
Covid-19 Inspection of the Shelby County Men’s Jail at 201 Poplar Avenue, Memphis TN 38103 Final Report [ECF# 76]
JC-TN-0012-0017.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Tenn.
06/30/2020
Respondents-Defendants' Motion to Dismiss First Amended Petition [ECF# 78 (& 78-1 to 78-4)]
JC-TN-0012-0012.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Tenn.
07/15/2020
Petitioners-Plaintiffs' Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law [ECF# 114]
JC-TN-0012-0021.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Tenn.
07/24/2020
Order Denying Defendants' Second Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 122] (2020 WL 4668756)
JC-TN-0012-0018.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: Westlaw
W.D. Tenn.
08/07/2020
Order Denying Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 124] (2020 WL 4668757)
JC-TN-0012-0019.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: Westlaw
W.D. Tenn.
09/15/2020
[Proposed] Second Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Class Action Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 135-1]
JC-TN-0012-0020.pdf | External Link | Detail
Source: ACLU
show all people docs
Judges Christoff, Annie T Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-9000
Lipman, Sheryl Halle (W.D. Tenn.) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0007 | JC-TN-0012-0008 | JC-TN-0012-0011 | JC-TN-0012-0016 | JC-TN-0012-0018 | JC-TN-0012-0019 | JC-TN-0012-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bial, Joseph (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0001 | JC-TN-0012-0002 | JC-TN-0012-0005 | JC-TN-0012-0009 | JC-TN-0012-0015 | JC-TN-0012-0020 | JC-TN-0012-0021
Borner, Meredith (New York) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0020 | JC-TN-0012-0021 | JC-TN-0012-9000
Brennan-Krohn, Zoe (California) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0001 | JC-TN-0012-0002 | JC-TN-0012-0005 | JC-TN-0012-0009 | JC-TN-0012-0015 | JC-TN-0012-0020 | JC-TN-0012-0021 | JC-TN-0012-9000
Castelli, Thomas H. (Tennessee) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0001 | JC-TN-0012-0002 | JC-TN-0012-0005 | JC-TN-0012-0009 | JC-TN-0012-0015 | JC-TN-0012-0020 | JC-TN-0012-0021 | JC-TN-0012-9000
Dozier, Wesley (Tennessee) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0001 | JC-TN-0012-0002 | JC-TN-0012-0005 | JC-TN-0012-0009 | JC-TN-0012-0020 | JC-TN-0012-0021
Johnson, Darren W. (New York) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0001 | JC-TN-0012-0002 | JC-TN-0012-0005 | JC-TN-0012-0009 | JC-TN-0012-0015 | JC-TN-0012-0020 | JC-TN-0012-0021
Kimball-Stanley, David C. (New York) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0001 | JC-TN-0012-0002 | JC-TN-0012-0005 | JC-TN-0012-0009 | JC-TN-0012-0015 | JC-TN-0012-0021
Lee, Adrienne (New York) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0001 | JC-TN-0012-0002 | JC-TN-0012-0005 | JC-TN-0012-0009 | JC-TN-0012-0015 | JC-TN-0012-0021
Mathai, Amreeta (New York) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0001 | JC-TN-0012-0002 | JC-TN-0012-0005 | JC-TN-0012-0009 | JC-TN-0012-0015 | JC-TN-0012-0020 | JC-TN-0012-0021 | JC-TN-0012-9000
Medjuck, Avery (New York) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0001 | JC-TN-0012-0002 | JC-TN-0012-0005 | JC-TN-0012-0009
Morris, Maria (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Mulroy, Steven John (Tennessee) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0001 | JC-TN-0012-0002 | JC-TN-0012-0005 | JC-TN-0012-0009 | JC-TN-0012-0015 | JC-TN-0012-0020 | JC-TN-0012-0021
Robinson, Jeffery (New York) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0020 | JC-TN-0012-0021 | JC-TN-0012-9000
Robinson, Edward (New York) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0020 | JC-TN-0012-0021 | JC-TN-0012-9000
Silberstein-Loeb, Jonathan M (New York) show/hide docs
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Spickler, Josh (Tennessee) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0001 | JC-TN-0012-0002 | JC-TN-0012-0005 | JC-TN-0012-0009 | JC-TN-0012-0015 | JC-TN-0012-0020 | JC-TN-0012-0021 | JC-TN-0012-9000
Timmons, Brice Moffatt (Tennessee) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0001 | JC-TN-0012-0002 | JC-TN-0012-0005 | JC-TN-0012-0009 | JC-TN-0012-0015 | JC-TN-0012-0020 | JC-TN-0012-0021 | JC-TN-0012-9000
Woods, Andrea (New York) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0001 | JC-TN-0012-0002 | JC-TN-0012-0005 | JC-TN-0012-0009 | JC-TN-0012-0015 | JC-TN-0012-0020 | JC-TN-0012-0021 | JC-TN-0012-9000
Yarbrough, Stella Marie (Tennessee) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0001 | JC-TN-0012-0002 | JC-TN-0012-0005 | JC-TN-0012-0009 | JC-TN-0012-0015 | JC-TN-0012-0020 | JC-TN-0012-0021 | JC-TN-0012-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Iverson, Marlinee (Tennessee) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0003 | JC-TN-0012-0004 | JC-TN-0012-0006 | JC-TN-0012-0010 | JC-TN-0012-0012 | JC-TN-0012-0014 | JC-TN-0012-9000
Pentecost, James I. (Tennessee) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-0003 | JC-TN-0012-0004 | JC-TN-0012-0006 | JC-TN-0012-0010 | JC-TN-0012-0012 | JC-TN-0012-0014 | JC-TN-0012-9000
Stigger, Bridgett L (Tennessee) show/hide docs
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Stokes, J Austin (Tennessee) show/hide docs
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Tilly, Nathan Daniel (Tennessee) show/hide docs
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Other Lawyers Bledsoe, John H (Tennessee) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-9000
Goode, Janet (Tennessee) show/hide docs
JC-TN-0012-9000

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