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Case Name Whorley v. Northam PC-VA-0026
Docket / Court 3:20-cv-255 ( E.D. Va. )
State/Territory Virginia
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization ACLU Affiliates (any)
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This case was filed on April 8, 2020 by several inmates in Virginia's state prisons, seeking safety remedies and early discharge. The case settled on May 12, 2020 and is being monitored weekly by the court.

Full Summary:
This lawsuit was filed on April 8, 2020 ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This case was filed on April 8, 2020 by several inmates in Virginia's state prisons, seeking safety remedies and early discharge. The case settled on May 12, 2020 and is being monitored weekly by the court.

Full Summary:
This lawsuit was filed on April 8, 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The lawsuit was filed amidst the outbreak of COVID-19 that occurred early in 2020. The plaintiffs were twenty-seven inmates held in Virginia state prisons. Represented by the ACLU Foundation of Virginia (ACLU-VA) and private counsel, they sued Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran, the Director of the Virginia Department of Corrections Harold Clarke, and the wardens of twelve different correctional facilities in Virginia. The lawsuit argued that the defendants violated the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in four ways. First, the defendants placed the inmates in quarters with very limited spacing, making them susceptible to contracting COVID. Second, the defendants did not procure equipment or develop any policies regarding sanitation for the inmates. Third, the defendants did not develop any policies to arrest the spread from prison staff to the inmates. Finally, the plaintiffs argued that the lack of medical supplies and testing for staff and inmates represented a violation of the Eighth Amendment. The plaintiffs sought declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and attorney's fees and costs.

The case was assigned to District Judge Henry E. Hudson.

By May 11, however, it appeared that the parties had worked out a solution. They moved to dismiss the case and enter a settlement agreement. In the settlement agreement, the defendants conceded to a system of early discharge that had been passed in April, of conditional pardons, a grievance system, the suspension of medical co-pays, expansion of PPE and testing, and new housing policies. The agreement was to last until the court decided that it was no longer necessary, determined by the extent of the spread of the coronavirus. The next day, the court entered the agreement.

The defendants filed weekly status reports that updated the court as to their ongoing efforts to detain the spread of the virus and improve hygiene in the detention centers.

On July 2, an inmate submitted a declaration which claimed that the prison was not properly washing the face masks they had given to the inmates, contrary to the terms of the settlement agreement. However, it does not appear that very much came of this.

Additionally, on September 8, the parties notified that court that they had agreed on a plan to resume transferring individuals from jails to VDOC custody. The plan provided for quarantine and testing procedures. Additionally, the defendants agreed to cease transferring individuals eligible for early release or those who with local motions pending, including motions for release on Home Electronic Monitoring or for reconsideration of their criminal sentence.

In response to the plaintiffs' notice of non-compliance dated September 22, on December 14, the parties notified the court that they resolved the matters. The plaintiffs agreed to provide the defendants with an updated list of ACLU-VA volunteer attorneys to help coordinate attorney phone calls. Additionally, the defendants agreed to inform high-risk inmates on the procedure for requesting expedited early release screening, create an anonymous complaint hotline for inmates, inform the correctional staff on how to report COVID-19 concerns, place the ALCU-VA in contact with the VA Department of Health, and consider prioritizing early release for approved inmates in the event of future COVID outbreaks at a correctional facility.

Furthermore, in response to an inmate's motion for release and numerous letters form inmates requesting relief under the settlement, on February 4, 2021 the court announced it did not have the authorization to mediate individual inmate disputes or order the release of inmates from custody.

As of February 4, 2021, the case is ongoing.

Jack Hibbard - 07/30/2020
Lily Sawyer-Kaplan - 10/25/2020
Zofia Peach - 02/04/2021

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
CDC Guidance ordered implemented
Contact tracing ordered
COVID testing ordered/modified
Mitigation Granted
Mitigation Requested
Population reduction/cap
Population-Medically vulnerable
PPE-ordered provided to prisoners for free
PPE-ordered worn by staff
Release Granted
Release granted-group
Release granted-individual
Release Requested
Release-process created/modified
Sanitizer/Handsoap ordered made available/used
Transfer-ordered or process created/modified
Bathing and hygiene
Conditions of confinement
Sanitation / living conditions
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) Director of Virginia Department of Corrections Harold Clarke
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam
Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran
Plaintiff Description Inmates in Virginia state correctional facilities
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Affiliates (any)
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 Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filed 04/08/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  ACLU-VA Reaches Settlement in COVID-19 Lawsuit Against VDOC on Behalf of 27 Individuals
ACLU of Virginia
Date: May 12, 2020
By: ACLU Virginia
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
E.D. Va.
PC-VA-0026-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
E.D. Va.
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-VA-0026-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Va.
Joint Motion to Dismiss and Retain Jurisdiction [ECF# 11 & 11-1]
PC-VA-0026-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Va.
Final Order [ECF# 12] (2020 WL 2485923)
PC-VA-0026-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: Bloomberg Law
E.D. Va.
Status Report [ECF# 34]
PC-VA-0026-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Hudson, Henry E. (E.D. Va.) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0026-0003 | PC-VA-0026-9000
Novak, David John (E.D. Va.) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Agraharkar, Vishal Mahendra (Virginia) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0026-0002 | PC-VA-0026-9000
Harding, Elliot Michael (Virginia) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0026-0001 | PC-VA-0026-0002 | PC-VA-0026-9000
Heilman, Eden Brooke (Virginia) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0026-0002 | PC-VA-0026-9000
Safstrom, Jennifer (Virginia) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0026-0002 | PC-VA-0026-9000
Tortoriello, Nicole (Virginia) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0026-0002 | PC-VA-0026-9000
Defendant's Lawyers O'Shea, Margaret Hoehl (Virginia) show/hide docs
PC-VA-0026-0002 | PC-VA-0026-0004 | PC-VA-0026-9000

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