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Case Name Frateschi v. Fennessy PC-NY-0084
Docket / Court 1700910/2020 ( State Court )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization Legal Services/Legal Aid
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This habeas corpus action was filed on April 24, 2020 by five medically vulnerable inmates in the Mid-State and Marcy correctional facilities, seeking immediate release from detention in light of COVID-19. The court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss on May 11, 2020. The ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This habeas corpus action was filed on April 24, 2020 by five medically vulnerable inmates in the Mid-State and Marcy correctional facilities, seeking immediate release from detention in light of COVID-19. The court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss on May 11, 2020. The petitioners filed a notice of appeal on June 9, 2020. According to plaintiffs' counsel as of September 29, the appeal is in process.


On April 24, 2020, the petitioners, five incarcerated individuals incarcerated in New York, filed a petition for habeas corpus in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in the County of Oneida. The petitioners requested their immediate release from two prisons operated by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), Mid-State and Marcy, due to their vulnerability to contracting COVID-19, arguing that their continued confinement violated the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 5 of the New York State Constitution.

In their petition, the plaintiffs outlined medical reasons for why each of individual was particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, including age, preexisting respiratory conditions, and other chronic medical conditions. The petition then highlighted the near impossibility of the prisons to protect the plaintiffs from contracting the virus, the severity of the disease, and the high rate of transmission in the State of New York. Lack of protection for inmates specified in the petition included the difficulty of social distancing within the prisons and the lack of ability to engage in the proper cleaning and hygiene necessary to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. Lack of supplies, shared toilets and showers, and communal eating arrangements all contributed to increased COVID-19 transmission, according to the petition.

The plaintiffs argued that the defendants’ continued incarceration of especially vulnerable persons constituted deliberate indifference to a serious medical harm. According to the petition, this deliberate indifference violated the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 5 of the New York State Constitution, which both prohibit the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments. The petitioners claimed that release was the only adequate remedy to cure the constitutional violation, arguing that transfer to other facilities or increased adherence to protocols suggested by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would be inadequate to prevent the petitioners from contracting COVID-19. The plaintiffs noted that precedent in New York had traditionally recognized that habeas claims were viable if a petitioner could show that the only way to cease a constitutional violation was through release from custody and that judges in New York had previously granted habeas petitions related to COVID-19.

The petitioners also argued that their ongoing exposure to COVID-19 constituted excessive punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 5 of the New York State Constitution. The petitioners argued that based on the New York State’s proportionality standard which looks to collateral consequences of conviction when determining constitutionality of a sentence, that their continued incarceration was unconstitutional given the spread of the virus. The plaintiffs requested that the court issue an Order to Show Cause for inquiring into the constitutionality of their continued confinement, grant a hearing, direct the petitioners’ immediate relief, and grant other just and proper relief.

The case was assigned to Justice David A. Murad. On April 27th, 2020, the court issued an order to show cause. On May 4, 2020, the respondents moved to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action. Along with the motion to dismiss, Assistant Attorney General of the State of New York Thomas P. Carafa filed an affirmation in support of the motion.

The affirmation argued that habeas corpus relief was not available because the petitioners were not subject to immediate release from custody. The respondents argued that the court’s granting of the habeas corpus petition would violate the authority of the New York State Parole Board because the petitioners had not yet reached the expiration of their sentences and that deliberate indifference to the petitioners’ medical needs do not entitle them to immediate release. The respondents argued that even if the petitioners were correct that the respondents had acted deliberately indifferent to the inmates’ medical needs, the petitioners would not be entitled to habeas corpus relief.

The affirmation also argued that the petitioners failed to show that they would be safer from COVID-19 if they were dismissed from prison because the inmates failed to provide information about where they would go if they were released. It also pointed out that half of state and federal prisoners reported ever having a chronic condition. Setting the precedent of releasing all inmates with chronic conditions, the respondents warned, would result in chaos. The respondents also claimed that, contrary to the petitioners’ allegations of deliberate indifference, that DOCCS had been taking aggressive steps to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in its prisons.

On May 4, 2020, Charles Quackenbush, Deputy Counsel for DOCCS, also filed an affirmation in support of the respondents’ motion to dismiss. In his affirmation, Quackenbush highlighted DOCCS’s previous successes at managing infectious outbreaks and its stockpiles of supplies and equipment to combat COVID-19 transmission. He claimed that DOCCS’s COVID-19 protocols were in line with the CDC recommendations.

On May 5, 2020, the petitioners filed a memorandum in opposition to the respondents’ motion to dismiss. The petitioners argued that, contrary to the respondents’ memorandum, that habeas corpus is proper in this case. The petitioners cited recent cases in New York State where courts held that a prisoner’s seeking release through habeas corpus is proper when release is the only adequate remedy for unconstitutional conditions of confinement, noting that courts had previously granted habeas relief to medically vulnerable prisoners to prevent their exposure to COVID-19.

The petitioners rejected the respondents’ contention that the inmates are required to show that they would be safer if released. The plaintiffs claimed, instead, that they were only required to show that their constitutional rights had been violated by their conditions of confinement and that release was the only adequate remedy.

The petitioners’ memorandum also reiterated that the plaintiffs had demonstrated that the respondents had been deliberately indifferent to the inmates’ risk of harm from COVID-19. They cited a long history of DOCCS’s providing of inadequate medical care during infectious outbreaks. They also pointed out that the respondents failed to mention the specific supplies, equipment, and resources that were available to fight a COVID-19 outbreak.

On May 11, 2020, Justice Murad filed a decision, order and judgment granting the respondents’ motion to dismiss. The decision stated that even if the court found deliberate indifference by the respondents, that the available relief would not include immediate relief. Justice Murad stated that release form custody is not an available remedy for allegedly inhumane prison conditions.

On June 9, 2020, the petitioners filed a notice of appeal to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. According to plaintiffs' counsel as of September 29, the appeal is in process.

Nicholas Gillan - 01/09/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Over/Unlawful Detention
Medical/Mental Health
COVID-19 Release Denied
COVID-19 Release Requested
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Habeas
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Habeas Corpus, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241-2253; 2254; 2255
State law
Defendant(s) Acting Commissioner of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
Superintendent of the Marcy Correctional Facility
Superintendent of the Mid-State Correctional Facility
Plaintiff Description Five inmates incarcerated in prisons operated by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Legal Services/Legal Aid
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 04/24/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Court Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
State Supreme Court
04/24/2020
Verified Petition for Habeas Corpus [ECF# 1]
PC-NY-0084-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
State Supreme Court
04/27/2020
Order to Show Cause [ECF# 5]
PC-NY-0084-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
State Supreme Court
05/04/2020
Notice of Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 9]
PC-NY-0084-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
State Supreme Court
05/04/2020
Affirmation in Opposition to Petition and in Support of Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 10]
PC-NY-0084-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
State Supreme Court
05/04/2020
Affirmation in Support [ECF# 11]
PC-NY-0084-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
State Supreme Court
05/05/2020
Petitioners' Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Respondents' Motion to Dismiss the Verified Petition for Habeas Corpus [ECF# 23]
PC-NY-0084-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
State Supreme Court
06/09/2020
Notice of Appeal [ECF# 32]
PC-NY-0084-0008.pdf | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
show all people docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Abrams, David J. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0084-0001 | PC-NY-0084-0002 | PC-NY-0084-0008
Choi, Brian (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0084-0001 | PC-NY-0084-0002 | PC-NY-0084-0008
Forster, Jill L. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0084-0001 | PC-NY-0084-0002 | PC-NY-0084-0008
Gebreselassie, Sophia (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0084-0001 | PC-NY-0084-0002 | PC-NY-0084-0008
Intravatola, Jeffrey E. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0084-0001 | PC-NY-0084-0002 | PC-NY-0084-0008
Isaacs, Elizabeth L. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0084-0001 | PC-NY-0084-0002 | PC-NY-0084-0008
Lewis, Dori A. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0084-0001 | PC-NY-0084-0002 | PC-NY-0084-0008
Loftis, David E. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0084-0001 | PC-NY-0084-0002 | PC-NY-0084-0008
Luongo, Justine (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0084-0008
Quackenbush, Robert Matthew (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0084-0001 | PC-NY-0084-0002 | PC-NY-0084-0003 | PC-NY-0084-0008
Short, Stefen Russell (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0084-0001 | PC-NY-0084-0002 | PC-NY-0084-0008
Werlwas, Mary Lynne (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0084-0001 | PC-NY-0084-0002 | PC-NY-0084-0008
Yacka-Bible, Andrea (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0084-0001 | PC-NY-0084-0002 | PC-NY-0084-0008
Defendant's Lawyers Carafa, Thomas P. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0084-0004 | PC-NY-0084-0005
James, Letitia (New York) show/hide docs
PC-NY-0084-0004 | PC-NY-0084-0005

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