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Case Name Malcolm v. Starr PC-MN-0005
Docket / Court 0:20-cv-02503 ( D. Minn. )
State/Territory Minnesota
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization ACLU Affiliates (any)
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This habeas action and putative class action lawsuit was filed on December 9, 2020 by a group of medically vulnerable incarcerated individuals in FCI-Waseca, seeking release or home confinement and changes to the COVID-19 procedures in the prison. The court denied the petitioners' ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This habeas action and putative class action lawsuit was filed on December 9, 2020 by a group of medically vulnerable incarcerated individuals in FCI-Waseca, seeking release or home confinement and changes to the COVID-19 procedures in the prison. The court denied the petitioners' temporary restraining order and dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on March 11, 2021.


This petition for a writ of habeas corpus and class action lawsuit is about the spread of COVID-19 and the safety of incarcerated individuals at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Waseca, Minnesota. Fourteen medically vulnerable prisoners at FCI-Waseca filed the case on behalf of themselves and all similarly situated individuals in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota against the Warden of FCI-Waseca and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons on December 9, 2020. The petitioners defined the proposed class as current or future prisoners at FCI-Waseca who are medically vulnerable due to being fifty and older or by having a preexisting medical condition. Eleven of the petitioners sought to represent a subclass of all current and future inmates at the facility who are medically vulnerable, have previously contracted COVID-19, and are at risk of reinfection. Three of the petitioners sought to represent a second subclass consisting of medically vulnerable inmates who have not yet contracted COVID-19. Four of the petitioners sought to represent a third subclass of inmates who are medically vulnerable due to a disability defined by the Rehabilitation Act.

The petitioners argued that the conditions of their confinement amounted to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution because the petitioners and class members are at an unreasonable risk of serious damage by being exposed to COVID-19 and this risk has been disregarded by the respondents. The petitioners also alleged that the respondents violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to review and failing to approve home confinement for eligible petitioners and class members, which petitioners argued rose to the level of an arbitrary and capricious official action or an abuse of discretion by the respondents. The petitioners representing the third subclass also alleged that the respondents violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by discriminating against them on the basis of disability because of the respondents' failure to provide access to safe conditions of confinement and adequate preventative and responsive measures.

The petitioners sought a certification of the proposed class and subclasses and a writ of habeas corpus requiring the respondents to release the petitioners to home confinement. In addition, the petitioners requested a declaration that the respondents' policies and practices regarding COVID-19 are unconstitutional and in violation of the Rehabilitation Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. They also sought an injunction requiring the respondents to comply with the Constitution and the Rehabilitation Act, as well as the appointment of a Special Master to make COVID-19 mitigation recommendations to the Court. The case was assigned to Judge Michael J. Davis and referred to Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois.

On December 11, 2020, the petitioners moved for a temporary restraining order. On January, 15, 2021, Magistrate Judge Brisbois recommended that both the petition writ of habeas corpus and the motion for a temporary restraining order be denied. 2021 WL 190870. The Court noted that while the petitioners initially appeared to seek both habeas relief and civil suit relief, they later clarified that they were seeking only habeas release. This eliminated all declaratory and injunctive relief that the petitioners sought in their initial petition. The Court then found that the remaining habeas claims included two possible forms of relief: immediate complete release from incarceration or immediate transfer to home confinement. However, the Court concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the remaining habeas claims.

For compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. § 3582, the petitioners would have needed to address the court in which each of them were sentenced, which they did not do. The Court noted that the petitioners could also seek release through 18 U.S.C. § 2241, which extends to individuals held in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States. However, the Court concluded that a § 2241 habeas claim may only challenge the fact or duration of confinement, rather than the conditions of confinement, the basis for the challenge in this case. While these findings were sufficient to dispose of the petitioners' claims and deny the temporary restraining order for lack of likelihood of success on the merits, the Court also analyzed the underlying constitutional claims and found that binding 8th Circuit precedent does not allow a disagreement over proper medical treatment or response to support a claim for cruel and unusual punishment.

On March 1, 2021, the parties stipulated to a dismissal of the claims of two of the petitioners, each of whom were granted clemency and released from prison. On March 11, 2021, District Judge Michael J. Davis adopted all of the recommendations of Magistrate Judge Brisbois, with the exception of the section on the merits of the Eighth Amendment claims. For the reasons Magistrate Judge Brisbois stated, the District Court denied the temporary restraining order and dismissed the habeas claims for lack of jurisdiction.

The case is now closed.

Nicholas Gillan - 09/19/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
COVID-19
Mitigation Denied
Mitigation Requested
Population-Medically vulnerable
Release Denied
Release Requested
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
disability, unspecified
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Conditions of confinement
Sanitation / living conditions
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Habeas
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Habeas Corpus, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241-2253; 2254; 2255
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) Federal Bureau of Prisons
Federal Correctional Institution, Waseca
Plaintiff Description 14 incarcerated women on behalf of all medically vulnerable persons currently or in the future imprisoned at FCI-Waseca during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Affiliates (any)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Mooted before ruling
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 12/09/2020
Case Closing Year 2021
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
D. Minn.
03/15/2021
0:20-cv-02503-MJD-LIB
PC-MN-0005-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D. Minn.
12/09/2020
Class Action Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief and Petition for Writs of Habeas Corpus [ECF# 1]
PC-MN-0005-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: ACLU
D. Minn.
12/09/2020
Class Action Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief and Petition for Writs of Habeas Corpus [ECF# 1]
PC-MN-0005-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: ACLU
D. Minn.
12/18/2020
Memorandum of Law in Support of Petitioners' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order [ECF# 29]
PC-MN-0005-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Minn.
01/15/2021
Report and Recommendation [ECF# 85]
PC-MN-0005-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Minn.
03/11/2021
Memorandum of Law & Order [ECF# 108]
PC-MN-0005-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Brisbois, Leo I. (D. Minn.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-MN-0005-0004 | PC-MN-0005-9000
Davis, Michael James (FISC, D. Minn.) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0005-0005 | PC-MN-0005-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bratlie, Ian (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0005-0001 | PC-MN-0005-0002 | PC-MN-0005-0003 | PC-MN-0005-9000
Bye, Jonathan M (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0005-0001 | PC-MN-0005-0002 | PC-MN-0005-0003 | PC-MN-0005-9000
Diegel, Clare A (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0005-0001 | PC-MN-0005-0002 | PC-MN-0005-0003 | PC-MN-0005-9000
Hilke, Wallace G (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0005-0002 | PC-MN-0005-0003 | PC-MN-0005-9000
Nascimento, Isabella Salomao (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0005-0001 | PC-MN-0005-0002 | PC-MN-0005-0003 | PC-MN-0005-9000
Nelson, Teresa J. (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0005-0001 | PC-MN-0005-0002 | PC-MN-0005-0003 | PC-MN-0005-9000
Walker, Mary Andreleita (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0005-0001 | PC-MN-0005-0002 | PC-MN-0005-0003 | PC-MN-0005-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bildtsen, Ann M (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0005-9000
Secord, Erin M. (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0005-9000
Voss, Ana H. (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PC-MN-0005-9000

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