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Case Name Smith v. Barr PC-IN-0027
Docket / Court 2:20-cv-00630-JRS ( S.D. Ind. )
State/Territory Indiana
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Prison Conditions
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: Two individuals incarcerated at Terre Haute Correctional Complex filed this lawsuit on behalf of all individuals who were or would be incarcerated at Terre Haute during the COVID-19 pandemic. They sought injunctive relief to stop the defendants from conducting federal executions, ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: Two individuals incarcerated at Terre Haute Correctional Complex filed this lawsuit on behalf of all individuals who were or would be incarcerated at Terre Haute during the COVID-19 pandemic. They sought injunctive relief to stop the defendants from conducting federal executions, which drew hundreds of individuals from all over the country and therefore threatened the plaintiffs' safety. The court denied the plaintiffs' first motion for preliminary injunction but granted the second motion, prohibiting the defendants from executing any additional inmates without first taking specific precautions. In March 2021, the case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, as there were no more pending executions.



This is a class action lawsuit regarding the potential threat posed by executions at a federal prison during the COVID-19 pandemic. On November 25, 2020, two individuals incarcerated at the Terre Haute Federal Correctional Complex filed this lawsuit on behalf of all those "currently or who will in the future be incarcerated at [Terre Haute] during the COVID-19 pandemic" in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The plaintiffs sued the U.S. Attorney General, Director of Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the Warden of Terre Haute Federal Correctional Complex (Terre Haute) under the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C 2201, alleging Eighth Amendment violations and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that by conducting executions during the COVID-19 pandemic and allowing an estimated 200 people from all over the U.S. to visit the prison for each execution, the defendants showed deliberate indifference to the plaintiffs' health and safety. The case was assigned to Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson and Magistrate Judge Doris L. Pryor.

On November 30, the plaintiffs filed an emergency motion for preliminary injunction and a request for expedited consideration. The plaintiffs requested that the court enjoin the defendants from conducting further executions at Terre Haute during the COVID-19 pandemic. After several hearings on the motion, the court denied the plaintiffs' request for preliminary injunction on December 8, holding that the U.S. Attorney General has near limitless discretion to conduct federal executions, subject only to the Eighth Amendment. The court stated that the plaintiffs' Eighth Amendment rights were not violated, since the increased risk of COVID-19 would only result in more COVID-19 cases for those involved in the executions, and not the plaintiffs themselves. The court thus held that the plaintiffs did not meet their burden of showing their constitutional claim was likely to succeed on the merits. 2020 WL 7239527.

After multiple executions were conducted at Terre Haute, the plaintiffs filed a second motion for preliminary injunction on December 28, seeking a prohibition on future executions until inmates no longer faced an unreasonable risk of contracting COVID-19 as a result of the executions. The plaintiffs proposed vaccinating the inmate population at Terre Haute or taking extensive preventative measures, including quarantining and testing execution team members and implementing contact tracing protocols.

On January 7, 2021, the court granted the motion in part and denied the motion in part, assenting to the fact that the previous executions did create a substantial risk that the plaintiffs would contract COVID-19 and suffer serious health consequences. 2021 WL 71168. Although not as extensive as the plaintiffs requested, the court prohibited the defendants from carrying out executions unless they took certain precautions, including enforcing face masks, maintaining contact logs, and implementing testing and contact tracing protocols.

A few days later, the plaintiffs moved for pre- and post-compliance reports, which the court granted on on January 11. The court ordered the defendants to provide the court with a sworn affidavit or declaration attesting their compliance with the preliminary injunction within 15 days of each execution. This motion was later denied as moot after the defendants moved for dismissal due to lack of jurisdiction on February 22. Because there were no more executions scheduled in the near future, the court granted the motion to dismiss on March 16, 2021, and the case was closed.

Zofia Peach - 04/15/2021


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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
Preliminary relief granted
COVID-19
Contact tracing ordered
Mitigation Denied
Mitigation Granted
Mitigation Requested
PPE-ordered worn by staff
Social distancing ordered
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Conditions of confinement
Sanitation / living conditions
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Defendant(s) Attorney General
Director
Warden
Plaintiff Description Two individuals incarcerated at Terre Haute Correctional Complex
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Mooted before ruling
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 11/25/2020
Case Closing Year 2021
Case Ongoing No
Court Docket(s)
S.D. Ind.
03/18/2021
2:20-cv-00630-JMS-DLP
PC-IN-0027-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
S.D. Ind.
11/25/2020
Class Action Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PC-IN-0027-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Ind.
11/30/2020
Plaintiffs' Emergency Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Request for Expedited Consideration [ECF# 12]
PC-IN-0027-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Ind.
12/08/2020
Order Denying Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 37] (2020 WL 7239527)
PC-IN-0027-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Ind.
12/28/2020
Plaintiffs' Second Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 47, 47-2, 47-3, 47-6]
PC-IN-0027-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Ind.
01/07/2021
Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiffs' Second Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 55] (512 F.Supp.3d 887)
PC-IN-0027-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Ind.
01/07/2021
Order Granting Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 56]
PC-IN-0027-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D. Ind.
03/16/2021
Order Dismissing Action as Moot [ECF# 84]
PC-IN-0027-0007.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Magnus-Stinson, Jane Elizabeth (S.D. Ind.) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0027-0003 | PC-IN-0027-0005 | PC-IN-0027-0006 | PC-IN-0027-0007 | PC-IN-0027-9000
Pryor, Doris L. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-IN-0027-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Burgoyne, Robert Anthony (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0027-0001 | PC-IN-0027-0002 | PC-IN-0027-0004 | PC-IN-0027-9000
Howland, Sarah (New York) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0027-0001 | PC-IN-0027-0002 | PC-IN-0027-0004 | PC-IN-0027-9000
Maley, John R. (Indiana) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0027-0001 | PC-IN-0027-0002 | PC-IN-0027-0004 | PC-IN-0027-9000
Mew, Caroline M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0027-0001 | PC-IN-0027-0002 | PC-IN-0027-0004 | PC-IN-0027-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Olson, Lisa A (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0027-9000
Von Bokern, Jordan L (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0027-9000
Woods, Shelese M. (Indiana) show/hide docs
PC-IN-0027-9000

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