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Case Name ACLU v. Montgomery County FA-PA-0018
Docket / Court 2:21-cv-02316 ( E.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Speech and Religious Freedom
Attorney Organization ACLU Affiliates (any)
Case Summary
This is a case about Montgomery County Correctional Facilities (MCCF) restricting access to clients, prospective clients, and witnesses, by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA). On May 20, 2021, ACLU-PA filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania ... read more >
This is a case about Montgomery County Correctional Facilities (MCCF) restricting access to clients, prospective clients, and witnesses, by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA). On May 20, 2021, ACLU-PA filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania. The ACLU-PA sued MCCF and Montgomery County. In addition, ACLU-PA sued MCCF’s Warden, its Director of Inmate Services, and its Assistant Director of Inmate Services. The suit was brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; it sought declaratory and injunctive relief as well as costs. The case was assigned to Judge Karen Marston.

ACLU-PA claimed that MCCF’s policy of requiring formal documentation of an established attorney-client relationship for professional visitations violated ACLU-PA’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. More specifically, ACLU-PA alleged that this policy amounted to retaliation against ACLU-PA because the organization pursued civil rights litigation on behalf of people incarcerated at MCCF. Also, under the Fourteenth Amendment, ACLU-PA alleged that this policy violated incarcerated persons’ rights at MCCF to access the courts.

A core aspect of ACLU-PA’s legal practice is vindicating the rights of incarcerated persons. To that end, ACLU-PA must regularly speak to current and potential clients in detention centers. When it investigates claims on behalf of its detained clients or potential clients, ACLU-PA relies on witnesses who are detained at the same center. ACLU-PA argued that it must be able to meet with both clients and witnesses who are detained to properly defend the rights of its detained clients.

For many years , the MCCF allowed allowed meetings between persons detained at their facility and ACLU staff to take place without asking the attorney to provide documentation of a pre-existing attorney-client relationship. But, on March 15, 2021, MCCF announced a new policy that required proof of a pre-existing attorney-client relationship prior to any virtual visit. This case's complaint alleged that at this point MCCF began unilaterally cancelling appointments between ACLU-PA and persons detained at their facility. Appointments were cancelled even with detained persons with whom ACLU-PA had previously met, individuals who had reached out to ACLU-PA regarding legal representation, and incarcerated persons with whom an attorney-client relationship was developing. In their complaint, ACLU-PA claimed that MCCF had not required proof of representation for non-ACLU-PA-affiliated attorneys.

When the ACLU-PA notified the county of its intent to seek a preliminary injunction, settlement negotations began and quickly concluded. Just two days after the case was filed, the parties stipulated to a consent order; it was signed by the court on May 24, 2021. As part of that order, MCCF agreed that it would no longer require proof of an existing attorney-client relationship for any lawyer to conduct a confidential “video, telephone, or in-person visit[] with individuals detained at the MCCF.” The parties also agreed that nothing in the consent order was an admission of liability on behalf of MCCF. The Court retained jurisdiction to enforce the Consent Order.

Jordan Katz - 10/12/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Freedom of speech/association
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Defendant(s) Montgomery County
Montgomery County Correctional Facility
Plaintiff Description ACLU of Pennsylvania
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
Order Duration 2021 - n/a
Filed 05/20/2021
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)
  ACLU of Pennsylvania v. Montgomery County et al.
ACLU of Pennsylvania
Date: May 20, 2021
By: ACLU of Pennsylvania
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
E.D. Pa.
05/24/2021
2:21-cv-02316-KSM
FA-PA-0018-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
E.D. Pa.
05/20/2021
Complaint [ECF# 1]
FA-PA-0018-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Pa.
05/24/2021
Consent Order [ECF# 3]
FA-PA-0018-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Marston, Karen Spencer (E.D. Pa.) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0018-0001 | FA-PA-0018-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bailey, Leslie C. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0018-0002
Freedman, John A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0018-0002
Lopez, Janine M (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0018-0002
Roper, Mary Catherine (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0018-0002 | FA-PA-0018-9000
Tutt, Andrew T. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0018-0002
Walczak, Witold J. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0018-0001 | FA-PA-0018-0002
Defendant's Lawyers Stein, Joshua M (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0018-0001 | FA-PA-0018-9000

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