Federal Court Certifies Class, Orders Sheriff to Release List of People in Shelby County Jail Most Vulnerable to COVID-19

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
June 11, 2020 11:30 pm

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MEMPHIS, TENN. – Last night, a federal judge certified the classes in the lawsuit seeking the emergency release of medically vulnerable people, including people with disabilities, detained at the Shelby County jail who are at high risk of severe injury or death from COVID-19. The judge further ordered the Shelby County sheriff to produce a list of the medically vulnerable and disabled individuals in his custody and denied the sheriff’s efforts to dismiss the lawsuit.

The decision removes procedural hurdles that often arise in cases seeking relief in the federal courts, allowing the lawsuit to move forward and making it more likely that plaintiffs can obtain the temporary release of potentially hundreds of COVID-vulnerable pretrial detainees who are not a danger to the public. The list the sheriff has been ordered to provide will allow plaintiffs to identify and seek release of the medically vulnerable and disabled whose constitutional and federal rights are being violated.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee; the American Civil Liberties Union; Just City; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; and attorneys Brice Timmons and Steve Mulroy filed the federal class action lawsuit on behalf of people incarcerated at the jail. The lawsuit, Busby v. Bonner, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee.

Andrea Woods, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, issued the following statement:

“This decision marks a significant step forward for medically-vulnerable people in the Shelby County Jail. All too often, courts allow jail officials to evade accountability when they fail to uphold their constitutional and moral obligations to people who are incarcerated. Not so here. We applaud this court’s recognition of the important issues raised in this case, which seeks essential relief to benefit not only our clients but the entire Shelby County community. As the court recognized, the importance of adequately responding to this moment cannot be overstated.”

Ruling: https://www.aclu-tn.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/2020.06.10-038-Order-denying-MTD-Shelby-Co-Jail.pdf

Complaint: https://www.aclu-tn.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Complaint-Filed-Busby-v-Bonner.pdf

Statement: https://www.aclu-tn.org/federal-court-certifies-classes-in-shelby-county-jail-lawsuit

More case info: http://justcity.org/covidlawsuit/

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