Special Litigation Section
Special Litigation Section
The Special Litigation Section is one of several Sections in the Civil Rights Division. We work to protect civil rights in the following areas: 1) the rights of people in state or local institutions, including: jails, prisons, juvenile detention facilities, and health care facilities for persons with disabilities; 2) the rights of individuals with disabilities to receive services in their communities, rather than in institutions; 3) the rights of people who interact with state or local police or sheriffs' departments; 4) the rights of youth involved in the juvenile justice system; 5) the rights of people to have safe access to reproductive health care clinics; and 6) the rights of people to practice their religion while confined to state and local institutions. We can also act on behalf of people at risk of harm in these areas.
Special Litigation Section News
DOJ Opens Pattern or Practice Investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department and City of Minneapolis
On April 21, 2021, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced that the Department of Justice opened a civil pattern or practice investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department and the City of Minneapolis, pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The DOJ investigation seeks to establish whether there is reasonable cause to believe that the Minneapolis Police Department and City of Minneapolis engage in a pattern or practice of: (1) using excessive force, including against those engaged in peaceful expressive activities and members of the press in violation of the First and Fourth Amendments; (2) discriminatory policing, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Safe Streets Act, and the Fourteenth Amendment; and (3) providing services that discriminate against individuals with disabilities in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The investigation will be conducted by a team of career civil attorneys from the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division and the Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota. Individuals who wish to share information related to the investigation are encouraged to contact DOJ at (866) 432-0268 or via email at email@example.com. The Civil Rights Division also has a Civil Rights Portal, where people can report when their civil rights have been violated, which is available at https://civilrights.justice.gov/.
DOJ Announces Investigation of the Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government and Louisville Metro Police Department
On April 26, 2021, the Department of Justice announced a pattern or practice investigation into the Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government and the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD). The investigation is assessing use of force by LMPD officers, including use of force against individuals with behavioral health disabilities and individuals engaged in First Amendment activities. The investigation will also assess whether LMPD engages in discriminatory policing and whether it conducts unreasonable stops, searches, seizures, and arrests, including during patrol activities and in searches of private homes. The investigation involves a comprehensive review of LMPD policies, training, and supervision, as well as LMPD’s systems of accountability, including misconduct complaint intake, investigation, review, disposition, and discipline. The investigation is being led by the Department’s Civil Rights Division and conducted by career attorneys and staff in the Civil Rights Division and in the Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky. Individuals with relevant information are encouraged to contact us via email at Community.Louisville@usdoj.gov or by phone at 1-844-920-1460. Individuals can also report civil rights violations regarding this or other matters using the Civil Rights Division’s reporting portal, available at www.civilrights.justice.gov.
On December 9, 2020, the United States filed a lawsuit against the State of Alabama and the Alabama Department of Corrections, pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons (“CRIPA”). The complaint alleges that the conditions at Alabama’s prisons for men violate the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution by failing to provide adequate protection from prisoner-on-prisoner violence and prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse; failing to provide safe and sanitary conditions; and subjecting prisoners to excessive force at the hands of prison staff. On April 2, 2019, the Division issued a findings report informing the State of Alabama that there is reasonable cause to believe that these prisons fail to protect prisoners from prisoner-on-prisoner violence and prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse, and fail to provide prisoners with safe conditions. In July 2020, we found that the Alabama Department of Corrections violates the Eighth Amendment by subjecting prisoners to use of excessive force by staff. The investigation was conducted by attorneys with the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Alabama. If you have comments, concerns, or relevant information, please feel free to contact us via email at USAALN.CivilRights@usa.doj.gov or by phone at (877) 419-2366.
The Department of Justice investigated conditions at the Broad River Road Complex (BRRC), South Carolina’s long-term juvenile commitment facility. The investigation considered whether the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) fails to protect youth from physical abuse by other youth and by staff, and subjects youth to prolonged solitary confinement. On February 5, 2020, the Department concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe the conditions at BRRC violate the Fourteenth Amendment. Specifically, DJJ fails to keep youth reasonably safe from youth-on-youth violence at BRRC. Additionally, DJJ seriously harms youth by using isolation for punitive rather than legitimate purposes and by placing youth in isolation for lengthy periods. The Department concluded that there was no reasonable basis to believe that DJJ’s use of secure evaluation centers violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Department continues to investigate allegations that youth are also at substantial risk of serious harm as a result of excessive force from staff. The Department welcomes relevant information, via email at SCJuvenile.Justice@usdoj.gov, by phone (toll-free) at 1-844-380-6166, or by mail at U.S. Department of Justice, Special Litigation Section, Civil Rights Division, 950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20530 (attn.: South Carolina Juveniles Team).
Court Approves Stipulated Order to Settle Contempt Motion About Conditions in Hinds County, Mississippi Jail
On January 16, 2020, the Department obtained federal court approval of a Stipulated Order that resolved contempt proceedings about Hinds County’s compliance with a July 19, 2016 Settlement Agreement. The Settlement Agreement required Hinds County officials to improve conditions in the Hinds County Jail. After a Court Monitor reported continued violations of the Settlement, the Department filed a motion to show cause for contempt on June 24, 2019. The Court set a trial date for December 16, 2019. On the first day of trial, the parties submitted a proposed Stipulated Order to resolve their dispute. The Court heard oral argument from the parties about the Stipulated Order and subsequently approved the settlement.
Following a lengthy trial, the United States prevailed in a lawsuit against the State of Mississippi alleging that the State violates Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by unnecessarily segregating people with mental illness in its state hospitals and placing people with mental illness at serious risk of hospitalization as a result of insufficient community-based services. On September 3, 2019, the Court held in favor of the United States finding that the State’s mental health system “excludes adults with SMI [serious mental illness] from full integration into the communities in which they live, and work, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).”
DOJ Issues Conclusions About Alabama Prisons Investigation
On April 2, 2019, the Civil Rights Division issued a notice letter informing the State of Alabama of the conclusions of its investigation into the Alabama men’s prisons. We concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that these prisons fail to protect prisoners from prisoner-on-prisoner violence and prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse, and fail to provide prisoners with safe conditions. The investigation was conducted by attorneys with the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Alabama. If you have comments, concerns, or relevant information, please feel free to contact us via email at USAALN.CivilRights@usa.doj.gov or by phone at (877) 419-2366.
DOJ Issues Conclusions about Boyd County Jail, KY Investigation
On February 28, 2019, the Department issued a Notice Letter informing the Boyd County Detention Center (“the Jail”) in Catlettsburg, Kentucky about the conclusions of its investigation of Jail conditions. DOJ found reasonable cause to believe that conditions at the Jail violate the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. In violation of prisoners’ constitutional rights, the Jail subjected prisoners to excessive force through the routine use of pepper spray and tasers, and when it placed prisoners in the restraint chair, which uses straps and belts to secure a prisoner’s arms, legs, and torso. In addition, the Jail restrained nearly naked prisoners in full view of prisoners and prison staff of the opposite gender in violation of prisoners’ constitutional rights to bodily privacy. If you have comments, concerns, or relevant information, please feel free to contact us via email at Special.Litigation@usdoj.gov or by phone at (877) 218-5228.
DOJ Issues Conclusions about Hampton Roads Regional Jail Investigation
On December 19, 2018, The Department issued a Notice Letter informing the Hampton Roads Regional Jail Authority about the conclusions of its investigation into the Hampton Roads Regional Jail. DOJ concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that the Jail violates the prisoners’ rights to adequate medical and mental health care. There was a reasonable cause to believe that the Jail’s use of restrictive housing subjected prisoners with serious mental illness to substantial risk of serious harm. Finally, the Jail’s use of restrictive housing for prisoners with mental health disabilities violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The investigation was conducted by the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.