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Special Litigation Section

About

The Special Litigation Section is one of several Sections in the Civil Rights Division. We work to protect civil rights in the following areas:

  • the rights of people in state or local institutions, including: jails, prisons, juvenile detention facilities, and health care facilities for persons with disabilities;
  • the rights of individuals with disabilities to receive services in their communities, rather than in institutions
  • the rights of people who interact with state or local police or sheriffs' departments;
  • the rights of youth involved in the juvenile justice system;
  • the rights of people to have safe access to reproductive health clinics and places of religious worship; and
  • 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.

Section Information

Chief
Steven Rosenbaum

Contact
Tel: (202) 514-6255
Toll-free: (877) 218-5228
Fax: (202) 514-0212
Alt. Fax: (202) 514-6273

Special Litigation Section News

Featured Items

DOJ Releases Findings Report Detailing Unconstitutional Patterns or Practices in the Phoenix Police Department and City of Phoenix

The Justice Department completed its pattern or practice investigation of the Phoenix Police Department (PhxPD) and the City of Phoenix on June 13, 2024. We found reasonable cause to believe that PhxPD:

  • uses excessive force, including deadly force;
  • with the City, unlawfully detains, cites, and arrests people experiencing homelessness and unlawfully disposes of their belongings;
  • discriminates against Black, Hispanic, and Native American people when enforcing the law;
  • violates the rights of people engaged in protected speech; and
  • with the City, discriminates against people with behavioral health disabilities by dispatching police officers in response to behavioral health calls and by failing to modify their response to people in crisis.

The Justice Department is committed to working collaboratively with the City and PhxPD to address and remedy the harms we identified in our investigation. We welcome ideas about the reform process. The full report is available online, and the executive summary is also available in English and Spanish. To contact us, you can:

Attn: Phoenix Police Department Team
Department of Justice, Special Litigation Section, Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

DOJ Issues Findings Report on Mississippi Department of Corrections

On February 28, 2024, the Division concluded its investigation into conditions of confinement at three MDOC prisons (Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, the South Mississippi Correctional Institution, and the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility) and notified the State of Mississippi that there is reasonable cause to believe that conditions at those facilities violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.  The investigation, done jointly with the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern and Southern Districts of Mississippi, was conducted under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). 

As the Findings Report details, the Department found reasonable cause to believe that Mississippi routinely violates the Constitutional rights of persons incarcerated by (1) failing to protect people from widespread physical violence; and (2) using restrictive housing at Wilkinson and Central in a way that exposes incarcerated people to substantial risk of serious physical and psychological harm.

These findings follow the Department’s April 2022 report which identified that conditions at the Mississippi State Penitentiary (Parchman) violate the constitutional rights of persons incarcerated there by subjecting them to violence, failing to provide adequate care for serious mental health needs or adequate suicide prevention measures, and using prolonged restrictive housing in a manner that poses a risk of serious harm.

Individuals with relevant information are encouraged to contact the Department via phone at 1-833-591-0288 or by email at Community.MSDoc@usdoj.gov.

DOJ Files Statement of Interest in Lawsuit Concerning Unnecessary Law Enforcement Responses to Mental Health Emergencies

On February 22, 2024, the Justice Department filed a Statement of Interest in Bread for the City v. District of Columbia, Civ. A. No. 1:23-cv-01945 (D.D.C), a lawsuit alleging that the District’s reliance on police officers as the default responders to mental health emergencies violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The statement explains that the ADA requires public entities to afford people with mental health disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from emergency response systems. This may require dispatching a different type of response to mental health emergencies when appropriate, such as mobile crisis teams staffed with behavioral health professionals, to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability.

The Justice Department is also conducting work around the country to ensure that public entities’ emergency response systems do not discriminate against people with disabilities. In May 2023, the Justice Department and Department of Health & Human Services issued guidance regarding Emergency Responses to People with Behavioral Health or Other Disabilities. In addition, the department recently concluded investigations in Minneapolis and Louisville, Kentucky, in which it found, in part, that the emergency response systems discriminate against people with behavioral health disabilities when responding to calls for assistance.

Individuals who wish to share information related to these matters or file a complaint with the Division may use the Civil Rights Division’s Civil Rights Portal.

DOJ Opens Pattern or Practice Investigation into the City of Lexington, Mississippi, and the Lexington Police Department

The Justice Department opened a pattern or practice investigation of the City of Lexington, Mississippi, and the Lexington Police Department on November 8, 2023. We will look at whether the Lexington Police Department:

  • uses excessive force,
  • engages in discriminatory policing,
  • makes unreasonable stops, searches, and arrests, or
  • violates the right to free speech. 

We will also review Lexington’s collection of fines and fees and how complaints of police misconduct are addressed. We welcome input on the investigation. To contact us, you can either:

  • email at Community.LexingtonMS@usdoj.gov,
  • call 833-610-1232,
  • submit a form through our portal, or
  • mail us a letter.
    Attn: Lexington Police Department Team
    Department of Justice, Special Litigation Section, Civil Rights Division
    950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
    Washington, D.C. 20530

DOJ Reaches Settlement Agreement with Alameda County, California to Expand Mental Health Services

Under the agreement, Alameda County will expand and improve community-based services to prevent unnecessary institutionalization and incarceration. Read the fact sheet about the proposed settlement. We welcome input on the implementation of the agreement. To contact the Department, you can either:

Action Center