Special Litigation Section

Special Litigation Section

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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.

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Featured Items

DOJ Opens Pattern or Practice Investigation into the New York Police Department Special Victims Division

On June 30, 2022, the Department of Justice opened a civil pattern or practice investigation into the Special Victims Division of the New York City Police Department, pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.  The investigation will assess whether the Special Victims Division engages in a pattern or practice of gender-biased policing.  The investigation will be conducted by a team of career civil attorneys from the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York.  Individuals who wish to share information related to the investigation are encouraged to contact us via email at USNYS.CommunitySVD@usdoj.gov or by calling 212-637-2746.  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.

DOJ Opens Investigation into South Carolina’s Use of Adult Care Homes

On January 12, 2022, the Civil Rights Division opened an investigation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into whether the State of South Carolina subjects adults with mental illness to unnecessary institutionalization, and risk of institutionalization, in adult care homes.  The investigation will examine whether South Carolina needlessly segregates individuals with mental illness in adult care homes, known in the State as community residential care facilities, by failing to provide integrated community-based mental health services.  Individuals with relevant information are encouraged to contact the department via email at Community.SouthCarolina@usdoj.gov, or through the Civil Rights Division’s Civil Rights Portal, available at https://civilrights.justice.gov/.

DOJ Issues Conclusions About Glenwood and Woodward Resource Centers Investigation

The Department of Justice has concluded its investigation regarding Glenwood and Woodward Resource Centers, two State-run, residential facilities for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities (IDD).  On December 22, 2020, the Department notified Iowa that there is reasonable cause to believe that conditions at Glenwood Resource Center violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.   Specifically, the Department concluded that Iowa operates Glenwood Resource Center in a manner that has subjected its residents to unreasonable harm and risk of harm, in violation of their Fourteenth Amendment rights, by exposing them to: uncontrolled and unsupervised physical and behavioral experimentation; inadequate physical and behavioral health care; and inadequate protections from harm, including deficient safety and oversight mechanisms. On December 8, 2021, the Department notified Iowa that there is reasonable cause to believe that Iowa violates Title II of the ADA by failing to provide services to people with IDD in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.  If you have comments, concerns, or relevant information, please feel free to contact us via email at Iowa.Investigation@usdoj.gov. Read more.

DOJ Opens Pattern or Practice Investigation into the Mount Vernon Police Department

On December 3, 2021, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams announced that the Department of Justice opened a civil pattern or practice investigation into the Mount Vernon Police Department, pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.  The DOJ investigation will assess whether there is reasonable cause to believe that MVPD engages in a pattern or practice of: (1) discriminatory policing, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Safe Streets Act, and the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) using excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment; (3) conducting unlawful strip and body cavity searches, in violation of the Fourth Amendment; or (4) mishandling evidence, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.  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 Southern District of New York.  Individuals who wish to share information related to the investigation are encouraged to contact us via email at community.mvpd@usdoj.gov, by phone at 1-866-985-1378, or through the Civil Rights Division’s Civil Rights Portal, available at https://civilrights.justice.gov/.

DOJ Opens Pattern or Practice Investigation into the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department

In August 2021, the Civil Rights Division opened an investigation of the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department (PhxPD). The investigation will assess all types of use of force by PhxPD officers, including deadly force and force used against individuals with behavioral health disabilities. The investigation will also evaluate whether PhxPD engages in retaliatory activity through arresting or using force against individuals engaged in activities protected by the First Amendment. In addition, the investigation will assess whether PhxPD engages in discriminatory policing on the basis of race, ethnicity, or disability; and whether PhxPD violates the rights of individuals experiencing homelessness. The investigation will also review the City and PhxPD’s systems and practices for responding to people with disabilities. Read more

DOJ Issues Conclusions About San Luis Obispo County Jail Investigation

The Department of Justice investigated conditions at the San Luis Obispo County Jail in California.  The investigation considered whether the County (1) violates prisoners’ rights to adequate medical and mental health care; (2) violates the constitutional rights of prisoners who have mental illness by secluding them in restrictive housing for prolonged periods; (3) violates the ADA rights of prisoners who have mental illness by denying them access to services, programs, and activities by reason of their disability; and (4) violates prisoners’ rights by subjecting them to excessive uses of force.  On August 31, 2021, the Department concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe the conditions in the Jail violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Specifically, San Luis Obispo County fails to provide constitutionally adequate medical care to prisoners, fails to provide constitutionally adequate mental health care to prisoners; uses prolonged restrictive housing under conditions that violate the constitutional rights of prisoners with serious mental illness, fails to prevent, detect, or correct use of excessive force that violates the constitutional rights of prisoners; and denies equal access to prisoners with disabilities in violation of the ADA.  The investigation was conducted by attorneys with the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.  If you have comments, concerns, or relevant information, please feel free to contact us via email at usacac.slo@usdoj.gov or by phone at 844-710-4900.

Court Enters Consent Decree to Resolve Unconstitutional Conditions and End Staff Sexual Abuse at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women

On August 24, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey entered a consent decree between the Department and the State of New Jersey to resolve the Division’s investigation of the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women (Edna Mahan) in Union Township, NJ.  In April 2018, the Division opened an investigation into conditions at Edna Mahan under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.  In April 2020, the Division notified the State that there is reasonable cause to believe that the New Jersey Department of Corrections fails to keep women prisoners at the Edna Mahan safe from sexual abuse by staff.  Women have suffered actual harm from sexual abuse and are at substantial risk of serious harm because the systems in place at Edna Mahan discourage prisoners from reporting sexual abuse and allow sexual abuse to occur undetected and undeterred.  The consent decree requires the State to implement policies and procedures that will protect women at Edna Mahan from staff sexual abuse, including improved supervision, better reporting and investigation systems, increased staff accountability, and public transparency.  

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 community.minneapolis@usdoj.gov. 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.

DOJ Files Suit About Unconstitutional Conditions in Alabama Prisons for Men

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.

Leadership 

Steven Rosenbaum
Chief

Contact 

Special Litigation Section
(202) 514-6255
toll-free at (877) 218-5228

 

FAX - (202) 514-0212
Alt. FAX - (202) 514-6273

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