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Does v. Department of Corrections

Supreme Court of Michigan

June 14, 2019

JOHN DOES 11-18, JANE DOE 1, and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, GOVERNOR, FORMER DIRECTOR DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS FACILITIES ADMINISTRATION, FORMER CHIEF DEPUTY DIRECTOR DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS FACILITIES ADMINISTRATION, FORMER WARDEN OF CHARLES EGELER RECEPTION AND GUIDANCE CENTER, FORMER WARDEN OF EARNEST C. BROOKS CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF RICHARD A. HANDLON CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF RICHARD A. HANDLON CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF OAKS CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF THUMB CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF CHIPPEWA CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, WARDEN OF KINROSS CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF NEWBERRY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, and FORMER WARDEN OF MICHIGAN REFORMATORY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, Defendants-Appellants. JOHN DOES 1-10 and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, GOVERNOR, DIRECTOR DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, FORMER DIRECTOR DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, DEPUTY DIRECTOR DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS FACILITIES ADMINISTRATION, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS FACILITIES ADMINISTRATION, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS FACILITIES ADMINISTRATION, FORMER CHIEF DEPUTY DIRECTOR DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS FACILITIES ADMINISTRATION, WARDEN OF IONIA CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF E. C. BROOKS CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF GUS HARRISON CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF RICHARD A. HANDLON CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF RICHARD A. HANDLON CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF CARSON CITY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF OAKS CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF OAKS CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF THUMB CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF CHIPPEWA CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF MARQUETTE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, WARDEN OF BELLAMY CREEK CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, WARDEN OF KINROSS CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF NEWBERRY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF WOMEN'S HURON VALLEY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF WOMEN'S HURON VALLEY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF MICHIGAN REFORMATORY, and WARDEN OF SAGINAW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, Defendants-Appellants. JOHN DOES 1-10 and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, GOVERNOR, DIRECTOR DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, FORMER DIRECTOR DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, DEPUTY DIRECTOR DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS FACILITIES ADMINISTRATION, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS FACILITIES ADMINISTRATION, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS FACILITIES ADMINISTRATION, FORMER CHIEF DEPUTY DIRECTOR DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS FACILITIES ADMINISTRATION, WARDEN OF IONIA CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF E. C. BROOKS CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF GUS HARRISON CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF RICHARD A. HANDLON CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF RICHARD A. HANDLON CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF CARSON CITY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF OAKS CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF OAKS CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF THUMB CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF CHIPPEWA CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF MARQUETTE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, WARDEN OF BELLAMY CREEK CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, WARDEN OF KINROSS CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF NEWBERRY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF WOMEN'S HURON VALLEY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF WOMEN'S HURON VALLEY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FORMER WARDEN OF MICHIGAN REFORMATORY, and WARDEN OF SAGINAW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, Defendants-Appellants.

          Washtenaw CC: 13-001196-CZ, 15-001006-CZ, 15-001006-CZ

          Bridget M. McCormack, Chief Justice David F. Viviano, Chief Justice Pro Tem Stephen J. Markman Brian K. Zahra Richard H. Bernstein Elizabeth T. Clement Megan K. Cavanagh, Justices

          ORDER

         On order of the Court, the application for leave to appeal the March 27, 2018 judgment of the Court of Appeals is considered, and it is DENIED, there being no majority in favor of granting leave to appeal or taking other action.

          Zahra, J. (dissenting).

         I would grant the application in these two consolidated class actions.

         These consolidated cases feature a long and protracted legal history that has yet to include any substantive review by this Court. Plaintiffs represent juvenile prisoners who claim that they were subjected to sexual assaults, sexual harassment, and degrading treatment by prison staff and adult prisoners. Plaintiffs, who are mostly juvenile male inmates serving terms of imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections (DOC) brought claims against the Governor, the DOC, the former and current heads of the DOC, and many prison wardens. Plaintiffs alleged violations of the Civil Rights Act (CRA), MCL 37.2101 et seq., for sexual assaults, a sexually hostile prison environment, age discrimination, and other claims arising from the DOC's alleged failure to segregate them from adult prisoners and failure to report abuse or neglect.

         In Neal v. Dep't of Corrections (On Rehearing), [1] the Court of Appeals concluded that prisons were not excluded from the definition of "public service." In response, the Legislature amended the CRA in 1990. "Enacting section 1" provides:

This amendatory act is curative and intended to correct any misinterpretation of legislative intent in the court of appeals decision Neal v. Department of Corrections, 232 Mich.App. 730 (1998). This legislation further expresses the original intent of the legislature that an individual serving a sentence of imprisonment in a state or county correctional facility is not within the purview of this act.[2]

         The amendment redefined "public service" to add the italicized phrase:

a public facility, department, agency, board, or commission, owned, operated, or managed by or on behalf of the state, a political subdivision, or an agency thereof or a tax exempt private agency established to provide service to the public, except that public service does not include a state or county correctional facility with respect to actions and decisions regarding an individual serving a sentence of imprisonment.[3]

         This amendment plays a critical role in these cases.

          In Doe v. Dep't of Corrections, [4] a split panel of the Court of Appeals held that defendants were entitled to summary disposition for failure to comply with the disclosure requirements of the prison litigation reform act (PLRA), MCL 600.5501 et seq., and that plaintiffs could not amend their complaint to cure the defect.[5] The majority also concluded that the challenged provisions of the CRA did not violate the right to equal protection.[6] Judge Beckering dissented, asserting that the amendment of the CRA violated Michigan's Equal Protection Clause.[7] Plaintiffs sought leave to appeal, and this Court vacated the Court of Appeals' constitutional analysis regarding equal protection, observing: "In light of the Court of Appeals ruling that plaintiffs' complaint should be dismissed under the [PLRA], it was unnecessary to resolve the remaining issues."[8] The matter was remanded to the trial court where some but not all of plaintiffs' claims were dismissed. Defendant again moved for summary disposition, and the court again denied the motion, ruling that the CRA's 1999 amendment excluding prisoners from its purview violated equal protection and was unconstitutional. The court also denied defendants' claim of governmental immunity on the CRA claims.

         Defendant appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed in a split decision, adopting the constitutional analysis set forth in Judge BECKERING's dissent in the prior appeal.[9]Judge O'Connell issued a sharp dissent. He conducted a "traditional constitutional analysis" and concluded there was obviously a rational basis for the Legislature to exclude prisoners from the CRA.[10] He questioned the majority's approach, wondering "what, if any, law would pass such a contrived test . . . ."[11] He also identified the primary error of the majority opinion as its adoption of plaintiffs' assertion that prisoners and nonprisoners are similarly situated in all aspects of this case. He concluded that "[p]risoners and nonprisoners have never been similarly situated, are not currently similarly situated, and hopefully will never be similarly situated. That a rational basis exists for treating prisoners differently from free citizens is obvious."[12] He explained that "the deterrence of meritless lawsuits and the preservation of scarce resources through the reduction of costs associated with resolving those lawsuits reflects a legitimate government interest, "[13] stating:

Prisoners file an unprecedented number of lawsuits, and the cost to the state has skyrocketed. In one instance, a prisoner has filed 5, 813 lawsuits and counting. The Legislature recognized that including prisons in the definition of "public service," MCL 37.2301(b), is problematic. Prisoners could sue for the loss of their right to vote ...

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