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Paul, Weiss, ACLU and Others Obtain Final Approval of Class Action Settlement on Behalf of Medically Vulnerable Pretrial Detainees

Paul, Weiss, along with co-counsel from the ACLU, ACLU Tennessee, Just City and local counsel from Memphis, obtained final approval of a settlement on behalf of a class of over 400 pretrial detainees at high risk of severe infection or death from COVID-19. According to Judge Sheryl H. Lipman of the Western District of Tennessee, the relief obtained through the settlement “addresses most, if not all, of Plaintiffs’ alleged deficiencies in their confinement in the Jail, given the pandemic, and the Court is not aware of any greater successes in similar litigation.”

Pursuant to the terms of the settlement, the Shelby County Sheriff and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office will be subject to a consent decree during the pandemic. The consent decree requires the Sheriff to provide adequate PPE to class members, regular COVID-19 testing and effective isolation and quarantining, and to prove to the satisfaction of class counsel that the ventilation and air quality in the jail is safe as it relates to COVID-19. The consent decree also provides for recurrent and unannounced independent inspections of the jail every 90 days by a court-appointed independent inspector. The inspector is required to make findings about conditions in the jail, including the viability of social distancing, and recommendations for improvements as appropriate. The Sheriff is then required either to use best efforts to implement the inspector’s recommendations or to explain why, using best efforts, he cannot.

The consent decree also requires the Sheriff to provide monthly reports to the inspector and class counsel regarding the population of the jail, COVID-19 testing and the rate of infection at the jail. The Sheriff must also explain what efforts have been taken on behalf of class members to evaluate them for release on less restrictive conditions than detention. In addition, the Sheriff is required to cover the class counsel’s costs. In exchange, the class will not release its claims until the end of the pandemic, following the termination of the consent decree.

The settlement was achieved after eight months of litigation and three days of mediation. Litigation associate Jonathan Silberstein-Loeb led the mediation negotiations on behalf of the class. The Paul, Weiss team included litigation partners Joseph Bial and Roberto Finzi, counsel Darren Johnson and associates Eric Abrams, Alison Benedon, Meredith Borner, Megan Gao, Benjamin Gitlin, Saurabh Gupta, Aaron Haier, Makiko Hiromi, David Kimball-Stanley, Renata O’Donnell, Benjamin Perotin, Edward Robinson, Jonathan Silberstein-Loeb, Vi Tran, Hilary Udow, Kate Wald, Jonathan Wall and Shimeng Simona Xu.

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