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Paul, Weiss Files Supreme Court Amicus Brief in Support of Release of Prisoners at Risk of Contracting COVID-19

Paul, Weiss filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of certain public health and human rights experts in opposition to a stay application that would delay the release of medically vulnerable prisoners who are at high risk of dying from COVID-19 in Ohio’s Elkton Federal Correctional Institution. Paul, Weiss had previously filed an amicus brief on the same matter in the Northern District of Ohio in support of releasing medically vulnerable people who are incarcerated in Elkton, after which the court granted a preliminary injunction requiring the government to release four named plaintiffs and identify other members of the class that plaintiffs sought to represent. The government appealed to the Sixth Circuit, requesting a stay of the decision. The Sixth Circuit denied the stay request, after which the government appealed for a stay from the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court denied the stay application, as urged by the Paul, Weiss amicus brief.

The amicus brief explains viruses spread extremely quickly in correctional facilities, where it is impossible for inmates and staff to comply with the CDC’s recommended social distancing guidelines and strict hygiene practices. The brief emphasizes the importance of reducing correctional facility populations, particularly those who have medical conditions that place them at higher risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19, in order to stem the spread of the disease. At Elkton, 128 inmates and eight staff members have tested positive for COVID-19; nine inmates there have died from the virus.

The Supreme Court brief is the 22nd amicus brief seeking the release of at-risk detainees and inmates that Paul, Weiss has filed in collaboration with the ACLU National Prison Project and local ACLU affiliates, which includes amicus briefs filed in the Ninth Circuit, the Third Circuit, the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the Central District of California, the Southern District of California, the Western District of New York, the Southern District of Texas, the District of Maryland, the Middle District of Oregon, the District of Arizona, the Eastern District of Michigan, the Western District of Washington, the Washington State Supreme Court, the Hawaii Supreme Court and the First Department of New York. To date, the amicus briefs filed in these matters have contributed to the release of more than 20 individuals housed in detention centers, jails and prisons across the country.

The Paul, Weiss team includes litigation partners Joseph Bial, Susanna Buergel and Roberto Finzi; counsel Darren Johnson; associates Megan Gao, Benjamin Gitlin, David Kimball-Stanley, Avery Medjuck, Jared Sunshine, Hank Topper and Jonathan Wall; and pro bono counsel Emily Goldberg and associate Jeremy Benjamin

May 22, 2020

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