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Service in action: Featuring exceptional faculty, alumni & community partner advocacy in response to Covid-19

April 30, 2020

Demonstrating the powerful partnership that can occur between private and public sector lawyers, a class action lawsuit has been brought against the City of Philadelphia on behalf of all medically vulnerable incarcerated people in the Philadelphia county prisons.

Ten people who are currently incarcerated in facilities in the Philadelphia Department of Prisons have filed a federal civil rights class action lawsuit against the city and the department over the conditions of the city’s jails.

The lawsuit is on behalf of the plaintiffs and all people who are currently incarcerated and to be incarcerated in the future in the city’s prisons and who are at heightened risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19 due to age, medical condition, or disability. They argue that the conditions of the jails increase the likelihood that they will contract the novel coronavirus and become severely sick from the disease COVID-19 in violation of their Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, their Fourteenth Amendment right to due process, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The lawsuit, Remick et al. v. City of Philadelphia, has been filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs are represented by Hayden Nelson-Major, Ali Szemanski, Nyssa Taylor, and Witold Walczak of the ACLU of Pennsylvania; Su Ming Yeh L’04, Adjunct Professor for Civil Practice Clinic, and Matthew Feldman L’18 of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project; Professor David Rudovsky (Senior Fellow), Jonathan Feinberg L’01, and Susan Lin of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin LLP; and Will Sachse, Benjamin Barnett, Mary Kim, Nicolas Novy, and Theeya Musitief of Dechert LLP.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs describe similar conditions across all four jails, including limited access to soap, cleaning supplies, and hand sanitizer, housing arrangements that keep people within a few feet of each other, and failing to isolate and test individuals who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19.

“The number of incarcerated people in Philadelphia who have tested positive for COVID-19 is skyrocketing due to the Philadelphia prisons’ failure to follow CDC guidelines,” said Su Ming Yeh, executive director of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project. “Everyone in prison deserves humane treatment, and taking preventative steps to halt the spread of COVID-19 protects the incarcerated, prison staff, and the general community.”

You can read the full press release: here