Staff Assaults

Couchon v. Sheriff, Essex County, et al. – This is case brought by a prisoner who suffered severe wounds when he was attacked and bitten by a K-9 police dog while lying on the ground at the Essex County Correctional Facility. The complaint alleges that Essex County has a policy and practice of directing dogs to bite prisoners even where not necessary to subdue the prisoner or quiet a disturbance.

Nascarella v. Cousins, et al. – This is a case brought by a prisoner at the Essex County House of Correction who was viciously and needlessly assaulted by officers who broke his back and nose, and also caused serious facial lacerations and other injuries. Plaintiff was then subjected to substandard and inadequate medical care when nursing staff failed to properly examine him and treat his serious injuries. Defendants removed the case to federal court and discovery is ongoing. After the Defendants’ motion for summary judgment was denied, the parties engaged in mediation and reached a settlement with all Defendants in July of 2015.

PETA v. Department of Agricultural Resources – We filed an amicus brief in the SJC in a case that will decide the scope of exemption (n) of the Public Records Act, which shields documents the disclosure of which might jeopardize public safety. Although the issue in the case is whether names of primate researchers were properly withheld under exemption (n), PLS has a strong interest in this case because several sheriffs have invoked the exemption to deny us access to video recordings of alleged excessive force against prisoners. At the oral argument on February 6, 2017, the AAG told the court that she agreed with PLS that exemption (n) should not block access to use of force videos so we are hopeful that the ultimate decision will be favorable.

Porter v. Sheriff, Middlesex County – This is a claim for damages brought by a prisoner with severe mental illness who was improperly placed in a restraint chair at the Middlesex House of Correction for excessively prolonged period of time and under conditions that caused serious and emotional harm. We have negotiated significant changes in the Middlesex County restraint policies and practices, and have reached a settlement of Mr. Porter’s damage claim for $27,000.

Robinson v. Grocki, et al – This is a case brought by a prisoner who was assaulted at MCI Cedar Junction by two guards with a long history of brutally assaulting prisoners and then intimidating staff into covering up for them. The two officers were subsequently fired and indicted for assaulting a different prisoner. In this case, we are also suing the Superintendent and other officials for their failure to supervise the two rogue officers. The Supervisory defendants filed a motion to dismiss on March 7, 2017.

Weymouth v. Cousins, et al – Case brought on behalf of a prisoner at the Essex County House of Correction who was assaulted in his cell by officers resulting in multiple injuries including a broken nose, two chipped teeth, and a laceration above his right eye that required three sutures. In addition, the defendants retaliated against Mr. Weymouth for asking a mental health worker to contact his mother to tell her about his injuries. The case was brought against individual officers and also against supervisory officials at the House of Correction for condoning and tolerating excessive force by officers against prisoners. Defendants removed the case to federal court. On March 19, 2014, we settled this case with damages to the Plaintiff and an agreement by the Defendants to make significant changes to use of force policies and practices and grievance procedures in Essex County. We are now monitoring compliance.