7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Case Name: Anthony Mays, et al., v. Thomas J. Dart
Case No.: 20-1792
Officials: SYKES, Chief Judge, and BRENNAN and ST. EVE, Circuit Judges.
Focus: Preliminary Injunction Relief
Plaintiffs—a class of detainees at the Cook County Jail—brought this action against Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart after the Jail reported an outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has sparked a global pandemic. Plaintiffs contend that the Sheriff has violated their Fourteenth Amendment Due Process rights by failing to provide them with reasonably safe living conditions as the pandemic rages. Plaintiffs seek various forms of relief, including an injunction requiring the Sheriff to implement certain procedures related to social distancing, sanitation, diagnostic testing, and personal protective equipment (“PPE”) to protect them from the virus for the duration of the pandemic.
After a hearing, the district court granted a temporary restraining order imposing several forms of relief, including but not limited to, mandates requiring the Sheriff to provide hand sanitizer and soap to all detainees and face masks to detainees in quarantine. The district court declined to order relief in several instances, though: most notably for our decision today, the district court rejected Plaintiffs’ request to prohibit double celling and group housing arrangements to permit adequate social distancing.
Plaintiffs subsequently moved for entry of a preliminary injunction, requesting an extension of the relief the district court previously mandated in the temporary restraining order and, among other things, renewing their request for socially distanced housing. After another hearing, the district court switched course from its prior ruling and granted the renewed social distancing request, albeit with certain exceptions. The district court also granted the request for an extension of the relief included in the temporary restraining order. The Sheriff appealed.
We conclude that, in the course of its analysis regarding double celling and group housing, the district court committed three distinct legal errors: the district court failed to consider the Sheriff’s conduct in its totality, failed to afford proper deference to the Sheriff’s judgment in adopting policies necessary to ensure safety and security, and cited an incorrect legal standard when evaluating the likelihood that Plaintiffs’ claims will succeed on their merits. Given these legal errors in evaluating the likelihood of success on the merits of Plaintiffs’ claims, we reverse the district court with respect to the portion of the preliminary injunction mandating socially distanced housing. Regarding the remaining relief, however, the district court made detailed factual findings, properly considered the Sheriff’s conduct in its totality, and closely tailored the relief it ordered to the guidelines promulgated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”). We therefore affirm all other aspects of the preliminary injunction.