Reposted from Stark & Stark
First time New Jersey State Superior Court has explicitly held that NJ Law Against Discrimination extends to prisoners
Law firm Stark & Stark announced that the Superior Court of New Jersey, Mercer County Civil Law Division, granted a motion for partial summary judgment in a class action lawsuit aimed at protecting women in prison from sexual abuse. This is the first time the New Jersey State Superior Court has explicitly held that the Law Against Discrimination (LAD) extends to apply to prisoners, a pivotal step toward providing plaintiffs with equitable and monetary relief.
The suit was filed by Stark & Stark’s Martin Schrama and Stefanie Colella-Walsh, along with co-counsel Oliver Barry and Frank Corrado of Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz. Filed on behalf of thousands of potential female class members against the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC), the motion concerned conditions at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women (EMCFW). “For decades, there has been an environment of rampant and unchecked sexual assault and harassment of female inmates by prison employees,” said Ms. Colella-Walsh, partner, Stark & Stark. “We are prepared to be at the forefront of protecting women at risk in sexually abusive environments.”
During October 2017, a longtime NJDOC employee at EMCFW pleaded guilty to official misconduct for having sex with an inmate, and was sentenced to prison. In January 2018, four veteran EMCFW corrections officers were indicted by a Hunterdon County grand jury on various sexual and other misconduct charges. In all, seven NJDOC employees at EMCFW have been similarly charged within the past two years. This has culminated in an ongoing investigation by the United States Justice Department and the departure of NJDOC’s Commissioner.
According to Martin Schrama, partner, Stark & Stark, “An environment of sexual terror pervaded the EMCFW grounds. Stark & Stark has sought to protect the rights of those injured, and force the NJDOC to take appropriate corrective action to end this widespread environment of harassment and discrimination against women at risk.”
The class action complaint filed alleges that EMCFW is a place of public accommodation subject to the New Jersey LAD. Pursuant to the LAD, freedom from discrimination is a civil right. The class action complaint goes on to allege that the environment at the EMCFW is discriminatory based on the sex of the female inmates, and that the sexual harassment and discrimination at the facility has been so severe and pervasive that it constitutes a hostile and abusive environment in violation of the LAD.
Oliver Barry, partner, Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz, explained, “The NJDOC knew, or should have known, of the environment of rampant threats and sexual abuse at EMCFW, which was especially harmful, considering the vulnerable status of those women incarcerated there.”
NJDOC, a public entity that maintains an annual budget of roughly $1 billion, is responsible for the operations, supervision, and management of EMCFW (formerly known as the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women), which is located at 30 Route 513, in Clinton, Hunterdon County, New Jersey. The state’s only women’s prison, EMCFW opened in 1913 and has an average daily population of 659.
About Stark & Stark:
Since 1933, Stark & Stark has developed innovative legal solutions to meet our clients’ needs. More than 100 attorneys, 30 practice areas, and a philosophy of putting the law to work for our clients is the basis from which we build and maintain our practice. Stark & Stark offers a full range of legal services for businesses and individuals. After more than 80 years, our attorneys continue to deliver practical, efficient solutions to clients in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and throughout the United States. Our attorneys are supported by a staff in excess of 200, all of whom are dedicated to providing the highest level of service to each client. Visit www.stark-stark.com for more information.
About Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz:
Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz, based in Wildwood, N.J., is comprised of a team of experienced trial attorneys. Each of our lawyers works in a few select areas, complementing the experience of our other attorneys and allowing us to provide a versatile set of services. Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz are attorneys on the side of people. We have provided legal services to New Jersey residents, local businesses, and visitors to the area for over 35 years. We are committed to our clients’ long-term goals and will work tirelessly to protect their rights. Visit www.capelegal.com for more information.