Troy D. v. Mickens

Juvenile Law Center, with pro bono co-counsel Dechert LLP, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on behalf of Plaintiffs T.D. and O.S., against New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission officials as well as other state officials. Their claim was that both boys’ substantive and procedural due process rights under the United States and New Jersey Constitutions were violated, as was the New Jersey state law.  The Complaint also challenges certain New Jersey administrative regulations that allow indefinite isolation for youth with serious mental health needs as well as disciplinary isolation without appropriate due process protections.

Plaintiff T.D. was committed to a Juvenile Justice Commission facility as part of his treatment and rehabilitation following an adjudication of delinquency.  T.D. had a history of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, and he had significant behavioral health needs throughout his confinement.  Juvenile Justice Commission’s response to T.D.’s deteriorating mental health status was to confine him in a seven by seven foot cell with no view to the outside world for nearly seven months. T.D. was often forced to sleep on a concrete slab and was denied access to books, personal belongings, peer interaction, recreation, and exercise. This isolation of T.D. was imposed without any procedural due process or any meaningful opportunity to be heard.

Plaintiff O.S. was repeatedly placed in isolation by Juvenile Justice Commission staff for days at a time for being the victim of repeated assaults by other youth, or for minor behavioral infractions such as cursing.  Juvenile Justice Commission’s isolation of O.S. was routinely imposed prior to any due process hearing, and then most often found to be excessive after the fact by hearing officers. O.S. suffered a total of 55 days in isolation, under harsh conditions similar to those suffered by T.D. Notably, when either T.D. or O.S. asked for services, they were warned that such gestures or requests would only extend the period of time they would be secluded. Additionally, O.S. was rebuffed by the juvenile court in his efforts to seek judicial redress for his treatment.

In December 2013, Juvenile Law Center, along with co-counsel Dechert LLP, negotiated a $400,000 settlement against the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission and the former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (now Rutgers).  The settlement compensates T.D. and O.S. for violations of their constitutional rights and sends a message that abusive and punitive isolation of children must end.

For more information on this settlement, read our blog post.