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Costa v. Bazron

United States District Court for the District of Columbia

April 25, 2020, Decided; April 25, 2020, Filed

Civil Action No. 19-3185 (RDM)



This case is brought by three patients indefinitely and involuntarily civilly committed to the District [*2]  of Columbia's care and housed at Saint Elizabeths Hospital ("Saint Elizabeths" or "Hospital"), a public psychiatric facility, and a putative class of Saint Elizabeths patients. Dkt. 50. Plaintiffs bring claims against the District of Columbia and two employees of Saint Elizabeths in their individual capacities (and in one case, also in his official capacity), alleging that Defendants' response to the COVID-19 pandemic has fallen short of their constitutional obligations to ensure that Plaintiffs and the putative class members are held in safe conditions. Before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order ("TRO"), which is opposed. Dkt. 39. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant the motion in part and defer it in part.


A. Saint Elizabeths, and COVID-19

Saint Elizabeths is the District of Columbia's "only public psychiatric facility for individuals with serious and persistent mental illness who need intensive inpatient care to support their recovery." Dkt. 50 at 7 (Am. Compl. ¶ 25); Dkt. 39-2 at 2 (Jones Decl. ¶ 7). Saint Elizabeths generally admits three categories of patients: (1) civilly committed patients, including those committed [*3]  voluntarily and involuntarily; (2) pre-trial patients being detained to determine their competency to stand trial or to have their competency restored; (3) and post-trial patients who have been adjudicated not guilty by reason of insanity. See Dkt. 39-1 at 14; Dkt. 42-1 (Candilis Decl. ¶ 3). The Hospital has the capacity to house 292 patients in 12 different units and has an average population of 275 patients. Dkt. 42-2 at 3 (Gontang Decl. ¶ 6). The "patients are housed in one of 11 units[] or houses," with each unit consisting of "bedrooms and commons spaces." Dkt. 50 at 8 (Am. Compl. ¶ 33). "Each unit at the Hospital generally houses no more than 27 patients, and has bedrooms, common living areas, bathrooms and showering facilities, and dining areas." Dkt. 42-2 at 3 (Gontang Decl. ¶ 6). The twelfth unit, the Therapeutic Learning Center ("2TR"), is generally used to conduct group therapy, art therapy, music therapy, treatment planning meetings, and other forms of congregate activities. Dkt. 50 at 4 (Am. Compl. ¶ 9). According to Defendants' counsel, the current population has been reduced to approximately 200 patients due to the pandemic. Apr. 24, 2020 Hrg. Tr. (Rough at 31).

The COVID-19 [*4]  pandemic is, by now, well-known to all, and the Court will only briefly recount its history and impact as it relates to this motion. COVID-19 a highly infectious disease that has caused a global pandemic, prompting the President and governors across the nation to declare states of emergency. See United States v. Harris, No. 19-cr-356, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53632, 2020 WL 1503444, at *2 (D.D.C. Mar. 27, 2020). The Mayor of the District of Columbia has ordered the closure of all nonessential business and has issued a stay-at-home order, and both Congress and the D.C. Council have passed various forms of emergency legislation. See, e.g., Mayor's Order 2020-054 (Mar. 30, 2020).

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2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73944 *

ENZO COSTA, et al., Plaintiffs, v. BARBARA J. BAZRON, et al., Defendants.

Prior History: Costa v. Bazron, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70807 (D.D.C., Apr. 22, 2020)


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