Hogan Lovells files class action lawsuit representing incarcerated individuals on Texas death row, alleging harsh confinement conditions violate their constitutional rights

New York, Houston, 26 January 2023 – Global law firm Hogan Lovells has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all male individuals incarcerated on death row in Texas, alleging the conditions under which they have been confined under prison regulations violate their state and federal constitutional rights.

For more than two decades, Texas has subjected all male death row defendants to a policy of mandatory and indefinite solitary confinement, according to the complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division. The blanket policy, which results in the restriction of these individuals to their 8 feet by 12 feet cells for 22 hours to 24 hours a day, is psychologically and physically damaging, the complaint states.

Hogan Lovells partner Pieter Van Tol said: “The conditions on death row in Texas have been characterized as some of the most brutal death row conditions in the country. The plaintiffs in this case are seeking relief from conditions that have been described as torture.”

Some 185 men were condemned to die at the hands of the state at the time the complaint was filed. The policy of mandatory solitary confinement for those on death row, which cannot be appealed, severely restricts their access to human interaction, medical care, and even legal representation.

The National Commission of Correctional Health Care has stated that spans of solitary confinement longer than 15 days is “cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment, and harmful to an individual’s health,” and “should be eliminated as a means of punishment,” the complaint states. Additionally, the United Nations has described indefinite or prolonged solitary confinement as “torture.”

“Despite this consensus, death row prisoners in Texas spend an average of 17 years and 7 months confined alone in their cells, until they are executed by the State of Texas,” the complaint states.

The complaint further alleges that the solitary confinement policy is arbitrary and capricious; the blanket policy of holding all male death row inmates in solitary confinement addresses no legitimate security concerns.

Plaintiffs are seeking damages and permanent changes to these policies.

In addition to Van Tol (New York), the Hogan Lovells team includes counsel Catherine Bratic and associates Sydney Rupe and Chloe Warnberg (all Houston), and associate Jack Shaked (New York).

The complaint is here.

Van Tol led the legal team for Hogan Lovells that obtained a favorable settlement in an earlier case challenging the placement in solitary confinement of all incarcerated individuals on Death Row in Angola prison in Louisiana. Under the terms of the settlement in that case, officials agreed to minimum congregate time for outdoor recreation, meals, and religious worship. More about that case is here.


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