Juvenile Justice

J.H. v. Moore, et al., Case No. 2:14-CV-01608 (S.D. Ohio)

This was a civil rights case filed on behalf of J.H. and 8 other youth housed at the Multi-County Juvenile Detention Center in Lancaster, Ohio. The complaint alleged that the defendants violated the 8th and 14th Amendment rights of the youth by subjecting them to punitive and harmful practices including the excessive use of isolation and use of a restraint chair, and that such isolation was done in cells with extremely cold temperatures, and without proper clothing and blankets.  The case settled by private settlement agreement in November of 2015, and was dismissed by the federal court in Columbus at that time.

Lancaster Eagle-Gazette: Lawsuit Alleges Mistreatment at Juvenile Facility

Fourth Amended Complaint


Matthews v. Williams, Case No. 1:14-cv-896

Attorneys for the Children’s Law Center filed a federal civil rights case on behalf of youth in Hamilton County, Ohio, who are arrested and detained without regard for basic due process rights. The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of Ohio in Cincinnati on November 24th, 2014 alleges that juvenile court judge John Williams, in his administrative capacity, perpetuates policies and practices which fail to require probable cause before warrants are executed, or at detention hearings. The result, the complaint alleges, creates harm to youth who are arrested and incarcerated, disrupting their school, employment and family life unnecessarily, and violates their rights under the United States Constitution. More than 6000 youth were arrested and processed through the detention center in Hamilton County last year; of this number, African American youth were almost ten times more likely to experience arrest, and more than twice as likely to be detained. Also named in the complaint is Dwayne Bowman, director of the Hamilton County Juvenile Detention Center, and Hamilton County. The case seeks a preliminary injunction to force officials to comply with constitutional requirements in issuing warrants and in making probable cause determinations for youth once detained.

Press release


Motion for Preliminary Injunction

Hamilton County Juvenile Court officials agreed to make substantive changes to their policies and practices to ensure an adequate finding of probable cause to arrest before sending a youth to detention.

The policy changes were part of a settlement of a lawsuit the Children’s Law Center brought against Hamilton County officials and Judge John Williams. U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott agreed to dismiss the lawsuit at the request of both parties.

The federal civil rights case, filed in 2014 by attorneys from the Children’s Law Center (CLC) and attorney Jennifer Kinsley, charged that youth were routinely arrested and detained without sufficient findings of probable cause in violation of their due process rights. The parties agreed to dismiss this case after court officials put into place several Juvenile Court policies and practices related to processing complaints, issuing arrest warrants, making probable cause determinations and conducting detention hearings.

The new policies the Hamilton County Juvenile Court officials have adopted include several measures that will ensure protections for the youths in the arrest and intake process. These include:

  •  Updated detention center policies and procedures related to complaint and warrant processing.
  •  Revised training protocols and curriculum for intake clerks on the issuance of warrants, filing of complaints and probable cause determinations.
  •  Revised positions descriptions and expectations for intake clerks and the deputy chief clerk, and increased salaries to reflect the need for the discretion, judgment and decision-making skills required.
  • Creation of a duty magistrate rotation for on-call consultation 24 hours a day.
  • Establishment of a process to assign an assistant prosecutor at all detention hearings.
  • Collaboration and training with local police departments regarding expectations of the Youth Center and court as to the acceptance and processing of complaints and warrants.

The court also proposed a local amendment to the Rules of Practice for the Hamilton County Juvenile Court to reflect the changes required for warrants, intakes, and detention hearings.

Press Release – Matthews v. Williams

Agreed Order of Dismissal

Executed M.J. #547

Executed Joint Statement

Proposed Local Rule 38

S.H. v. Stickrath, Case No. 2:04-cv-1206 (S.D. Ohio)

Originally filed in 2004 on behalf of girls at the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility, this federal class action civil rights case alleging widespread unconstitutional conditions was expanded in 2007 to include all facilities operated by or under contract with the Ohio Department of Youth Services.The suit alleged system-wide failure regarding conditions of confinement that endangered youth’s health, safety, and well-being and denied them of due process.  State and youth attorneys worked collectively to create a comprehensive settlement that was approved by the court in May 2008.  The goal is to have a system more equipped to provide youth with treatment and education needs while also promoting public safety.  The settlement requires that DYS provide youth individual care, treatment, and rehabilitative services in the least restrictive setting consistent with youth’s needs, documented security concerns and generally accepted professional standards of care.  It also includes a long term goal of closing large institutional facilities and creating a system of smaller community based rehabilitative programs. The case was terminated in December of 2015 when the remaining issues regarding mental health and excessive use of isolation reached compliance. 

Press Release - Court Supervision of DYS Reforms to End

DYS and CLC Joint Fact Sheet (1)

The Ohio Model A Report on the Transformational Reform of the ODYS 2007-2015 (1) (2)

Consent Order, and Exhibit 1 and Exhibit 2

Motion to Secure Compliance Re: Operation of Progress UnitsAttachment C, and  Youth Declarations (Names Redacted)

Ohio Department of Youth Services Plans Facility Closures, Columbus Dispatch

46 Second Amended Complaint

Order Approving Settlement

Stipulation of Settlement

SH v Stickrath Fact Sheet

Injunction Prohibiting Use of Special Force Teams

Motion for Specific Performance

Joint Motion for Entry of Agreed Order (resolving MH claims and use of isolation)

Agreed Grid for Monitoring of Order

Motion for Injunction Against Use of Special Response Team (Must have PACER credentials to view)

Final Report- Fact Finding

Joint Plan Reforming Release Authority Filed


M.K. v. Wallace, Case No. 93-213 (E.D. Ky.)

This federal class action civil rights action was filed on behalf of all youth incarcerated in state juvenile treatment facilities, alleging violations of the first and fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution for failure to provide access to the courts through the assistance of lawyers. The settlement agreement, reached in 1995, ultimately created the Post-Disposition Unit within the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, and resulted in several attorneys and support staff delegated to the task of providing legal assistance to youth on fact, durations and conditions of confinement.

Consent Decree


J.P. v. Taft, Case No.2:04-cv-692 (S.D. Ohio)

This class action civil rights case was brought on behalf of all incarcerated youth in the custody of the Department of Youth Services, challenging the failure of the state to provide access to the courts through attorneys that can assist them in challenging fact, duration and conditions of confinement. The case settled in March of 2007 with a Stipulation of Settlement that has created a legal assistance program for youth in the nine DYS facilities.

Amended Complaint

Stipulation of Settlement

J.J. v. Ohio Department of Youth Services, Case No. 2:07-cv-170 (S.D. Ohio)

This class action civil rights case challenges the policies and practices of the Ohio Department of Youth Services Release Authority as arbitrary and unreasonable, and lacking in adequate due process protections.  J.J. was transferred on 12/23/08 to the docket of Judge Algenon Marbley.  Extensive negotiations for revamping the Release Authority have been underway since May and should be incorporated into the remedy in S.H. v. Stickrath.