BLOGS: Western District of Virginia Law Blog

Jason grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia, clerked for Judge Samuel G. Wilson in Roanoke, Virginia, and practices law in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Thursday, March 24, 2016, 10:57 AM

Lawsuits Continue Against Central Virginia Regional Jail

Two federal lawsuits are proceeding against the Central Virginia Regional Jail for civil rights violations of inmates.  One case is brought by the mother of an inmate who died in CVRJ custody allegedly due to lack of medical care.  Thornhill v. Aylor, et al., Case No. 3:15-cv-00024, (WD.Va.) The other case is brought by a former inmate who claims she had medication withheld while at jail that resulted in a psychotic break and hospitalization at Western State Hospital in Staunton.  Jenkins v. Aylor, et al., Case No. 3:15-cv-00046 (W.D.Va.).  Both cases are pending before Judge Conrad in the Charlottesville Division of the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia.  The jail, located in the Town of Orange, serves the surrounding counties of Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison and Orange.

In February 2016, Judge Conrad granted in part and denied in part the defendants' motions to dismiss the Thornhill case.  The Court dismissed the class action claim after finding there was insufficient "commonality" among the proposed class members.  The Court dismissed the individual claims against some of the defendants, but allowed others to go forward after finding that there was "sufficient factual allegations to support the claim that there was an official policy of deliberate indifference at CVRJ, specifically based on [the Superintendent's] inactions as its policy maker."  The Court determined that arguments as to sovereign immunity and qualified immunity would be heard at a later stage of the litigation.

Similarly, in the Jenkins case, the plaintiff brought the suit as a class action, but the defendants have filed motions to dismiss the class action claim and portions of other claims.  Those motions were heard by the Court on March 23, 2016.  An interesting issue that was argued at the hearing was whether the Central Virginia Regional Jail Authority is entitled to sovereign immunity.  Defense attorney argued that the five counties that comprise the authority each have sovereign immunity and would retain sovereign immunity if they operated their own separate jails; therefore, there should be immunity for the regional jail authority.  Plaintiff's counsel, however, argued that the authority itself does not meet the all of the standards for sovereign immunity, even thought its constituent members would have immunity.  The Court reserved judgment and will issue rulings on the motions at a later date.

You can read more about the lawsuits here and here.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016, 11:36 AM

Virginia GOP Settles Copyright Lawsuit Brought By On-Line Publisher

Valerie Garner, publisher of the Roanoke Free Press website, has settled her copyright lawsuit against the Virginia Republican Party related to the unauthorized use of a photograph she took of Delegate Sam Rasoul.  This photograph was the subject of prior litigation between Garner and a political blogger who used the same photograph on his website.  In 2015, Judge Conrad issued an opinion denying the blogger's motion to dismiss based on the fair use doctrine.  The case settled shortly thereafter.  In the most recent case against the Virginia Republican Party, Garner alleged that the GOP use the same photograph in a campaign mailer, without her permission.  The GOP had filed a partial motion for summary judgment arguing that Garner was not entitled to statutory damages or attorney fees under the Copyright Act.  While that summary judgment motion was pending, the parties settled the case, for $9,000 and a promise not to use the photograph again, according to news reports.

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