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Covington’s Longest Running Class Action Nears a Close

February 18, 2020

In February 2020, the DC Superior Court approved a settlement that establishes a process to bring to a successful close Covington’s 35-year old class action seeking to redress conditions in the District’s juvenile justice system.

Covington joined the Jerry M. case in 2004 at the request of existing counsel, the ACLU and the DC Public Defender Service. At a week-long trial, we showed that the District had woefully failed to comply with the existing court orders. The facilities were overcrowded, vermin-infested dungeon-like buildings where violence was rampant, and education and health services were essentially absent. 

The District agreed to work with us and a special master—a novel type of agreement in 2004— to design a series of concrete measures to improve the system. In the past 15 years, there has been gradual but enormous progress, including a new, campus-like facility housing many fewer youth; diversion programs for low-level offenders; substantial improvements to education, health care, environmental cleanliness, and physical safety.

The February settlement seeks to ensure that the reforms of the last 15 years are preserved and extended, and requires DC to create an independent government agency to monitor and oversee the juvenile system once the case is officially closed. A recent Washington Post article about the case and the settlement is here.

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