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Judge Slams Detroit for Ignoring Jail Abuse Suit

(CN) - Detroit was sanctioned Monday for not defending itself against a class-action lawsuit that claims it routinely violated jail detainees' rights.

In a terse ruling, U.S. District Judge Thomas Ludington issued a default judgment against the city and has scheduled a hearing to determine what damages will have to be paid out to a class that could potentially include thousands of victims.

Johnathan Aaron Brown sued the city in June 2010, claiming that he had been arrested three years earlier and held in a cold, isolated cell without proper food, blankets or a pillow for 55 hours before he was finally arraigned.

In his suit Brown charged that the Detroit police similarly deprived thousands of other people of their constitutional rights.

"Since the initial scheduling order was entered on August 5, 2010, there have been a series of delays and discovery problems," Ludington wrote in his order, adding that the city "has repeatedly missed the deadlines and ignored the court's orders.

"At this point, Defendant apparently refuses to even speak with plaintiff's attorneys or respond to their written inquiries," he added.

Intent on accelerating the progress of the case, Ludington set an April 7 hearing and warned city attorneys that "non-responsiveness would not be tolerated."

The city never responded and didn't show up for the hearing, leading directly to the default judgment.

In his order, Ludington directed the plaintiff's attorney to prepare a memorandum of law on or before May 11, 2011 outlining the damages to which class members are entitled and proposing a method for providing notice to the classes.

He also scheduled a hearing for May 31 to consider how much Detroit will have to pay.


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