Solitary Confinement

Filed - November 20, 2017

Williamson v. Stirling (Fourth Circuit)


Following an order from then-Governor Nikki Haley, Mr. Williamson was transferred from general population in a county jail to solitary confinement in a South Carolina prison after he engaged in misconduct while awaiting trial. Mr. Williamson was not provided notice or a hearing prior to the transfer and was not provided process during the three years that he remained in solitary confinement. He sued pro se, challenging his solitary confinement without process as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The federal trial court acknowledged that depriving Mr. Williamson of notice and a hearing would have violated the Fourteenth Amendment if the solitary confinement constituted punishment, but concluded that it was “administrative” in nature. It further determined that the constitutional right at issue was not clearly established. With Winston & Strawn as co-counsel, we are challenging this decision. We argue that existing precedent from the United States Supreme Court and the federal courts of appeals established not only that jail personnel were required to provide Mr. Williamson with due process prior to transfer but also that prison personnel are required to afford Mr. Williamson periodic hearings to ensure that his continued solitary confinement is appropriate, regardless of whether the confinement is for administrative or punitive purposes.