On June 28, 2024, Relman Colfax filed a class action complaint in federal court against the current and former directors of the Virginia Department of Corrections (“VADOC”) for failing to properly implement the state’s “earned sentence credit” (“ESC”) program, which grants sentence reductions to incarcerated people who complete various educational and training programs. The suit is filed on behalf of Leslie Puryear and a class of people who were serving sentenced for inchoate offenses related to robbery and carjacking. The complaint alleges that defendants improperly refused to apply Virginia’s expanded ESC program to Mr. Puryear and the dozens to hundreds of class members, thereby wrongfully keeping them in prison for weeks, months, and sometimes more than a year past their proper release date. The new lawsuit follows Mr. Puryear’s 2023 habeas petition, in which Relman Colfax and the ACLU-VA secured the release of Mr. Puryear and the other class members.

Virginia first adopted an ESC program in 1995. The General Assembly expanded the program effective July 1, 2022, entitling incarcerated people to up to 15 ESCs for every 30 days in prison. Despite this clear statutory command, VADOC refused to fully implement the new ESC program, resulting in the continued, unlawful imprisonment of eligible class members.

Mr. Puryear challenged his own confinement through a petition for habeas corpus filed with the Virginia Supreme Court in September 2023. While VADOC initially opposed the petition, it later relented, releasing Mr. Puryear in early November 2023 and announcing that it would grant expanded ESCs to other similarly situated incarcerated people, reducing time in prison for potentially hundreds of people.

The now-filed class action complaint seeks compensation for Mr. Puryear and other class members who have suffered significant injuries by way of their unlawful imprisonment—including deprivation of their constitutional rights, emotional distress, and loss of economic opportunity. The defendants are Chadwick Dotson and Harold Clarke, the current and former VADOC directors, respectively. The complaint alleges violations of the Due Process Clause and the Eighth Amendment, as well as a state law claim for false imprisonment.

The Relman Colfax litigation team includes Rebecca Livengood, Ellora Israni, and David DePriest, with assistance from our paralegal Jazmin Trenco and summer associate Cole Lautermilch.

A copy of the complaint is here.

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