Case: Hoffer v. Fair

85-00071 | Massachusetts state trial court

Filed Date: Feb. 8, 1985

Closed Date: 1993

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On February 8, 1985, six prisoners housed at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute-Cedar Junction Department Segregation Unit (DSU) ("10 Block plaintiffs") sent a letter entitled "An Open Letter from Ten Block MCI Walpole" to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, describing the recent death of a fellow DSU inmate. The 10 Block plaintiffs alleged unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the DSU, including inadequate access to exercise and other activities; the denial of medical …

On February 8, 1985, six prisoners housed at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute-Cedar Junction Department Segregation Unit (DSU) ("10 Block plaintiffs") sent a letter entitled "An Open Letter from Ten Block MCI Walpole" to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, describing the recent death of a fellow DSU inmate. The 10 Block plaintiffs alleged unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the DSU, including inadequate access to exercise and other activities; the denial of medical treatment and of visits from family and attorneys; and the closing of outer steel doors of DSU cells. On Februrary 25, 1985, the Supreme Judicial Court ordered that the letter be treated as a petition and referred the matter to Justice Paul J. Liacos for investigation and recommendation to the full court. The 10 Block plaintiffs eventually retained Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services (MCLS) as counsel.

On April 8, 1985, the Court ordered that MCLS staff attorneys and paralegals be permitted direct access to DSU inmates in order to determine whether any more of them required MCLS services. On June 20, 1985, the Court affirmed MCLS's visitation privileges, enjoining defendants from barring them from DOC facilities without court approval. The Court denied Defendant's motion to terminate these orders and Defendant appealed.

On June 21, 1985, the 10 Block plaintiffs filed an amended class action complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to conditions in segregation units and procedures by which inmates are placed and held there. 397 Mass. 152. On March 20, 1986, the Supreme Judicial Court (Justice Wilkins) affirmed the single justice's ruling, holding that defendant's prior violation of a court order permitting paralegal visitation privileges justified single justice's denial of motion to vacate. Id. On December 23, 1986, the Supreme Judicial Court (Master Linscott) granted the 10 Block plaintiffs motion for class certification.

On September 19, 1989, the Court (Justice Liacos) ordered that defendants promulgate new DSU regulations that comply with an specific minimum requirements regarding the process and standard of referral for transfer to DSU, as well as conditions within the DSU.

Even before all the above began place, one of the 10 Block Plaintiffs, Hoffer, had filed a §1983 suit in the Suffolk Superior Court of Massachusetts against the Massachusetts Commissioner of Corrections and the Superintendent of MCI, alleging violations of his state and federal due process rights. Specifically, Hoffer alleged that defendants illegally retained him in the DSU without setting a conditional release date or conditions of behavior. He sought sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as monetary damages. On March 3, 1992, the Suffolk Superior Court awarded plaintiff Hoffer monetary damages on his individual due process claim. Defendants appealed the amount of damages. The Supreme Judicial Court transferred the case from the Appeals Court and consolidated it with the "Open Letter" case. On April 13, 1992, the Supreme Judicial Court (Justice Nolan) held that plaintiff Hoffer was entitled to more than nominal damages regarding his individual due process claim, but only for the days after the first 90 of his commitment.

The parties settled, and the Court issued a final judgment on December 28, 1993, ordering defendants to provide minimum procedures and substantive protections in compliance with DSU regulations provided to DSU officials, staff, and inmates.

On July 26, 1995, the litigation heated up again, when the plaintiffs filed a motion for an emergency injunction preventing the state from repealing the DSU regulations. On September 26, 1995, the docket shows that the Court "post final judgment order" stating: "After considering Plaintiffs' Motion to Enjoin Repeal of DSU Regulations; Defendant's Opposition thereto; Plaintiffs' Reply Memorandum in Support of Motion to Enjoin Repeal of DSU Regulations; the authority granted the Commissioner under G.L. c. 127, sec. 39; the requirements of the Final Judgment entered in this matter; and the arguments of counsel at a hearing on September 20, 1995, it is hereby ORDERED that: Plaintiffs' Motion to Enjoin Repeal of DSU Regulations is allowed. (Greaney, J.)"

Summary Authors

Timothy Shoffner (5/1/2013)

People


Judge(s)

Greaney, John M. (Massachusetts)

Liacos, Paul J (Massachusetts)

Nolan, Joseph R. (Massachusetts)

Wilkins, Herbert P. (Massachusetts)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Lewis, Daniel M. (Massachusetts)

Murphy, Charles G. (Massachusetts)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Hanson, Herbert (Massachusetts)

Madden, Veronica (Massachusetts)

Wyzanski, Charles Edward Jr. (Massachusetts)

Wyzanski [duplicate], Charles M. (Massachusetts)

Judge(s)

Greaney, John M. (Massachusetts)

Liacos, Paul J (Massachusetts)

Nolan, Joseph R. (Massachusetts)

Wilkins, Herbert P. (Massachusetts)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Lewis, Daniel M. (Massachusetts)

Murphy, Charles G. (Massachusetts)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Hanson, Herbert (Massachusetts)

Madden, Veronica (Massachusetts)

Wyzanski, Charles Edward Jr. (Massachusetts)

Wyzanski [duplicate], Charles M. (Massachusetts)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

1991-J-0376

Docket

Massachusetts state appellate court

June 24, 1991

June 24, 1991

Docket

1991-P-0766

Docket

Massachusetts state appellate court

Nov. 13, 1991

Nov. 13, 1991

Docket

1991-P-0766

SJC-05821

Docket

Hoffer v. Commissioner of Correction

Massachusetts state supreme court

April 13, 1992

April 13, 1992

Docket

85-00071

Docket

Massachusetts state supreme court

Aug. 28, 2007

Aug. 28, 2007

Docket

85-00071

Opinion

Hoffer v. Commissioner of Correction

Massachusetts state supreme court

397 Mass. 152

March 20, 1986

March 20, 1986

Order/Opinion

85-00071

Memorandum, Order and Judgment

Massachusetts state supreme court

March 3, 1988

March 3, 1988

Order/Opinion

85-00071

Opinion

Hoffer v. Commissioner of Correction

Massachusetts state supreme court

412 Mass. 450

April 13, 1992

April 13, 1992

Order/Opinion

85-00071

Memorandum

Massachusetts state supreme court

Dec. 20, 1993

Dec. 20, 1993

Internal memorandum

85-00071

Final Judgment

Massachusetts state supreme court

Dec. 28, 1993

Dec. 28, 1993

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

Last updated Aug. 1, 2022, 3:02 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Massachusetts

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Special Collection(s):

Solitary confinement

Key Dates

Filing Date: Feb. 8, 1985

Closing Date: 1993

Case Ongoing: Perhaps, but long-dormant

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

prisoners housed at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute-Cedar Junction Department Segregation Unit

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

Prisoners' Legal Services of Massachusetts

Legal Services/Legal Aid

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: Yes

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

State of Massachusetts, State

Defendant Type(s):

Corrections

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

State law

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Damages

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Litigation

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 1989 - None

Issues

General:

Access to lawyers or judicial system

Administrative segregation

Conditions of confinement

Disciplinary segregation

Recreation / Exercise

Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)

Affected Gender:

Male

Type of Facility:

Government-run