Case: Cain v. Michigan Department of Corrections

88-61119-AZ | Michigan state trial court

Filed Date: 1988

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

In 1988, a group of male Michigan prisoners filed this class-action lawsuit under state law in the Michigan Court of Claims against the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC). The lawsuit grew out of the 1983 riots at Marquette Branch Prison, the Michigan Reformatory, and the Central Complex of the State Prison of Southern Michigan. The plaintiffs, initially proceeding pro se, claimed that many actions that MDOC took in the wake of the unrest violated Michigan state law and the U.S. Constitu…

In 1988, a group of male Michigan prisoners filed this class-action lawsuit under state law in the Michigan Court of Claims against the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC). The lawsuit grew out of the 1983 riots at Marquette Branch Prison, the Michigan Reformatory, and the Central Complex of the State Prison of Southern Michigan. The plaintiffs, initially proceeding pro se, claimed that many actions that MDOC took in the wake of the unrest violated Michigan state law and the U.S. Constitution. Their complaints included changes in MDOC policy regarding the quantity of personal property prisoners could posses, new security measures taken after them, and lack of access to amenities like phone calls. After the case was filed, a group of female prisoners successfully moved to intervene in the case.

The plaintiffs convinced Circuit Judge James R. Giddings to enjoin changes the changes in MDOC's personal property that they complained of. However, soon after, the Michigan legislature passed a statute imposing similar limitations. Judge Giddings enjoined that statute. This injunction led to extensive litigation by prisoners across the state about the status of their personal property.

Judge Giddings' rulings also attracted the ire of then Governor John Engler, who called him a "lunatic" who attended a "mail order law school." (Engler later apologized to Wayne State University Law School - but not to Judge Giddings.) The Judge responded by making a complaint about the Governor's (who was also a licensed attorney) statements to the Michigan State Bar's Attorney Grievance Committee. That body "cautioned" the Governor, but ultimately dismissed the investigation. Judge Giddings and executive branch lawyers continued to tussle, with Judge Giddings ordering the government to forward press releases regarding the litigation to the plaintiffs and the Governor accusing the Judge of preventing MDOC from taking necessary safety measures.

On September 12, 1994, after Judge Giddings discussed the possibility of holding some state defendants in criminal contempt, the state moved to have him disqualified from the litigation. After two years of litigation, the Michigan Supreme Court found that his disqualification was not warranted. 548 N.W.2d 210.

At the suggestion of the Supreme Court, which stressed the need to quickly resolve the litigation, Prison Legal Services of Michigan (PLSM) was appointed to represent the plaintiffs. The organization moved into a trailer on prison grounds in order to be close to their clients, but were ordered to leave in late 2002 by the Michigan Court of Appeals in 2002. 657 N.W.2d 799.

After a protracted legal battle that moved slowly through the Michigan state court system, in March of 2003, the Michigan Supreme Court again suggested "that the trial court bring this fifteen-year-old suit promptly to final judgment." 657 N.W.2d 718. Within a year of that order, the parties reached a settlement on November 4, 2003. The settlement covered five areas: Classification, Personal Typewriters, Access to the Courts, Security Threat Group Claims, and Miscellaneous Issues. Under the terms of the settlement, the parties agreed on appropriate classification and psychiatric services, plus restrictions on administrative segregation that exacerbates serious psychological illness. In addition to retaining personal word processors, prisoners also attained expanded law libraries with 25 hour/week access and adequate photocopies, prompt legal mail processing, longer attorney phone calls, and protective winter clothing.

All provisions of the Agreements were subject to dispute resolution under the auspices of Judge Michael G. Harrison. Monitoring appeared to be ongoing in early 2009, however, as of September 2021, the case appears to be closed.

Summary Authors

Kristen Sagar (3/3/2009)

Anna Dimon (5/14/2015)

Jonah Hudson-Erdman (9/5/2021)

People


Judge(s)

Boyle, Patricia Jean Ehrhardt Pernick (Michigan)

Brickley, James (Michigan)

Attorney for Plaintiff
Attorney for Defendant
Expert/Monitor/Master/Other

Adkins, James D (Michigan)

Baird, Thomas A. (Michigan)

Bush, Neal (Michigan)

show all people

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document
214-2

88-61119-AZ

5:05-cv-00128

Plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan

Oct. 19, 1989

Oct. 19, 1989

Complaint

COA No. 151282

95032

Disposition

Michigan state supreme court

March 29, 1993

March 29, 1993

Order/Opinion

500 N.W.2d 500

COA Nos. 177884

COA Nos. 176622

101144

101145

Disposition

Michigan state supreme court

Dec. 28, 1994

Dec. 28, 1994

Order/Opinion

527 N.W.2d 527

COA No. 179431

101628

101736

Decision

Michigan state supreme court

May 17, 1995

May 17, 1995

Order/Opinion

534 N.W.2d 534

101628

101736

Opinion

Michigan state supreme court

May 21, 1996

May 21, 1996

Order/Opinion

548 N.W.2d 548

COA No. 209261

112941

Decision

Michigan state supreme court

Sept. 9, 1998

Sept. 9, 1998

Order/Opinion

584 N.W.2d 584

COA No. 209261

112941

Decision

Michigan state supreme court

Sept. 28, 1998

Sept. 28, 1998

Order/Opinion

584 N.W.2d 584

COA No. 223289

116212

Decision

Michigan state supreme court

Sept. 27, 2000

Sept. 27, 2000

Order/Opinion

618 N.W.2d 618

239116

240101

Opinion

Michigan state appellate court

Dec. 27, 2002

Dec. 27, 2002

Order/Opinion

657 N.W.2d 657

123395

123996

Opinion

Michigan state supreme court

March 19, 2003

March 19, 2003

Order/Opinion

657 N.W.2d 657

Docket

Last updated Aug. 30, 2023, 1:27 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Michigan

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Key Dates

Filing Date: 1988

Case Ongoing: No reason to think so

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

People incarcerated in Michigan state prisons.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

Legal Services/Legal Aid

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: Yes

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Michigan Department of Corrections, State

Facility Type(s):

Government-run

Case Details

Causes of Action:

State law

Available Documents:

Complaint (any)

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Litigation

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 2003 - None

Issues

General/Misc.:

Access to lawyers or judicial system

Classification / placement

Loss or damage to property

Mail

Jails, Prisons, Detention Centers, and Other Institutions:

Administrative segregation

Law library access

Medical/Mental Health Care:

Mental health care, general