Filed Date: April 13, 2004
Closed Date: Dec. 2, 2004
Clearinghouse coding complete
This is a lawsuit challenging the attorney visitation policy and legal assistance program at Columbia Training School, a rehabilitative facility for juvenile offenders placed in the custody of the state of Mississippi. The named plaintiff, a developmentally disabled child incarcerated in Columbia, filed a putative class action suit on April 13, 2004 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi against the prison's administrator, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, and the state's Director of the Division of Youth Services. Represented by The Mississippi Center for Justice and the Southern Poverty Law Center, the plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The suit alleged that the state had created a series of obstacles to incarcerated children trying to access the court, in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The case was assigned to Magistrate Judge Alfred G. Nicols.
Columbia had a policy of requiring a youth court order before a child was allowed to speak with an attorney. The plaintiff’s complaint explained that a 2001 study found that most of the children at Columbia and Oakley Training School, Mississippi's other juvenile facility, suffered from mental disorders or disabilities that limited their ability to communicate. The plaintiff further noted that the following year a legislative committee found many health and treatment deficiencies in the facilities. The U.S. Department of Justice also investigated the facilities. At the conclusion of their investigation, they announced in a 2003 letter that they had found rampant abuse and neglect and that both facilities violated the constitutional and statutory rights of children confined in the facilities.
The investigations revealed that Columbia employed practices including hog-tying, pole-shackling, and prolonged isolation of suicidal children in dark rooms without ventilation or toilets. Another case, Morgan v. Sproat, addressed these conditions. After their children reported suffering abuse at the facilities, several parents requested that attorneys be allowed to meet with their children, including the plaintiff in this case. Columbia’s policy required a youth court order for attorney meetings. But the families alleged that when they attempted to get youth court orders, the court failed to respond to their requests. Attorneys reached out in a letter to confirm the policy, which went unanswered by the Director of the Division of Youth Services, counsel for the Department of Human Services, and an attorney in the Office of the Mississippi Attorney General. After the named plaintiff’s mother visited her scared and injured son at Columbia, she tried to call the Administrator of Columbia.
Alond with filing the complaint, the plaintiff also moved for class certification, seeking to certify a class of all current and future residents of Columbia, and an immediate preliminary injunction requiring the facilities (1) to allow residents to meet with attorneys and (2) to ensure their meaningful and effective access to courts free from harassment or retaliation. After recusal for unknown reasons, the case was reassigned to Judge David C. Bramlette III and referred to Magistrate Judge James C. Sumner.
On July 12, 2004, Magistrate Judge Sumner consolidated this case with U.S. v. Mississippi, reassigning this case to Judge Henry T. Wingate. The case was consolidated before the district court ruled on class certification. U.S. v. Mississippi became the lead case, but before further action in either case, the court dismissed the consolidated cases with prejudice on December 2, 2004. The parties signed a private settlement agreement on January 12, 2005, effective immediately. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Columbia, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, and the Director of the Division of Youth Services agreed to:
The case is now closed.
Zoe Van Dyke (10/11/2022)
Morgan v. Sproat, Southern District of Mississippi (1975)
U.S. v. Mississippi, Southern District of Mississippi (2003)
See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/14057382/williams-v-james/
Last updated March 20, 2023, 3:03 a.m.
State / Territory: Mississippi
Filing Date: April 13, 2004
Closing Date: Dec. 2, 2004
Case Ongoing: No
A developmentally disabled child incarcerated seeking to represent all current and future residents of Columbia Training School
Public Interest Lawyer: Yes
Filed Pro Se: No
Class Action Sought: Yes
Class Action Outcome: Mooted before ruling
Columbia Training School (Columbia, Marion), State
Mississippi Department of Human Services (Jackson, Hinds), State
Causes of Action:
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Prevailing Party: Plaintiff
Nature of Relief:
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief:
Form of Settlement:
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Type of Facility: