Case: Newman v. Alabama

2:00-03501 | U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama

Filed Date: 1972

Closed Date: Dec. 18, 1988

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Case Summary

In 1972, Alabama prisoners filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State of Alabama in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. The plaintiffs, who were represented by court appointed attorney Joe Phelps, asked the Court to grant them declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that their constitutional rights had been violated by inadequate medical care.On October 4, 1972, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama (Judge Frank M. Joh…

In 1972, Alabama prisoners filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State of Alabama in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. The plaintiffs, who were represented by court appointed attorney Joe Phelps, asked the Court to grant them declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that their constitutional rights had been violated by inadequate medical care.

On October 4, 1972, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama (Judge Frank M. Johnson) found 8th and 14th Amendment violations relating to the inadequate medical care and treatment of state inmates. The Court granted declaratory and injunctive relief, finding that approximately 10% of the inmate population was psychotic and another 60% mentally disturbed enough to require treatment and ordering the Board of Corrections to undertake extensive changes in its present practices in order to provide adequate medical care to inmates. The Court also awarded the plaintiffs their attorney fees. Newman v. State of Alabama, 349 F.Supp. 278 (M.D.Ala. 1972). The defendants appealed.

On November 8, 1974, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sustained the District Court's finding of constitutional violations and held that the case was properly decided. Newman v. State of Alabama, 503 F.2d 1320 (5th Cir. 1974). The defendants asked for a rehearing en banc; the Fifth Circuit refused. The defendants then sought Supreme Court review, and on January 10, 1975, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the writ of certiorari. Newman v. State of Alabama, 421 U.S. 948 (1975).

On January 13, 1976, in the class action lawsuit Pugh v. Locke, the District Court (Judge Johnson) found Alabama's prison system's living conditions to be unconstitutional in violation of the 8th and 14th Amendments. The District Court enjoined the State of Alabama and the Board of Corrections from maintaining a prison system not in compliance with constitutional standards, appointing a 39-member Human Rights Committee for the Alabama Prison System (with Rod Nachman as chair) to monitor implementation of the court order. Pugh v. Locke, 406 F. Supp. 318 (M.D.Ala. 1976).

The defendants appealed, and on September 16, 1977, the Fifth Circuit consolidated Pugh v. Lock with Newman v. Alabama and with a third case named James v. Wallace, where Alabama inmates were challenging the conditions of their confinement. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the District Court's finding of constitutional violations, but they dissolved the 39-member Human Rights Committee ordering that their functions would terminate and remanding the case to the District Court to appoint a separate monitor for each prison. Newman v. Alabama, 559 F.2d 283 (5th Cir. 1977).

On May 18, 1981, the District Court held a hearing, where it was stipulated that Alabama prisons had not met deadlines set by the federal court order, and that the overcrowding situation had actually gotten worse. On July 15, 1981, the District Court ordered the defendants to release 400 inmates, whose names were to be specified 9 days later.

Before the names of the inmates to be released were specified, Attorney General Graddick sought to intervene and filed a notice of appeal with the Fifth Circuit, requesting that they stay the District Court's order until the appeal was settled. On July 23, 1981, the Fifth Circuit refused to stay the District Court's order. Pursuant to the order of the District Court, 400 inmates were to be released at midnight on July 24, 1981, but this was halted when the U.S. Supreme Court (Justice Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr.) granted a temporary stay. Attorney General Graddick requested a permanent stay, but the Supreme Court declined. Graddick v. Newman, No. A-72, 1981 WL 381035 (U.S. July 25, 1981). On September 2, 1981, Graddick's reapplication for a stay, which was filed with the Chief Justice, was denied by the full Supreme Court. Graddick v. Newman, 453 U.S. 928 (1981).

On August 9, 1982, the Fifth Circuit (Judge Robert Varner) ruled on the appeal, holding that the District Court erred in ordering the defendants to reduce unconstitutional overcrowding by releasing prisoners. The Fifth Circuit found that the District Court had abused its discretion, ordering relief that was "impermissibly intrusive on State's prerogative to administer its prison and parole system." Newman v. Alabama, 683 F. 2d 1312 (11th Cir. 1982).

On January 18, 1983, the District Court entered a consent decree in the case, and the Commissioner of Corrections began to submit quarterly compliance reports. On September 6, 1983, the plaintiffs filed a motion for additional relief, claiming that the prisons were still overcrowded and asking the District Court to enjoin the defendants from holding more prisoners than the prisons were equipped to handle. On November 4, 1983, the District Court issued an order restraining the defendants from enforcing a separate State court order (concerning which we have no information) and ordered the defendants to release enough prisoners to bring the prisons back within their proper occupancy levels. The District Court ordered Commissioner Smith to continue implementation of the quarterly reporting program and held Graddick in contempt of court. On December 7, 1983, the District Court issued a further order holding Commissioner Smith in contempt for his refusal to release prisoners. Both Graddick and Smith appealed.

On September 10, 1984, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, reviewed the orders issued by the District Court and reversed the findings of contempt against Graddick and Smith. The Eleventh Circuit also held that the District Court erred in ordering release of inmates without allowing a showing that conditions of confinement were no longer unconstitutional. Newman v. Graddick, 740 F. 2d 1513 (11th Cir. 1984).

On November 27, 1984, the District Court (Judge Varner) dismissed the case without prejudice pursuant to a consent order of dismissal that had been jointly filed by all parties.

On December 29, 1987, the Implementation Committee, which was created for monitoring purposes, reported to the District Court that overcrowding was still a big problem in the Alabama prisons. The next day, the District Court reactivated the case so that the Court could conduct further review of the prisons. The Committee the filed a further report with the Court, in which it concluded that even though constitutional violations may occur in the future, "future claims of constitutional violations should be resolved in other litigation properly presented to the courts," and that this case should be dismissed. On December 28, 1988, the District Court (Judge Varner) dismissed the case with prejudice.

Summary Authors

Dan Dalton (9/24/2007)

Related Cases

Pugh v. Locke, Middle District of Alabama (1974)

Alabama v. Smith, Alabama state trial court (1983)

James v. Wallace, Middle District of Alabama (1974)

People


Judge(s)

Ainsworth, Robert Andrew Jr. (Louisiana)

Brown, Janice Rogers (District of Columbia)

Clark, Charles Edward (Connecticut)

Coleman, James Plemon (Louisiana)

Dyer, David William (Georgia)

Fay, Peter Thorp (Florida)

Gee, Thomas Gibbs (Louisiana)

Gewin, Walter Pettus (Alabama)

Godbold, John Cooper (Louisiana)

Goldberg, Irving Loeb (Louisiana)

Judge(s)

Ainsworth, Robert Andrew Jr. (Louisiana)

Brown, Janice Rogers (District of Columbia)

Clark, Charles Edward (Connecticut)

Coleman, James Plemon (Louisiana)

Dyer, David William (Georgia)

Fay, Peter Thorp (Florida)

Gee, Thomas Gibbs (Louisiana)

Gewin, Walter Pettus (Alabama)

Godbold, John Cooper (Louisiana)

Goldberg, Irving Loeb (Louisiana)

Johnson, Frank Minis Jr. (Alabama)

Kravitch, Phyllis A. (Georgia)

Kunzig, Robert Lowe (District of Columbia)

Morgan, Lewis Render (Georgia)

Powell, Lewis Franklin Jr. (District of Columbia)

Rehnquist, William Hubbs (District of Columbia)

Roney, Paul Hitch (Florida)

Thornberry, William Homer (Texas)

Tjoflat, Gerald Bard (Florida)

Tuttle, Elbert Parr (Georgia)

Varner, Robert Edward (Alabama)

Wisdom, John Minor (Louisiana)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Bell, John C. (Alabama)

Butler, Philip H. (Alabama)

Cameron, John F. (Alabama)

Curtis, Jack M. (Alabama)

Levin, Joseph J. Jr. (Alabama)

Phelps, Joseph D. (Alabama)

Schneider, Charles A. (District of Columbia)

Segall, Robert D. (Alabama)

Taylor, George Peach (Alabama)

Wallis, Kenneth Dallon II (Alabama)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Agricola, Algert Swanson Jr. (Alabama)

Ansley, Eva (Alabama)

Barnes, William Scears Jr. (Alabama)

Baxley, William J. (Alabama)

Beck, George (Alabama)

Drake, Jack (Alabama)

Graddick, Charles A. (Alabama)

Hamlett Davis, Rosa G. (Alabama)

Henry, Herbert H III (Alabama)

Lamar, Robert S. (Alabama)

Lawson, Thomas S. Jr. (Alabama)

Lockett, John R. (Alabama)

Martin, William K. (Alabama)

McAlpine, Thomas R. (Alabama)

Nachman, M. R. Jr. (Alabama)

Newman, Larry R. (Alabama)

Samford, Jimmy (Alabama)

Sorrels, Thomas (Alabama)

Strickland, Edwin A. (Alabama)

Waters, Michael D. (Alabama)

Wilson, Frank M. (Alabama)

Other Attorney(s)

Bailey, Dennis R. (Alabama)

Barnett, Walter W. (District of Columbia)

Bronstein, Alvin J. (District of Columbia)

Carroll, John L. (Alabama)

Dale, Mitchell W. (District of Columbia)

DeMent, Ira (Alabama)

Eisenstein, Miriam R. (District of Columbia)

Fuoco, Philip Stephen (New Jersey)

Hoyle, John C. (District of Columbia)

Knowles, Ralph I. Jr. (Georgia)

Littlefield, Patricia Gail (District of Columbia)

Loftman, Michael S. (District of Columbia)

Myers, Matthew L. (District of Columbia)

Norman, David L. (District of Columbia)

Pottinger, J. Stanley (District of Columbia)

Shinbaum, Richard D. (Alabama)

Smyly, Terry (Alabama)

Teague, Barry E. (Alabama)

Thrasher, Louis M. (District of Columbia)

Whinston, Stephen A. (District of Columbia)

Expert/Monitor/Master

Simpson, John Milton Bryan (Florida)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

2:00-03501

83-07680

Court Docket

Newman v. Graddick

Dec. 29, 1983

Dec. 29, 1983

Docket

2:00-03501

Opinion

349 F.Supp. 278

Oct. 4, 1972

Oct. 4, 1972

Order/Opinion

73-02033

Table of Decisions

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

503 F.2d 565

Oct. 16, 1974

Oct. 16, 1974

Order/Opinion

73-02033

Appellate Decision

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

503 F.2d 1320

Nov. 8, 1974

Nov. 8, 1974

Order/Opinion

73-02033

Table of Decisions

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

506 F.2d 1056

Jan. 10, 1975

Jan. 10, 1975

Order/Opinion

74-01119

Denial of Petition for Writ of Certiorari

Alabama v. Newman

Supreme Court of the United States

421 U.S. 948, 95 S.Ct. 1680, 44 L.Ed.2d 102

April 28, 1975

April 28, 1975

Order/Opinion

73-02033

Appellate Decision

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

522 F.2d 71

Oct. 29, 1975

Oct. 29, 1975

Order/Opinion

76-02269

Appellate Decision

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

559 F.2d 283

Sept. 16, 1977

Sept. 16, 1977

Order/Opinion

76-02269

Table of Decisions

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

564 F.2d 97

Nov. 7, 1977

Nov. 7, 1977

Order/Opinion

77-02732

Dismissal of Appeals Case [Table]

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

568 F.2d 204

Jan. 31, 1978

Jan. 31, 1978

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

Last updated June 5, 2022, 3:02 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Alabama

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Special Collection(s):

Court-ordered receiverships

Key Dates

Filing Date: 1972

Closing Date: Dec. 18, 1988

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Inmates within the Alabama Penal System.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

ACLU National (all projects)

ACLU National Prison Project

Public Interest Lawyer: Unknown

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Alabama Department of Corrections, State

Defendant Type(s):

Corrections

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Due Process

Due Process: Substantive Due Process

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Order Duration: 1972 - 1988

Content of Injunction:

Receivership

Issues

General:

Bathing and hygiene

Classification / placement

Food service / nutrition / hydration

Recreation / Exercise

Sanitation / living conditions

Crowding:

Crowding / caseload

Medical/Mental Health:

Medical care, general

Mental health care, general

Type of Facility:

Government-run