Filed Date: Aug. 10, 1976
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On August 10, 1976, persons at North Broward Detention Center filed this action pro se in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The plaintiffs sued Broward County officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. At the time, the county's main jail was in the old courthouse where 1,200 inmates were packed into cells designed for 275. The Court appointed counsel and the parties went on to litigate the claims.
We have only limited information on the first 18 years of the case; the docket is not digitized. We do know (from the 1994 settlement agreement) that Judge William M. Hoeveler certified the matter as a class action on November 9, 1979 on behalf of all persons who have been, are being, or will be confined in the Broward County corrections and rehabilitation facilities. By agreement of the parties this also included any jails that Broward County or the Sheriff of Broward County may in the future operate or contract with a private company to operate.
Judge Hoeveler established caps on the jails' inmate population and set minimum conditions. The county closed the old jail and spent more than $90 million building and renovating three new jails with 3,656 beds. The county also paid $1.9 million in court-ordered fines for exceeding the court-ordered caps. And from 1976 to 1994, the county paid almost $700,000 to inmates' attorneys and court experts. (Sources: Sun Sentinel News Article and Blog Post.)
There was also a lot of litigation regarding the award of attorney's fees. To deal with these disputes, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys hired an attorney (the "fee attorney") to litigate the fee dispute for him. The fee attorney successfully litigated the plaintiffs' attorney's application for fees under the Civil Rights Attorneys' Fees Awards Act. As a result, the fee attorney also requested compensation for his own services under the statute. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida (Judge William M. Hoeveler) denied the request, and the fee attorney appealed. On April 19, 1985, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Vance) held that (1) such representation was compensable under the Act, but (2) the fee attorney lacked standing to file the petition for fees; rather, proper procedure was for the attorney who benefited from the representation to supplement his own fee application to include costs and expenses that he incurred by retaining the fee attorney. Jonas v. Stack, 758 F.2d 567 (11th Cir. 1985).
Implementation of reforms continued to be contested, but in July 1994, the parties entered into a consent decree, which was ratified by the court in January 1995. The consent decree stipulated changes that would be made at the jail in the areas of classification, freedom of religion, use of force, housing conditions, overcrowding, recreation, visitation, programming, medical care, mental health care, dental care, and disciplinary procedures. The plaintiffs were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation's National Prison Project, and the defendants were representatives of Broward County and the North Broward Detention Center. The consent decree contained a provision for monthly payment of the plaintiffs' attorney fees and appointed Howard Messing to be Special Master. (On June 7, 1995, Judge Hoeveler issued an amended Order incorporating the settlement agreement of the parties.)
In January 1996, the Sheriff's Department received full American Correctional Association ("ACA") accreditation. Defendants then filed a motion to terminate all relief, citing language in the Consent Decree that stated "Defendants' obligations regarding ACA compliance shall terminate upon defendant's achieving ACA accreditation." In the alternative, Defendants sought the end of compliance monitoring. On Feb. 7, 1996, the Court denied the motion, holding that monitoring and the substantive requirements of the Decree were separable, that the substantive requirements were designed to outlast the monitoring, and that in any event, it would be premature to discontinue monitoring, when compliance was still partial. The Court cited evidence that 100 inmates were still sleeping on the floor in violation of the Consent Decree.
In August 1996, after enactment of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), the defendants filed another motion to terminate the consent decree, this time pursuant to the PLRA's termination provisions, 18 U.S.C. 3626(e). The motion remained pending for many years. On July 19, 2001, new counsel appeared for the plaintiffs, from the ACLU's National Prison Project. Through these new lawyers, the plaintiffs sought court-appointment of experts to review jail conditions and an evidentiary hearing. The court granted that motion August 2, 2001.
Arguing that because all prospective relief is automatically stayed by operation of the PLRA, at some point, defendants stopped paying the attorneys' fees covered in the consent decree. On February 15, 2002, the plaintiffs moved to recover those fees. Judge Hoeveler ruled that attorneys' fees are not automatically stayed by operation of the PLRA, but the fees which the plaintiffs can collect must be reasonably incurred in enforcing the relief ordered for the violation. Carruthers v. Jenne, 209 F.Supp.2d 1294 (S.D.Fla. 2002).
In 2002 the three experts the court had appointed in August 2001 filed reports regarding conditions at the jail. The experts identified numerous systemic problems, including unnecessary and excessive force; inadequate reviews of use-of-force incidents; lack of meaningful disciplinary sanctions for serious violations of use-of-force policies; that use of the restraint chair is not properly regulated or documented; that the jail does not provide medical staff with appropriate training; that medical staff do not exercise appropriate medical judgment; and that “many prisoners with serious mental disorders (often associated with active psychotic features) were not receiving adequate mental health treatment.”
A hearing on the years-old termination motion was set for March 2003. But the parties agreed to postpone the hearing while the experts re-inspected the jail. (Source: ACLU Report)
The parties agreed several times to postpone adjudication of the pending termination motion and continue with expert reviews of the facility conditions. In January 2004 and January 2005 they entered two stipulations for settlement, which narrowed the scope of continuing monitoring, inspection and judicial oversight of jail operations and conditions to those relating to mental health services, inmate rules and discipline, inmate safety and security, facility capacity, and inmate access to religious publications and services and access to legal materials. The stipulations also stopped class counsel from engaging in formal discovery. However, the court-appointed experts produced additional reports on conditions and operations at the jail through mid-2006.
The agreement also established the position of "ombudsperson," who would perform various functions including identification of systemic problems as related to the inmate population and manage the investigation and review of inmate concerns and grievances.
In 2006, the jail was again plagued by serious overcrowding. The plaintiffs urged the Sheriff to contract with the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections (NIC), to conduct an audit and determine the cause of the overcrowding. The Sheriff agreed, and the NIC completed its audit in April 2007. As a result of the audit, the Sheriff asked the county commission to nearly double the size of the supervised release program.
In 2009, the Sheriff closed one of the five jail facilities, and the daily population climbed through 2010, resulting in overcrowding in the remaining jail buildings. On July 20, 2010, the court granted the plaintiffs' unopposed motion for a status report on the population, jail capacity, and the use of temporary beds at the Broward County Jail, and to produce an impact statement on how the potential closure of 544 beds at the jail's Rein facility would affect jail conditions and operations.
The plaintiffs filed a motion asking the court to appoint Dr. James Austin, a nationally recognized expert on correctional population management, to conduct a jail and justice system assessment, and make recommendations for criminal justice reforms regarding population management, including alternatives to incarceration. The Court agreed, ordering the appointment on October 4, 2010. A report filed in 2014 explains that Dr. Austin completed the ordered report in 2012, though it does not appear in the docket.
In November 2014, inmates in the jail–not the designated class representatives–alleged that the facilities were overcrowded in violation of the consent decree. They filed pro se motions to replace class representatives and to obtain sanctions against the defendants. The docket notes that Judge Hoeveler was no longer with the court (although Judge Hoeveler had not formally retired or moved, he was 92 by 2014, and had taken senior status in 1991). The matter was reassigned to Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks for all further proceedings.
On August 5, 2015, Judge Middlebrooks issued an order denying the pros se inmates' motions and requiring the parties to show cause as to why the consent decree should not be dissolved or amended. The county responded that it thought the consent decree should be dissolved, but that it was working through the issues with the plaintiff to try to seek agreement. It filed a new population report by Dr. Austin, which recommended a list of reforms that would, if implemented, reduce population by 20% or more. The county also sought relief from ongoing monitoring. The plaintiffs opposed dissolution of the decree, offering information that suggested that constitutional problems remained.
The county, however, disagreed that it should be bound by any ongoing obligations, and sought termination of any orders governing it. The court heard oral argument regarding the continuing need the consent decree's provisions relating to the county on March 31, 2016.
On July 28, 2016 the Sheriff (but not the county) and plaintiffs requested preliminary approval of a settlement agreement, which the court approved on September 6, 2016. The agreement was to appoint two experts who would work together with the jail and any contractors who would then issue a report about whether there were ongoing violations of inmates' rights. If the experts found any such violations, they would draft an implementation plan to remedy the issues.
After an additional evidentiary hearing, on October 17, 2016, the court dissolved aspects of the consent decree as to the county and found no current and ongoing violations of constitutional rights. The order's dissolution did not, however, cover the Sheriff. Judge Middlebrooks approved the July 28th settlement agreement on December 1, 2016. The court found that the settlement provided a process to address plaintiffs' contentions of overcrowding, excessive use of force, inmate violence, inadequate mental health care and facilities, and the imposition of substantial burdens upon religious exercise. Its terms bound the current and future county Sheriff.
With regard to attorney fees, on January 18, 2017, the plaintiffs moved for attorney's fees and on August 14, 2017, Judge Middlebrooks granted plaintiff's motion. The County appealed this order granting attorney's fees on September 14, 2017 to the Eleventh Circuit. Although the plaintiffs asserted that they were entitled to more than $1 million in fees and costs, the parties negotiated and agreed to stipulate to accepting a total of $825,000 from both defendants if the County agreed to dismiss its appeal. The defendants dismissed their appeal in the Eleventh Circuit and Judge Middlebrooks approved the parties' stipulation of attorney's fees (the stipulation was filed as a motion on September 28, 2017).
On March 7, 2017, one of the experts submitted his Final Report regarding the overcrowding, use of force, violence, and burdens on religious exercise. The report found that the defendants reached substantial compliance with the requirements. Following the report, the parties entered into further negotiations, which ultimately led to the conditions claims other than mental health care being dismissed by stipulation on March 22, 2017.
The other expert completed a report on mental health care sometime in 2018. Following the report, the parties entered into further negotiations, which culminated in a joint motion for settlement that the parties filed on August 9, 2018. A couple of months later, on January 16, 2019, the court granted the joint motion for preliminary approval of the settlement and ordered the parties to go forward with class notice procedures.
The settlement provided for resolution of the final area of dispute--the plaintiffs' contention of inadequate mental health care and facilities--in a way that allowed the parties to avoid an evidentiary hearing on the issue. Instead, the settlement established a process for the evaluation of the jail conditions at issue by a qualified expert jointly designated by the parties. The agreement also provided for changes and/or maintenance of the jail's policies and procedures to provide inmates with quality and accessible medical care, including provisions addressing: intake screening and assessment; individualized treatment plans for inmates placed on the mental health caseload; and procedures for diverting inmates to a hospital or psychiatric facility when more specific treatment is needed. The defendants also agreed to implement electronic medical records in order to better track and provide for inmates in need of mental health care, and agreed to ensure that mental health assessments are conducted outside of inmates' cells to ensure privacy. If inmates cannot be seen outside of their cell, the jail must document a legitimate safety, security, or treatment rationale. The agreement specifically rejected the possibility that being housed in segregation could be a sufficient reason to deny a face-to-face assessment outside the inmate's cell.
The settlement also addressed the jail's policies related to discipline, segregation, and the use of force. The defendants agreed to ensure that mentally ill inmates would not be punished for behavior that is a product of their illness. They also agreed to revise policies related to placement in segregation, and to ensure that any person admitted to a segregation unit is assessed within 24 hours of placement.
Under the settlement agreement, Dr. Burns, the expert who completed the report on mental health care pursuant to the 2016 agreement, would continue to serve as the expert to assess compliance with the substantive terms of this more recent agreement. Dr. Burns would issue reports at six month intervals to determine if the jail has reached substantial compliance with each of provisions of the settlement. Finally, the agreement provided for full implementation within 180 days of approval and entry by the court. The agreement provided for termination of the consent decree and a dismissal of the case once the jail had maintained substantial compliance with each of the substantive provisions of the agreement for one year.
After the court granted preliminary approval of this settlement agreement, the parties proceeded to give notice of the agreement to the class. Some objections were filed, but the court has not issued any orders about them. The parties jointly moved for final approval of the settlement on March 26, 2019, and Judge Middlebrooks approved the agreement on April 15, 2019.
The case is ongoing for monitoring purposes, as the court retains jurisdiction until the jail achieves substantial compliance for one year. As of May 26, 2020, there have been no additional substantive entries in the docket since the settlement was approved.
Kristen Sagar (2/19/2006)
Jessica Kincaid (4/21/2016)
Abigail DeHart (11/26/2017)
Chris Pollack (3/29/2019)
Alex Moody (5/26/2020)
For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/6910812/parties/jonas-v-stack/
Abudu, Nancy G. (Georgia)
Balaban, Eric G. (District of Columbia)
Andron, Scott (Florida)
Arthur, Robert David II (Florida)
Austin, James Ph.D. (District of Columbia)
Hoeveler, William Marcellin (Florida)
Middlebrooks, David Lycurgus Jr. (Florida)
Vance, Robert Smith (Alabama)
See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/6910812/jonas-v-stack/
Last updated July 12, 2023, 12:03 a.m.
State / Territory: Florida
Filing Date: Aug. 10, 1976
Case Ongoing: Yes
All persons who have been, are being, or will be confined in the Broward County corrections and rehabilitation facilities, including any jails that Broward County or the Sheriff of Broward County may in the future operate or contract with a private company to operate.
Public Interest Lawyer: Yes
Filed Pro Se: Yes
Class Action Sought: Yes
Class Action Outcome: Granted
Causes of Action:
Prevailing Party: Plaintiff
Nature of Relief:
Source of Relief:
Form of Settlement:
Amount Defendant Pays: $825,000
Order Duration: 1995 - None
Content of Injunction:
Type of Facility: