Case: Wilson v. Kelley

68-11647 | U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia

Filed Date: 1968

Closed Date: Dec. 16, 1968

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

Plaintiffs, black and white current, former, and prospective inmates in Georgia penal institutions, brought a civil rights law suit through counsel affiliated in various ways with the ACLU in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against all the state's prison and jail officials alleging violations of their Eighth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief. Specifically, the complaint sought (1) to abolish racial segregat…

Plaintiffs, black and white current, former, and prospective inmates in Georgia penal institutions, brought a civil rights law suit through counsel affiliated in various ways with the ACLU in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against all the state's prison and jail officials alleging violations of their Eighth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief. Specifically, the complaint sought (1) to abolish racial segregation in all jails and penal institutions in Georgia; (2) to prevent the alleged discrimination in the employment of blacks at penal institutions and as sheriffs in Georgia; and (3) to abolish all county public works camps in Georgia. A three-judge district court panel awarded relief to desegregate the penal facilities, but denied the remaining relief sought. Wilson v. Kelley, 294 F.Supp 1005 (N.D. Ga. 1968) (Judge Sidney O. Smith).

Georgia law segregated inmates on the basis of race. Inmates not in the state system were segregated as a matter of custom. In light of a recent Supreme Court decision, the district court held that this type of racial segregation, and therefore the statutes, violated the Fourteenth Amendment and ordered the complete integration of all city and county jails, county public works camps, state correctional institutions and juvenile facilities within six months, on or before January 1, 1969. The court said that prison officials could take racial tensions into account concerning security and discipline, but that they could only do so when acting in good faith in response to some actual evidence.

The district court panel refused to grant relief on the other two requests. First, despite evidence that the majority of inmates were black and that the overwhelming majority of corrections jobs were filled by whites, the court dismissed plaintiffs' second claim reasoning that there was not a proper class of plaintiffs nor a proper defendant class representative in the case. Specifically, none of the members of the plaintiff class had ever applied for work in a correctional facility and they failed to show that a member of the defendant class could grant the relief requested. In a separate opinion, another judge dissented, arguing that plaintiffs were a proper class because they were affected by the hiring practices. (Judge Tuttle, concurring in part and dissenting in part).

The court also rejected plaintiffs' claim that the work camps constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment and involuntary servitude under the Thirteenth Amendment because they offered only physical labor and not academic and trade programs like other facilities. The court reasoned that plaintiffs were not a representative class, as some prisoners at the work camp might prefer that assignment, and that there was not a clear abuse of discretion that would warrant disregarding the longstanding policy of courts to not interfere in prison administration and discipline.

The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in a per curiam judgment without opinion. Wilson v. Kelley, 393 U.S. 266 (1968).

Although the docket for this case is not available on PACER, activity continued after the Supreme Court decision. According to an August 11, 1975 memo to the Federal Bureau of Investigations from the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, the United States became a party intervenor in the case in 1973 for purposes of enforcement. Since that time, the memo states that United States had brought enforcement actions against five Georgia counties and that private plaintiffs had also brought enforcement actions. The memo requested the assistance of the FBI to determine if jails not yet investigated were in compliance with the 1968 court order. One such investigation, concluded with an FBI report dated September 14, 1976, revealed that one facility became integrated as a result of the Justice Departments' out of court efforts.

Summary Authors

Sherrie Waldrup (3/6/2006)

People


Judge(s)

Douglas, William Orville (District of Columbia)

Hooper, Frank Arthur (Georgia)

Smith, Sidney Oslin Jr. (Georgia)

Tuttle, Elbert Parr (Georgia)

White, Byron Raymond (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Boult, Reber F. Jr. (Georgia)

Brent, John Wm. (Georgia)

Garbus, Martin (New York)

Jones, P. Walter (Georgia)

King, C. B. (Georgia)

Judge(s)

Douglas, William Orville (District of Columbia)

Hooper, Frank Arthur (Georgia)

Smith, Sidney Oslin Jr. (Georgia)

Tuttle, Elbert Parr (Georgia)

White, Byron Raymond (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Boult, Reber F. Jr. (Georgia)

Brent, John Wm. (Georgia)

Garbus, Martin (New York)

Jones, P. Walter (Georgia)

King, C. B. (Georgia)

Kinoy, Arthur (New York)

Moore, Howard Jr. (Georgia)

Morgan, Charles Jr. (Georgia)

Rindskopf, Peter E. (Georgia)

Wulf, Melvin L. (New York)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Bolton, Arthur K. (Georgia)

Bryan, W. Wheeler (Georgia)

Evans, Alfred L. Jr. (Georgia)

Ferguson, John T. (Georgia)

Gordon, Marion O. (Georgia)

Hartman, Don L. (Georgia)

Hill, Harold N. Jr. (Georgia)

Hinchey, John W. (Georgia)

Robins, Mathew (Georgia)

Sheats, Harold (Georgia)

Twitty, Frank S. Sr. (Georgia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

68-11647

Order of Dismissal

294 F.Supp. 1005, 1968 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 8039

June 27, 1968

June 27, 1968

Order/Opinion

68-00561

Memorandum Decision

Supreme Court of the United States

393 U.S. 266, 89 S.Ct. 477, 21 L.Ed.2d 425

Dec. 16, 1968

Dec. 16, 1968

Order/Opinion

DJ 168-20-10

Memorandum Requesting FBI Inspection

No Court

Aug. 11, 1975

Aug. 11, 1975

Correspondence

DJ 168-20-10

Notice to Close File

No Court

Sept. 23, 1976

Sept. 23, 1976

Findings Letter/Report

Resources

Docket

Last updated Aug. 14, 2022, 3:03 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Georgia

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Key Dates

Filing Date: 1968

Closing Date: Dec. 16, 1968

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Plaintiffs, black and white current, former, and prospective inmates in Georgia penal institutions

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: Unknown

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Georgia Department of Corrections, State

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Availably Documents:

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Mixed

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Issues

General:

Administrative segregation

Racial segregation

Discrimination-area:

Other Conditions of Employment (including assignment, transfer, hours, working conditions, etc)

Discrimination-basis:

Race discrimination

Type of Facility:

Government-run