Case: Small v. Martin

5:85-cv-00987 | U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina

Filed Date: July 8, 1985

Closed Date: 1997

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On July 8, 1985, a group of individuals incarcerated in North Carolina state prisons filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The plaintiffs, represented by North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services and private counsel, brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State's Department of Corrections and Division of Prisons. The plaintiffs sought relief from living conditions alleged to be unconstitutional at forty-nine minimum a…

On July 8, 1985, a group of individuals incarcerated in North Carolina state prisons filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The plaintiffs, represented by North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services and private counsel, brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State's Department of Corrections and Division of Prisons. The plaintiffs sought relief from living conditions alleged to be unconstitutional at forty-nine minimum and medium security prisons in North Carolina that utilized dormitory-style housing where prisoners slept on bunks in large rooms.

On October 22, 1986, the U.S. District Court Judge William Earl Britt granted the plaintiffs' motion for class certification. Over the next few years, the parties engaged in discovery and, in 1988, a non-jury trial on motions for indicative relief by two named plaintiffs.

On December 28, 1988, a settlement agreement was reached. The agreement included provisions aimed at improving prison conditions, including a requirement that the state provide fifty square feet of living space per inmate in each dormitory by July 1, 1994. The fifty square feet of living space per inmate was referred to as "standard operating capacity" (SOC). The agreement also required the state to replace all triple bunks with double bunks and to implement direct supervision by correctional officers in the dormitories. Other provisions dealt with peer review of medical care, visitation policies, work and study programs, fire safety, new dormitory design, ventilation renovations, medical diets, plumbing repairs, clothing and linen policies, and locker space. A settlement committee, composed of representatives of the Governor, the General Assembly, and the Department of Corrections, was created to implement the settlement agreement.

On April 3, 1989, the district court approved the settlement agreement, and it assumed the force of a consent decree. The state's efforts to comply with the terms of the consent decree were frustrated by unexpected increases in prison admissions. Prison admissions increased from a level of 17,000 admissions per year in 1988 to almost 31,000 per year by 1992. Therefore, on October 13, 1993, the state petitioned to modify the consent decree because it was unable to meet the requirement of fifty square feet of living space per inmate.

On January 7, 1994, U.S. Magistrate Judge Alexander B. Denson granted the plaintiffs' motion to compel the production of documents which had been provided to the settlement committee in order to rebut the state's claim that drastic unanticipated increases in prison admission rates necessitated modification of the consent decree. Small v. Hunt, 152 F.R.D. 509 (E.D.N.C. 1994). Magistrate Judge Denson also held that by filing a petition to modify the consent decree, the state waived any attorney-client privilege that may have protected the deliberations of the settlement committee, and documents related to the deliberations of the settlement committee were not protected by legislative immunity.

On June 28, 1994, U.S. District Court Judge Britt granted the requested modification of the decree to allow certain dormitories to operate at 125 percent of SOC. Small v. Hunt, 858 F.Supp. 510 (E.D.N.C. 1994). On July 13, 1994, the state moved to alter the recently issued modification order. The district court, in an order dated March 27, 1995, granted the state's request by allowing the state to house inmates in certain dormitories at 130 percent of SOC. Dormitories operating above 100 percent of capacity were required to provide at least 32 inches of space between bunks and were prohibited from having a center row of bunks.

On October 16, 1996, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Judge M. Blane Michael) held that increases in prison admissions and related unanticipated expenses justified the changes in the consent decree and affirmed the district court's modification. Small v. Hunt, 98 F.3d 789 (4th Cir. 1996). On February 20, 1997, the court determined that all provisions of the settlement agreement had been fully implemented and the court’s supervisory jurisdiction was terminated at that time. The case was closed.

In 2008, two inmates filed pro se motions seeking additional relief. The court rejected those motions, and directed the clerk not to accept any further pro se filings in the case. The case remains closed.

Summary Authors

Tom Madison (10/8/2006)

Saeeda Joseph-Charles (10/18/2016)

People


Judge(s)

Britt, William Earl (North Carolina)

Denson, Alexander B. (North Carolina)

Michael, M. Blane (South Carolina)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Gerard, Daniele (North Carolina)

Lawrence, Melinda (North Carolina)

Lesesne, Louis L. Jr. (North Carolina)

Pollitt, Susan H. (North Carolina)

Sparrow, Marvin (North Carolina)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Easley, Michael F. (North Carolina)

Smiley, Tiare Bowe (North Carolina)

Judge(s)

Britt, William Earl (North Carolina)

Denson, Alexander B. (North Carolina)

Michael, M. Blane (South Carolina)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Gerard, Daniele (North Carolina)

Lawrence, Melinda (North Carolina)

Lesesne, Louis L. Jr. (North Carolina)

Pollitt, Susan H. (North Carolina)

Sparrow, Marvin (North Carolina)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Easley, Michael F. (North Carolina)

Smiley, Tiare Bowe (North Carolina)

Smith, Jim (North Carolina)

Talbert, W. Dale (North Carolina)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Docket [Paper]

March 19, 1997 Docket

Docket (PACER)

Oct. 26, 2011 Docket
266

Order

Small v. Hunt

152 F.R.D. 509

Jan. 7, 1994 Order/Opinion

Findings of Fact

Small v. Hunt

858 F.Supp. 510

June 28, 1994 Order/Opinion

Opinion Affirming the District Court

Small v. Hunt

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

98 F.3d 789

Oct. 16, 1996 Order/Opinion

Docket

Last updated May 12, 2022, 8 p.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link
1

Prior Paper Docket. (McDowell, G.) (Entered: 09/23/2008)

Aug. 28, 2008
2

MOTION to Amend by Ross A. Berryman Bey. (Attachments: # 1 Envelope) (McDowell, G.) (Entered: 09/23/2008)

Aug. 29, 2008
3

Letter from Phu Nay (0904909) (Attachments: # 1 Envelope) (McDowell, G.) (Entered: 09/23/2008)

Sept. 8, 2008
4

MOTION/Application for prejudgment remedies by Ross A. Berryman Bey. (Attachments: # 1 Envelope) (McDowell, G.) (Entered: 09/23/2008)

Sept. 17, 2008

Motions Submitted: 4 MOTION for prejudgment remedies, 2 MOTION to Amend/Correct (McDowell, G.) (Entered: 09/23/2008)

Sept. 23, 2008
5

ORDER denying 2 Motion to Amend/Correct; denying 4 Motion. From the date of this order, if any inmate files a document in this case pro se, the Clerk is DIRECTED to strike that document from the record. Signed by Judge W. Earl Britt on 10/8/2008. (Indig, A.) (Entered: 10/08/2008)

Oct. 8, 2008
6

Letter from Darryl M. Cobb dated September 22, 2011 regarding violations. (Attachment: # 1 Envelope) (McDowell, G.) (Entered: 10/26/2011)

Sept. 26, 2011
7

MOTION (in letter form) for Temporary Restraining Order by Darryl M. Cobb. (Attachment: # 1 Envelope) (McDowell, G.) Motion is stricken per order filed on 10/18/2008. (Entered: 10/26/2011)

Sept. 28, 2011
8

MOTION for contempt by Michael Rankins. (Attachments: # 1 Affidavit of Michael Rankins, # 2 Envelope) (McDowell, G.) Motion is stricken per order filed on 10/18/2008. (Entered: 10/26/2011)

Oct. 17, 2011
9

Letter from Michael Rankins dated October 18, 2011. (Attachment: # 1 Envelope) (McDowell, G.) (Entered: 10/26/2011)

Oct. 24, 2011

Motions Submitted to Senior US District Judge W. Earl Britt: 7 MOTION for Temporary Restraining Order and 8 MOTION for contempt. (McDowell, G.) (Entered: 10/26/2011)

Oct. 26, 2011

State / Territory: North Carolina

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Key Dates

Filing Date: July 8, 1985

Closing Date: 1997

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Inmates of 49 minimum and medium security prisons in North Carolina that utilized dormitory-style housing where prisoners slept on bunks in large rooms.

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

State Prison Facilities, State

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 1989 - 1997

Issues

General:

Education

Fire safety

Food service / nutrition / hydration

Sanitation / living conditions

Totality of conditions

Visiting

Crowding:

Crowding / caseload

Medical/Mental Health:

Medical care, general

Type of Facility:

Government-run