Case: Adams & U.S. v. Mathis

1:74-cv-00070 | U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama

Filed Date: Nov. 19, 1974

Closed Date: 1997

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On November 19, 1974, an inmate of the Houston County Jail in Alabama filed this case, pro se, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, seeking class action status. He proceeded under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against State officials responsible for the jail, challenging many aspects of conditions--overcrowding, poor sanitation, inadequate nutrition, medical care, and recreational opportunities. The case was assigned to Judge Frank Johnson. The United States became invo…

On November 19, 1974, an inmate of the Houston County Jail in Alabama filed this case, pro se, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, seeking class action status. He proceeded under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against State officials responsible for the jail, challenging many aspects of conditions--overcrowding, poor sanitation, inadequate nutrition, medical care, and recreational opportunities. The case was assigned to Judge Frank Johnson.

The United States became involved when Judge Johnson appointed the United States Attorney as amicus curiae. According to a later opinion, this order was "entered on the basis of allegations in the complaint concerning interference with the mail to and from the District Court and also on the basis of a contract between the United States and Houston County to house federal prisoners in the Houston County Jail." Adams v. Mathis, 458 F.Supp. 302 (M.D. Ala., 1978) In March 1975, the United States moved to intervene in the action and filed a complaint in intervention. The complaint in intervention alleged constitutional deprivations in the operation of the jail, including the failure to protect the inmates from harm, insufficient staffing and classification, overcrowding, poor sanitation, failure to supply personal hygiene items, inadequate visitation policies, inadequate recreation and inadequate medical care and diet. In March 1975, the Court granted the motion to intervene. As intervenor, the United States sought to expand the suit to include as parties all inmates in all county and municipal jails in the state and all officials--state and local--responsible in their official capacities for the operation of these jails. The Court found this attempt overbroad, and subsequently dismissed all defendants that lacked a connection with the Houston County Jail. The state defendants stayed in, however, since the U.S. alleged they had some responsibility for conditions at that particular jail. (The U.S. then litigated the conditions in Alabama's largest jail, in Jefferson County, in a different case, Thomas v. Gloor, JC-AL-0022 in this Clearinghouse.)

In July 1976, the Court certified a class of plaintiffs consisting of all present and future inmates of the Houston County Jail. Private counsel was appointed to represent the plaintiffs.

On the morning the case was scheduled to go to trial, February 21, 1977, the plaintiffs, the U.S., and the county defendants submitted a partial consent decree to the Court. The state defendants refused to stipulate to the provisions of the decree, so a trial proceeded.

On February 28, 1978, Judge Johnson found for the plaintiffs/U.S., holding: that it was the constitutional duty of the appropriate state officials to supervise agents operating the jail, to stay informed as to the conduct of those agents through regular and thorough inspections, and to enforce established standards and correct the conduct of the agents if necessary. The Court found that the failure of state officials to perform their constitutional duty to correct conditions and to supervise local officials concerning constitutional violations at the jail, including overcrowing, poor sanitation, inadequate diet medical care, justified injunctive relief. The Court also granted attorneys fees, half of which were to be assessed against the defendants who stipulated to the decree and the other half to the defendants represented at trial. The Court required that plaintiffs' counsel monitor compliance with its order. Adams v. Mathis, 458 F.Supp.302 (M.D.Ala. 1978).

On March 17, 1980, the State Fire Marshall, one of the defendants in the lower court trial, appealed the decision. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the decision (per curiam). Adams v. Mathis, 614 F.2d 42 (5th Cir. 1980).

On April 14, 1983, plaintiffs' lawyer filed a motion for award of attorney's fees, requesting payment for about 100 hours spent on this case in monitoring compliance. The district court sharply discounted the fees allowed. Plaintiffs appealed, and in an order dated February 4, 1985, the 11th Circuit vacated and remanded for entry of an appropriate, undiscounted, fee. Adams v. Mathis, 752 F.2d 553 (11th Cir. 1985). (In 1981, the 5th Circuit had split and Alabama had been placed into the new 11th Circuit.)

On July 2, 1997 the defendants field a motion to terminate the Partial Consent Decree pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act and on October 1, 1997 that motion was granted. The case therefore ended.

Summary Authors

Rebecca Bloch (4/5/2006)

People


Judge(s)

Ainsworth, Robert Andrew Jr. (Louisiana)

Fay, Peter Thorp (Florida)

Hatchett, Joseph Woodrow (Florida)

Henderson, Albert John (Georgia)

Hunter, Edwin Ford Jr. (Louisiana)

Johnson, Frank Minis Jr. (Alabama)

Roney, Paul Hitch (Florida)

Varner, Robert Edward (Alabama)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Moore, Shawn F. (District of Columbia)

Nomberg, Joel M. (Alabama)

Judge(s)

Ainsworth, Robert Andrew Jr. (Louisiana)

Fay, Peter Thorp (Florida)

Hatchett, Joseph Woodrow (Florida)

Henderson, Albert John (Georgia)

Hunter, Edwin Ford Jr. (Louisiana)

Johnson, Frank Minis Jr. (Alabama)

Roney, Paul Hitch (Florida)

Varner, Robert Edward (Alabama)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Moore, Shawn F. (District of Columbia)

Nomberg, Joel M. (Alabama)

Soler, Mark I. (District of Columbia)

Whinston, Stephen A. (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Allred, James V. (Texas)

Barnes, William Scears Jr. (Alabama)

Baxley, William J. (Alabama)

Bright, Bob (Alabama)

Lamar, Robert S. (Alabama)

Locke, Judson C. Jr. (Alabama)

Newman, Larry R. (Alabama)

Pons, James T. (Alabama)

Radney, Tom (Alabama)

Ramsey, Richard H. III (Alabama)

Segrest, Jere C. (Alabama)

Other Attorney(s)

Barnett, Walter W. (District of Columbia)

Bell, John C. (Alabama)

Days, Drew S. III (District of Columbia)

DeMent, Ira (Alabama)

Hartman, Joan F. (District of Columbia)

Oakley, John B. (Alabama)

Teague, Barry E. (Alabama)

Vines, Kenneth E. (Alabama)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

1:74-cv-00070

Partial Consent Decree

Feb. 21, 1977

Feb. 21, 1977

Order/Opinion

1:74-cv-00070

Memorandum Opinion

Adams v. Mathis

458 F.Supp. 302

Feb. 28, 1978

Feb. 28, 1978

Order/Opinion

1:74-cv-00070

Order

Feb. 28, 1978

Feb. 28, 1978

Order/Opinion

78-02035

Opinion

Adams v. Mathis

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

614 F.2d 42

March 17, 1980

March 17, 1980

Order/Opinion

84-07318

Opinion

Adams v. Mathis

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

752 F.2d 553

Feb. 4, 1985

Feb. 4, 1985

Order/Opinion

1:74-cv-00070

Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion to Terminate Court Orders Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act.

Aug. 4, 1997

Aug. 4, 1997

Pleading / Motion / Brief

1:74-cv-00070

Memorandum Opinion and Order

Oct. 1, 1997

Oct. 1, 1997

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

Last updated June 7, 2022, 3:13 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Alabama

Case Type(s):

Jail Conditions

Key Dates

Filing Date: Nov. 19, 1974

Closing Date: 1997

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

inmates of the Houston County Jail in Alabama

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: Yes

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Houston County Jail (Houston), County

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:

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Litigation

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 1978 - 1997

Issues

General:

Law library access

Recreation / Exercise

Sanitation / living conditions

Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)

Discrimination-basis:

Race discrimination

Type of Facility:

Government-run