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Case Name Klinger v. Nebraska Department of Correctional Services PC-NE-0012
Docket / Court 4:88-cv-399 ( D. Neb. )
State/Territory Nebraska
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Title IX, Sexual Violence Investigations/Resolutions
Case Summary
On July 20, 1988, women incarcerated at the Nebraska Center for Women (NCW) filed a grievance with the prison's superintendent alleging that they received unequal treatment in the programs and services as compared to men incarcerated at various other prisons around Nebraska. Specifically, the ... read more >
On July 20, 1988, women incarcerated at the Nebraska Center for Women (NCW) filed a grievance with the prison's superintendent alleging that they received unequal treatment in the programs and services as compared to men incarcerated at various other prisons around Nebraska. Specifically, the plaintiffs claims revolved around access to courts, visitation opportunities, recreation time, education and vocational training, pay, library facilities, mental health programs, and general health care. When the superintendent failed to adequately address the women's concerns, they filed a pro se class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska. After counsel was appointed to represent the women, they filed an amended complaint and a motion for class certification. The proposed class consisted of "all female prisoners confined at [NCW] as of January 1, 1988, and all female prisoners who will be confined at NCW until the conclusion of this lawsuit.”

In April 1989, Judge Warren K. Urbom certified the class. The plaintiffs filed a second and third amended complaint in June 1989 and September 1990, respectively. On January 29, 1991, Judge Urbom granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on some Eighth Amendment claims, and also found that claims against defendants in their official capacities were barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Four claims remained after Judge Urbom's order:

  1. An Equal Protection claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the defendants did not maintain "parity" in the programs and services at female prisons as compared to male prisons.

  2. A claim alleging that the defendants violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by failing to provide equal programs and services as compared to male prisons.

  3. A Fourteenth Amendment due process claim 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the defendants infringed upon the plaintiffs' right of access to courts by providing inadequate legal assistance.

  4. An Eighth Amendment claim 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging deliberate indifference to serious medical and dental needs.

The remaining claims proceeded to trial. The defendants' liability was bifurcated from their damages; the liability aspects proceeded to a 19-day trial held in July and August of 1992. On June 21, 1993, Judge Richard Kopf issued an opinion. 824 F. Supp. 1374. He ruled that the plaintiffs succeeded in proving an Equal Protection violation with regards to the defendants administration of employment opportunities, education and vocational programs, law library access, medical and dental care, mental health care, and recreation options. The only Equal Protection claim that failed was alleged unequal visitation practices. Judge Kopf also ruled that the plaintiffs succeeded on their Title IX claims with regards to educational programs, and their Fourteenth Amendment due process claim with regards to law library access. However, Judge Kopf found in favor of the defendants on the Eighth Amendment medical care claims after determining that the defendants did not have the requisite culpable state of mind.

The defendants filed an interlocutory appeal arguing that the district court incorrectly applied the law with regards to the Equal Protection claims. On August 10, 1994, the Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's decision after finding that the female plaintiffs were not similarly situated to the male prisoners for the purposes of prison programs and services. 31 F.3d 72. The Eighth Circuit found that the complaint did not allege disparate funding between female and male prisons, so any discrepancy in programming was due to administrative decisions about how to utilize the allocated funds. The plaintiffs appealed the Eighth Circuit's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the Court denied certiorari. 513 U.S. 1185.

After the Eighth Circuit issued their opinion with regards to the Equal Protection claims, the district court reversed its judgment on the Title IX claims, too. 887 F. Supp. 1281. Because the female and male facilities were not similarly situated for comparison in the Equal Protection context, they also could not form the basis of a Title IX claim, either.

On October 13, 1995, after holding a second trial to determine damages on the sole remaining claim of inadequate access to the law library, Judge Kopf awarded the plaintiffs $2.00 in nominal damages. 902 F. Sup. 1036. Judge Kopf found that the defendants did not act recklessly or with callous indifference toward the plaintiffs, and therefore declined to award punitive damages. Two months later, Judge Kopf found that the plaintiffs' counsel asked for reasonable attorneys' fees and awarded $40,642.44. 909 F. Supp. 1239.

The defendants appealed the district court's damages ruling to the Eighth Circuit. On February 25, 1997, the Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's finding on the access to to courts claim and vacated the award of nominal damages and attorneys' fees. 107 F.3d 609. The Eight Circuit found that the plaintiffs failed to show an actual injury, thereby precluding their ability to succeed on an access-to-courts claim. As the appeals court reversed the district court's finding with respect to this final claim, the last of the plaintiffs' surviving claims was denied. As such, because the plaintiffs last claims were similarly extinguished, the case ended.

Justin Hill - 01/17/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Corrections
Discrimination-basis
Sex discrimination
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Conditions of confinement
Education
Law library access
Recreation / Exercise
Totality of conditions
Visiting
Work release or work assignments
Medical/Mental Health
Dental care
Medical care, general
Mental health care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Assistant Director and former Acting Superintendent Larry Tewes
Department of Corrections
Director Harold Clarke
Former Superintendent Victor Lofgreen
Medical Nurse Margaret Wehland
Psychologist Judith Danielsen
Superintendent Larry Wayne
Plaintiff Description "All female prisoners confined at Nebraska Center for Women in York, Nebraska as of January 1, 1988, and all female prisoners who will be confined at NCW until the conclusion of this lawsuit."
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 07/20/1988
Case Closing Year 1997
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
D. Neb.
02/24/2009
4:88-cv-399
PC-NE-0012-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D. Neb.
06/21/1993
Opinion [ECF# 670] (824 F.Supp. 1374)
PC-NE-0012-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Google Scholar
U.S. Court of Appeals
08/10/1994
Opinion (31 F.3d 727)
PC-NE-0012-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Google Scholar
U.S. Supreme Court
02/21/1995
Opinion (513 U.S. 1185)
PC-NE-0012-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
D. Neb.
05/23/1995
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 707] (887 F.Supp. 1281)
PC-NE-0012-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Google Scholar
D. Neb.
10/13/1995
Opinion [ECF# 720] (902 F.Supp. 1036)
PC-NE-0012-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Google Scholar
D. Neb.
12/15/1995
Opinion [ECF# 726] (909 F.Supp. 1329)
PC-NE-0012-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Google Scholar
U.S. Court of Appeals
02/25/1997
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 816708] (107 F.3d 609)
PC-NE-0012-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Google Scholar
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Judges Arnold, Morris Sheppard (W.D. Ark., Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0012-0006
Kopf, Richard George (D. Neb.) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0012-0001 | PC-NE-0012-0002 | PC-NE-0012-0004 | PC-NE-0012-0005 | PC-NE-0012-9000
Magill, Frank J. (Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0012-0003 | PC-NE-0012-0006
McMillian, Theodore (Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0012-0003 | PC-NE-0012-0006
Wollman, Roger Leland (Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0012-0003
Plaintiff's Lawyers Grimit, Robert T. (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0012-9000
Perry, Gail S. (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0012-0003 | PC-NE-0012-0006 | PC-NE-0012-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Camp, Laurie Smith (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0012-0003 | PC-NE-0012-0006 | PC-NE-0012-9000
Chapman, Elaine A. (Nebraska) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0012-9000
Other Lawyers McAdams, James R. (Missouri) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0012-0006
Nixon, Jeremiah (Jay) W. (Missouri) show/hide docs
PC-NE-0012-0006

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