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Case Name Balla v. Board of Corrections PC-ID-0004
Docket / Court 1:81-cv-01165-BLW ( D. Idaho )
State/Territory Idaho
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization ACLU National (all projects)
Case Summary
On May 15, 1981, a prisoner at the Idaho State Correctional Institution ("ISCI") filed a class action lawsuit against the Idaho State Board of Corrections in the United States District Court for the District of Idaho alleging Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ... read more >
On May 15, 1981, a prisoner at the Idaho State Correctional Institution ("ISCI") filed a class action lawsuit against the Idaho State Board of Corrections in the United States District Court for the District of Idaho alleging Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as well as numerous state claims. The allegations included: (1) the prison was overcrowded and understaffed, increasing the likelihood of violence; (2) the classification system at the prison, which placed new prisoners in "close custody" until they proved by their behavior they should be moved, subjected prisoners to physical and sexual assault; (3) medical care was deficient and resulted in deliberate indifference to the serious needs of the prisoners; (4) the food was inadequate in terms of both quality and quantity; (5) significant disparities existed between the way protective custody (high threat) and medium custody (low threat) prisoners were treated especially in terms of clothing and food portions; and (6) the manner in which the prison staff conducted both reclassification and parole hearings violated the prisoners' rights to due process. After being represented by a lay prisoner, plaintiffs were subsequently represented by the ACLU and private counsel. Plaintiffs sought declaratory relief, injunction, and damages.

After a thirteen day trial, the District Court (Judge Harold Ryan) ordered that (1) if prisoners were to be double celled, then the prison would have to employ twice the security personnel; (2) the classification scheme must be altered to protect younger prisoners; (3) 24-hour emergency medical care should be made available and the prison must develop a plan to improve its medical care services within 180 days; (4) the prison must improve its food services including taking into account special dietary needs of prisoners; (5) protective custody prisoners must be given insulated underwear to augment their inadequate clothing or be given clothing equal to that of prisoners in medium custody; and (6) the prison administration shall develop a procedure prior to prisoner disciplinary hearings that will ensure prisoners' due process rights are protected. Balla v. Idaho State Bd. of Corr. (Balla I), 595 F.Supp. 1558 (D. Idaho 1984).

Plaintiffs moved for an order holding the defendants in contempt, which the court subsequently denied. Then, after a series of compliance hearings, the court decided to have an expert examine the facility to determine whether the overcrowding amounted to a constitutional violation. After the inspection, the court (Judge Ryan) determined that the overcrowded conditions of the prison violated the prisoners' Eighth Amendment rights. The court ordered a permanent injunction against the prison and placed occupancy limits on several of the cell units, enjoined defendants from housing prisoners in day rooms or rooms not designed to for cell purposes, and ordered that plumbing malfunctions in the prison be remedied within forty-eight hours. Balla v. Bd. of Corr. (Balla II), 656 F.Supp. 1108 (D. Idaho 1987).

On March 3, 1989, with defendants still failing to solve overcrowding problems in cell units, plaintiffs appealed the court's denial of the motion for contempt and defendants requested an extension of time to meet the occupancy limits set by Balla II. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge John Wallace) denied both the appeal and the request for a time extension. The court also found that the prison was not required to establish a special psychological treatment program for sex offenders. Balla v. Idaho State Bd. of Corr., 869 F.2d 461 (9th Cir. 1989).

In 2003, defendants, still out of compliance with the court's injunctions, filed a motion to terminate injunctive relief pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), which limits prospective relief in certain circumstances, seeking to terminate the injunctions set forth in Balla I and Balla II. A hearing was held in the United States District Court for the District of Idaho, and the court (Judge James Fitzgerald) denied defendants' motion finding that there were current and ongoing violations of the injunctive order, and it ordered that overcrowding and plumbing issues currently plaguing the prison be addressed immediately. Balla v. Idaho Bd. of Corrections, No. CV81-1165, 2005 WL 2403817 (D. Idaho Sept. 26, 2005). The prison population had grown from approximately 750 in 1987 to 1,416 prisoners in 2005. The court noted that "[s]eventeen years after the injunctive orders . . . conditions . . . are worse . . . than when the original injunctive orders were put in place." The court (Judge Fitzgerald) subsequently denied defendants' motion to reconsider and awarded plaintiffs attorneys' fees totaling over $150,000. Balla v. Idaho Bd. of Corrections, No. CV81-1165, 2005 WL 3412806 (D. Idaho Dec. 9, 2005).

In response to the decision, Idaho prison officials transferred more than 300 prisoners to a Corrections Corporation of America prison in Appleton, Minnesota, at a cost of $1.1 million. According to news reports, prison officials plan to ask the state legislature for $160 million to construct three new prisons, and for an additional $7.9 million to cover the cost of housing overflow prisoners both out-of-state and in county jail cells.

In January of 2006, plaintiffs moved for a TRO, a preliminary injunction, and for a finding of contempt, arguing that defendants' planned construction work on plumbing at ISCI deprived them of regular access to showers in violation of the permanent injunction in Balla II and their constitutional rights. In June, the District Court (Judge Edward J. Lodge) denied plaintiffs' motions, holding that plaintiffs "fail[ed] to state a cognizable constitutional claim" and that nothing in the record links the allegations to dangerous hygienic conditions from the lack of showers. Balla v. Idaho Bd. of Corr., No. CV81-1165, 2006 WL 1793555 (D. Idaho June 28, 2006).

In February of 2007, less than eighteen months after the court denied the defendants' motion to terminate prospective relief, the defendants again asked the court to free them from their obligations, specifically with regard to the prisoner population cap. On March 16, 2007, the court (Judge B. Lynn Winmill) granted the plaintiffs' motion to postpone the automatic stay that would result from defendants' motion. The court also issued show cause orders, stating that it intended to reappoint a Federal Rule of Evidence 706 expert to assess defendants' compliance with the population cap; that defendants would be responsible for paying his fees; that the court would be appointing counsel to represent plaintiffs; and that the defendants would be responsible for paying their attorneys' fees on a monthly basis. Ten days later, the defendants withdrew their motion to terminate.

Despite the withdrawal of defendants' motion, plaintiffs continued to seek appointment of new class representatives. Plaintiffs' counsel, appointed by the court, argued that this would facilitate consultation with prisoner about prison conditions and reduce the number of individual claims that may arise from alleged overcrowding. The court (Judge Winmill) agreed, appointed new class representatives, and ordered that defendants provide plaintiffs' counsel thirty days' notice in the event they decide to refile a motion to terminate the injunctive orders. The court also granted the plaintiffs' counsel attorneys' fees totaling just under $18,000 for their work on defendants' withdrawn motion. Balla v. Idaho Bd. of Corr., No. CV-81-1165, 2007 WL 4531304 (D. Idaho Dec. 18, 2007).

In January of 2009, a riot broke out at ISCI that destroyed a nearly-completed new prisoner housing unit. As a result of the riot, defendants were forced to house prisoners at ISCI in excess of the population caps imposed by the court. The plaintiffs asked the court for an order holding defendants in contempt of the Balla injunctions. On May 28, 2009, the court (Judge Winmill) denied plaintiffs' motion. The court found that "no good choices were open to [defendants] for managing the increased population in the immediate aftermath of the riot," short of exceeding the population caps. The court also noted that defendants had returned the prison population to pre-riot levels in about three-and-a-half weeks. Balla v. Idaho Bd. of Corr., No. CV 81-1165, 2009 WL 1513182 (D. Idaho May 28, 2009). On the same day, the court resolved a lingering dispute as to whether the Balla I and Balla II injunctions could be enforced through contempt motions, finding that they could. Balla v. Idaho Bd. of Corr., No. CV81-1165, 2009 WL 1574454 (D. Idaho May 28, 2009).

On March 30, 2010, the court granted plaintiffs' attorneys' fees in the amount of $76,185.60 and costs in the amount of $1,249.20 for monitoring work during the period of December 11, 2007 through June 22, 2009. The court also indicated it would schedule a status conference to discuss monitoring of the case going forward. Balla v. Idaho Bd. of Corr., No. CV 81-1165, 2010 WL 1338065 (D. Idaho Mar. 30, 2010). The state appealed this order, and the District Court (Judge Winmill) denied a stay pending appeal. Balla v. Idaho Bd. of Corr., No. CV 81-1165, 2010 WL 3001442 (D. Idaho July 28, 2010). The Ninth Circuit subsequently affirmed the award of fees. Balla v. Idaho, 677 F.3d 910 (9th Cir. 2012).

On January 6, 2011, the court (Judge Winmill) ordered the parties to submit names of candidates to serve as special master. In speaking of the need for a special master, the Court stated that evidence supported "colorable allegations of continuing class-wide Eighth Amendment violations with respect to inadequate medical and psychiatric care," convincing the court that it could not close the case under the present circumstances. The court remarked that "[i]n its current posture . . . the case languishes in a sort of no man's land, with neither side apparently ready or willing to take the offensive, which does not further the Court's goal of moving the case in a positive direction, decreasing oversight, and protecting the rights of the prisoner class. In short, the Court and the parties need assistance [from a special master] in breaking this stalemate and moving toward finality." Balla v. Idaho Bd. of Corr., No. 81-cv-1165, 2011 WL 108727 (D. Idaho Jan. 6, 2011). Six months later, the court appointed Dr. Marc F. Stern as special master.

On March 19, 2012, the special master issued a report in which he reviewed the state of healthcare at ISCI. The master noted that there were "serious problems" with delivery of medical and mental healthcare services. He also noted that defendants' willingness to entertain change is "very positive and commendable."

Following the issuance of the special master's report, the case was referred to District Judge David O. Carter (C.D. Cal.) for the purpose of conducting a settlement conference. Settlement discussions took place over a number of days in April and May 2012.

In May of 2012, the parties stipulated to modify the injunctive relief sought in the case. The stipulation set forth a framework for continued monitoring, including the formulation of modified compliance plans; monitoring meetings; and a compliance audit with the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.

On February 8, 2013, the court (Judge Winmill) again awarded interim attorneys' fees to Plaintiffs' counsel. It awarded $172,917.10 in fees and $1,994.29 in costs. Balla v. Idaho Bd. of Corr., No. CV81-1165, 2013 WL 501646 (D. Idaho Feb. 8, 2013).

Settlement conferences continued in May and August 2013 and April 2014. A hearing took place on January 29, 2015, but the contents of the meeting are sealed. Plaintiffs moved for sanctions on June 22, 2015. This motion was granted in part on August 11, 2015. The court determined that the defendants acted with improper purpose to withhold information from the court's special master, specifically related to inadequate record-keeping regarding mental healthcare and excessive use of "dry cells," cells that lacked beds and running water, to punish prisoners. The court found that the plaintiff met the burden of showing by clear and convincing evidence that the defendants harmed the integrity of the judicial process by their destruction of relevant evidence. The court additionally granted plaintiffs further attorneys' fees and costs on November 20, 2015.

The state of Idaho appealed to the Ninth Circuit on December 29, 2015, and the case was referred to Judge David O. Carter in the Central District of California on January 5, 2016, who was to help implement the settlement. On April 4, 2016, Judge Carter ordered interim attorneys' fees and costs to the plaintiffs, as well as costs to reimbursed to certain class members directly. On October 25, 2016, the Ninth Circuit granted appellant's voluntary motion to dismiss its appeal.

On March 20, 2017, plaintiffs moved for an order to show cause why defendants should not be held in contempt, a hearing, and sanctions. After a hearing on July 28, the court granted in part and denied in part the plaintiffs' motion for contempt on September 28. The court found that defendants were in contempt of the court's June 2014 order between June 2014 and July 2016, but that the plaintiffs did not adequately show contempt after July 2016. The court denied compensatory damages, however, because plaintiffs did not show that they were harmed by the violation. Judge Carter referred the case back to the District of Idaho to determine the most appropriate remedy. On October 13, 2017, the District of Idaho (Judge Winmill) ordered no relief as a result of the contempt.

Throughout 2018, there was significant infighting within the plaintiff class regarding the appointment of class representative. Following multiple competing motions filed by individual members of the class, the court approved the substitution of two new class representatives on May 1, 2018.

The defendants filed a motion to terminate prospective relief on March 1, 2019. The court issued an automatic stay of the injunctive relief pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3626(e)(3). On April 4, 2019, the plaintiffs moved for reconsideration of the stay. The court granted this motion on April 18, 2019 and the parties jointly stipulated to the voluntary termination of certain injunctive relief the next day.

The parties engaged in extensive litigation in preparation for the evidentiary hearing on the defendants' motion for termination of relief scheduled for January 2020, but later rescheduled to February 3, 2020. During the course of the litigation, the plaintiffs moved for an emergency injunction for medical treatment on September 4, 2019 and for a temporary restraining order on September 24, 2019. Judge Winmill denied both motions on November 5, 2019.

The eleven-day evidentiary hearing began on February 3, 2019. As of April 10, 2020, the parties are awaiting a ruling. This case is ongoing.

Emilee Baker - 05/09/2006
Dan Whitman - 01/25/2015
Elizabeth Heise - 10/21/2018
Alex Moody - 04/10/2020

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Crowding / caseload
Pre-PLRA Population Cap
Assault/abuse by residents/inmates/students
Assault/abuse by staff
Bathing and hygiene
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Disciplinary procedures
Disciplinary segregation
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Sanitation / living conditions
Sexual abuse by residents/inmates
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Totality of conditions
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Idaho Board of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Inmates at the Idaho State Correctional Institution
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU National (all projects)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Granted
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 1984 - n/a
Filed 05/15/1981
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
D. Idaho
PC-ID-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D. Idaho
Memorandum Opinion, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order (595 F.Supp. 1558)
PC-ID-0004-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Google Scholar
D. Idaho
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Order (656 F.Supp. 1108)
PC-ID-0004-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Google Scholar
U.S. Court of Appeals
Reported Opinion (869 F.2d 461)
PC-ID-0004-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Google Scholar
D. Idaho
Memorandum Decision and Order [ECF# 585]
PC-ID-0004-0001.pdf | Detail
D. Idaho
Judgment [ECF# 601]
PC-ID-0004-0021.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM ORDER [ECF# 631] (2006 WL 1793555)
PC-ID-0004-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Idaho
Order and Order to Show Cause [ECF# 689]
PC-ID-0004-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Idaho
Order [ECF# 724] (2007 WL 4531304)
PC-ID-0004-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
D. Idaho
Memorandum Decision and Order [ECF# 767] (2009 WL 1513182)
PC-ID-0004-0008.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Idaho
Memorandum Decision and Order [ECF# 768] (2009 WL 1574454)
PC-ID-0004-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
D. Idaho
Order [ECF# 775] (2010 WL 1338065)
PC-ID-0004-0010.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
D. Idaho
Memorandum Decision and Order [ECF# 788] (2010 WL 3001442)
PC-ID-0004-0011.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
D. Idaho
Order [ECF# 793] (2011 WL 108727)
PC-ID-0004-0012.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
D. Idaho
PC-ID-0004-0013.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Idaho
Opinion [ECF# 8142817]
PC-ID-0004-0014.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Idaho
Stipulated Motion to Modify Injunctive Relief [ECF# 842]
PC-ID-0004-0015.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Idaho
Memorandum Decision and Order [ECF# 867] (2013 WL 501646)
PC-ID-0004-0016.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
D. Idaho
Order Granting in Part Motion for Sanctions [ECF# 983]
PC-ID-0004-0017.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Idaho
Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs [ECF# 1003]
PC-ID-0004-0018.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Idaho
Order Granting Joint Stipulation for Plaintiffs' Requested Interim Attorneys' Fees and Costs [ECF# 1022]
PC-ID-0004-0019.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D. Idaho
Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiffs' Motion for Contempt [ECF# 1202]
PC-ID-0004-0020.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Carter, David O. (C.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
PC-ID-0004-0017 | PC-ID-0004-0018 | PC-ID-0004-0019 | PC-ID-0004-0020 | PC-ID-0004-9000
Fitzgerald, James Martin (D. Alaska) show/hide docs
PC-ID-0004-0001 | PC-ID-0004-0021
Hug, Procter Ralph Jr. (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
Kleinfeld, Andrew Jay (D. Alaska, Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
Ryan, Harold Lyman (D. Idaho) show/hide docs
PC-ID-0004-0002 | PC-ID-0004-0004
Wallace, John Clifford (S.D. Cal., Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
Winmill, B. Lynn (D. Idaho) show/hide docs
PC-ID-0004-0005 | PC-ID-0004-0006 | PC-ID-0004-0007 | PC-ID-0004-0008 | PC-ID-0004-0009 | PC-ID-0004-0010 | PC-ID-0004-0011 | PC-ID-0004-0012 | PC-ID-0004-0016 | PC-ID-0004-9000
Wright, Eugene Allen (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
Monitors/Masters Ruiz, Amanda (California) show/hide docs
Stern, Marc F. (Washington) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Blackman, Allison M. (Idaho) show/hide docs
PC-ID-0004-0015 | PC-ID-0004-9000
Dixon, Bradley J. (Idaho) show/hide docs
Olson, Wendy J. (Idaho) show/hide docs
Patterson, George (Idaho) show/hide docs
Pevar, Stephen L. (Colorado) show/hide docs
PC-ID-0004-0003 | PC-ID-0004-9000
Pooser, William C. (Idaho) show/hide docs
Prince, James Emerson (Idaho) show/hide docs
PC-ID-0004-0015 | PC-ID-0004-9000
Schwartzmiller, Dean (Idaho) show/hide docs
Sinclair, J. Walter (Idaho) show/hide docs
Watkins, Elijah Martin (Idaho) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Church, Brian V. (Idaho) show/hide docs
Gates, Robert R. (Idaho) show/hide docs
PC-ID-0004-0002 | PC-ID-0004-0003 | PC-ID-0004-0004 | PC-ID-0004-0015 | PC-ID-0004-9000
Gilmore, Michael S. (Idaho) show/hide docs
Goodenough, Fred (Idaho) show/hide docs
Jones, Jim (Idaho) show/hide docs
Kronberg, Chris (Idaho) show/hide docs
Kubinski, Mark A. (Idaho) show/hide docs
PC-ID-0004-0015 | PC-ID-0004-9000
Loomis, William M. (Idaho) show/hide docs
McNeese, Timothy R. (Idaho) show/hide docs
PC-ID-0004-0002 | PC-ID-0004-9000
Murphy, Michaelina (California) show/hide docs
Panther, Paul R. (Idaho) show/hide docs
Zahn, Colleen D. (Idaho) show/hide docs

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