On April 5, 2001, attorneys with the Southern Center for Human Rights and private counsel filed this class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court Northern District of Alabama, challenging the conditions of confinement at the Morgan County Jail. The jail, which was alleged to have been old, antiquated, and structurally unfit for human habitation, housed both pre-trial detainees and convicted prisoners. Plaintiffs alleged that the Jail was severely overcrowded and that inmates were subjected to uncivilized and hazardous conditions, which included inadequate medical care, poor sanitation and lack of fire safety. Plaintiffs alleged violations of the First, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments and sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as class certification. Concurrent with the complaint, plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction.
After a hearing, on April 17, 2001, the District Court (Chief Judge U. W. Clemon) certified the case as a class action and entered a preliminary injunction. The Court noted the deplorable conditions at the Jail and found that the principle cause of the overcrowding was the State's failure to transfer "state [prison] ready'' inmates (convicted inmates that should have been serving sentences in State prisons). To rectify that failure, Judge Clemon ordered the State to present a plan to the Court for removal of all state ready inmates from the Jail. Maynor v. Morgan County, Ala. 147 F.Supp.2d 1185, 1186 (N.D. Ala. 2001).
On September 25, 2001, the District Court (Judge Clemon) made the injunction permanent and also approved a Consent Decree that was reached by the parties. The Decree provided for changes in housing and living conditions, health care and diet, security and fire safety and access to the courts. Defendants agreed to pay Plaintiffs' attorneys fees in the amount of $79,043.09 and also committed to pursue construction of a new jail facility.
The Court amended the Consent Decree on December 8, 2005, to require the development of a "Transition Plan," to address budget and staffing issues for the new Jail, which was under construction. In 2006, with the new Jail set to open, the Sheriff petitioned the Court to settle a dispute over the number of staff required for the new facility. By order dated, March 21, 2006, Judge Clemon interpreted the Consent Decree, as amended, to require a minimum staff of 88 officers.
On January 7, 2009, the Court entered a Civil Contempt Order based on evidence that the Sheriff had knowingly and willfully violated certain provisions of the Consent Decree. Violations included the consistent failure to provide nutritionally adequate meals to class members, and the failure to make available to class members legal materials specifically required by the Decree.
On January 27, 2009, the Court entered an order granting a motion to modify and clarify the Consent Decree. Paragraph 33 was amended to clarify which legal materials be made available to inmates and detainees. Paragraph 22 was also amended, further clarifying the nutritional guidelines to be used by Defendant in the feeding of inmates and detainees.
On December 7, 2009, the Sheriff sought review of the District Court's modification of the Consent Decree in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, arguing that the Decree as modified imposed upon him personal liability for feeding prisoners. The Court dismissed the appeal, citing a lack of jurisdiction.
There is no additional litigation in the docket, but the case is evidently ongoing, because in May 2015, plaintiffs' lawyer withdrew (because, she explained, she was switching jobs) and a new lawyer for the Southern Poverty Law Center filed an appearance. Dan Dalton - 07/26/2012