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Case Name Fischer v. Winter JC-CA-0070
Docket / Court 76-2208 ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection California Jail Population Caps
Case Summary
On October 5, 1976, female prisoners housed at the Santa Clara County Women's Detention Facility filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the County Sheriff. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief ... read more >
On October 5, 1976, female prisoners housed at the Santa Clara County Women's Detention Facility filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the County Sheriff. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief concerning a wide range of conditions of confinement.

After several years of litigation, on March 25, 1980, the District Court entered final judgment pursuant to stipulation, granting injunctive relief and addressing problems in the areas of visitation rights, size of exercise areas, rehabilitation programs, medical care, cell block population, access to the law library, food preparation, safety of beds, and telephone access. The Court retained jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the judgment or to modify it upon application from one of the parties.

On June 25, 1982, the plaintiffs moved the Court to reopen and modify its earlier judgment, presenting evidence showing further violations of constitutional rights. The Court granted the motion to reopen the judgment, and the parties began to negotiate. Their negotiations were fruitful, and on March 10, 1983, the parties entered into a consent decree that settled the issues of jail construction, medical services, food service, maintenance of the facility, staffing and lockdowns, clothing supplies and personal hygiene, exercise, law library access, and release of inmates pursuant to various state statutes.

Only the issues of floor-sleeping and overcrowding remained unsolved, and a trial was held to address them. On April 28, 1983, the Court issued an order directing the County to cease housing prisoners on mattresses on the floor in housing areas, finding the practice potentially dangerous in an emergency. The Court (Chief Judge Robert F. Peckham) entered a further order on May 19, 1983, finding the overcrowding in the facility generally to be unconstitutional in light of the fire hazard it presented, the increased danger of physical violence and psychological distress is caused, and the negative impact it had on sanitation. Fischer v. Winter, 564 F. Supp. 281 (N.D. Cal. 1983). The Court directed the parties to prepare remedial proposals and indicated that a hearing should be scheduled on the remedies proposed.

We have no information on further proceedings, possibly because the construction of a new jail in the interim made further remediation unnecessary.

(This summary is adapted in large part from the District Court's discussion of the case's procedural background in its order of May 19, 1983. See Fischer, 564 F. Supp. at 284-85.)

Christopher Schad - 07/20/2012


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Pre-PLRA Population Cap
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Assault/abuse by residents/inmates/students
Fire safety
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Law library access
Phone
Recreation / Exercise
Rehabilitation
Sanitation / living conditions
Sex w/ staff; sexual harassment by staff
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Visiting
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Mental health care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) County of Santa Clara
Plaintiff Description Prisoners at the Santa Clara Women's Detention Facility
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1980 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Unknown
Additional Resources
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Case Studies After Decision: Implementation of Judicial Decrees in Correctional Settings
Written: Oct. 01, 1977
By: M. Kay Harris & Dudley P. Spiller (Temple University)
Citation: (1977)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Memorandum of Decision 05/19/1983 (564 F.Supp. 281) (N.D. Cal.)
JC-CA-0070-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Judges Peckham, Robert Francis (N.D. Cal.)
JC-CA-0070-0001
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers None on record
Defendant's Lawyers None on record
Other Lawyers None on record

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