University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Williams v. City of Philadelphia JC-PA-0034
Docket / Court 2:08-cv-01979-RBS ( E.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Post-PLRA Jail and Prison Private Settlement Agreements
Case Summary
On April 28, 2008, inmates in the Philadelphia Prison System (PPS) filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law against the City of Philadelphia and its Commissioner of Corrections. The plaintiffs, represented ... read more >
On April 28, 2008, inmates in the Philadelphia Prison System (PPS) filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law against the City of Philadelphia and its Commissioner of Corrections. The plaintiffs, represented by counsel from the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project and the Disabilities Law Project, asked the court for injunctive and declaratory relief, claiming that PPS subjected inmates to dangerous, unsanitary, severely overcrowded, degrading, and cruel conditions of confinement. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that PPS's practice of housing three inmates in cells designed to hold only two--referred to as "triplecelling"--violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.

On May 14, 2008 the District Attorney of the City and County of Philadelphia filed a motion to intervene, which was granted.

On June 27, 2008, the City of Philadelphia filed a third-party complaint against the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, and against the Honorable C. Darnell Jones, II, and Louis Presenza, President Judges of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas and Municipal Court, respectively. At the same time, the City of Philadelphia moved for a preliminary injunction and a motion to dismiss because the prisoners failed to join the Secretary and the judges, or alternatively a motion to join. The prisoners opposed the attempt to join the Secretary and the judges.

On July 28, 2010, Judge Surrick granted the Secretary's and the judges' motion to dismiss the complaint against them and denied the City's motion to dismiss and motion for preliminary injunction as moot. Williams v. City of Philadelphia, 08-1979, 2010 WL 2977485 (E.D. Pa. July 27, 2010).

On October 8, 2010, Judge Surrick granted the plaintiffs' motion for class certification. Williams v. City of Philadelphia, 270 F.R.D. 208 (E.D. Pa. 2010).

On April 29, 2011, the parties reached a settlement agreement. Taking into consideration the reduction in the inmate population at the PPS that the defendants had achieved over the past two years, the settlement agreement essentially preserved the status quo and provided for monitoring of the situation by the plaintiffs' counsel for the next two years. The City defendants agreed to continue to implement the programs that have reduced the inmate population in the PPS and to make reasonable efforts to reduce the triple-celling of inmates. The City defendants also agreed to make reasonable efforts to minimize the use of lockdowns and to provide inmates with medical and social services during lockdowns. Under the settlement, plaintiffs "reserve[d] the right to reinstate the[] proceedings during the pendency of the Settlement Agreement."

On May 2, 2011, Judge Surrick preliminarily approved the settlement agreement and scheduled a fairness hearing for June 15, 2011. At the fairness hearing, counsel for all of the parties agreed that the Settlement Agreement was fair and reasonable, particularly in light of the steps the City Defendants have taken to reduce the prison population over the past two years.

On August 8, 2011, Judge Surrick approved the settlement agreement. Williams v. City of Philadelphia, CIV.A. 08-1979, 2011 WL 3446954 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 8, 2011) (the approval order) and Williams v. City of Philadelphia, CIV.A. 08-1979, 2011 WL 3471261 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 8, 2011) (opinion explaining the approval).

In the fall of 2012, the plaintiffs moved to reinstate the case, as was their right under the settlement. (Oddly, this motion does not appear in the PACER docket.) The court granted the motion on December 3, 2012, setting a period of time for discovery and directing the parties to proceed towards trial. A fight over class counsel's access to members of the plaintiff class's mental health records led to an opinion granting such access, on Oct. 22, 2014. Litigation proceeds.

Jessica Kincaid - 07/07/2014
- 02/25/2015


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Monitoring
Reporting
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Bathing and hygiene
Conditions of confinement
Unconstitutional conditions of confinement
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action State law
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) City of Philadelphia
Plaintiff Description All persons who are or will in the future be confined in the Philadelphia Prison System, and who are or will in the future be subjected to the conditions of confinement, including triple celling, or placement in dormitories, without minimally adequate security, services or programs as set forth in plaintiffs’ Complaint.
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 Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 2011 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
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)
2:08-cv-01979-RBS (E.D. Pa.) 12/01/2014
JC-PA-0034-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 04/28/2008
JC-PA-0034-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion [To Intervene] 05/14/2008
JC-PA-0034-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting Motion to Intervene] 06/06/2008 (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0034-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum [In Support of the City Defendants' Motion to Dismiss] 06/27/2008
JC-PA-0034-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant's Motion for Preliminary Injunction 06/27/2008
JC-PA-0034-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Third Party Complaint 06/30/2008
JC-PA-0034-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ Denying Defendant's Third Party Motion to Dismiss] 07/28/2010 (2010 WL 2977485) (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0034-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Class Certification 10/08/2010 (270 F.R.D. 208) (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0034-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement 04/29/2011
JC-PA-0034-0010.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ That the Settlement Agreement is Preliminarily Approved] 05/02/2011 (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0034-0009.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Approving Settlement Agreement] 08/08/2011 (2011 WL 3446954) (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0034-0011.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
SCHEDULING ORDER 12/03/2012 (2014 WL 5393988) (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0034-0012.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum 10/22/2014 (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0034-0013.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Surrick, Richard Barclay (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0034-0003 | JC-PA-0034-0007 | JC-PA-0034-0008 | JC-PA-0034-0009 | JC-PA-0034-0011 | JC-PA-0034-0012 | JC-PA-0034-0013 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bender, Brad P (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-9000
Feinberg, Jonathan H. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0001 | JC-PA-0034-0010 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Hart, Sarah Vandenbraak (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0002 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Janssen, Matthew D (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0001 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Love, Angus R. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0001 | JC-PA-0034-0010 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Meek, Robert W. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0010 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Mosser, Todd M (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-9000
Richman, David (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0001 | JC-PA-0034-0010 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Rubin, Elizabeth J (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-9000
Rudovsky, David (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0001 | JC-PA-0034-0010 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Taylor, Anne B (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-9000
Travassos, Priya M. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-9000
Yeh, Su Ming (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0001 | JC-PA-0034-0010 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Kolansky, Jeffrey M. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0004 | JC-PA-0034-0005 | JC-PA-0034-0006 | JC-PA-0034-0010 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Kramer, Barry N. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-9000
Maguire, Mark (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-9000
Scott, Jeffrey M. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0004 | JC-PA-0034-0006 | JC-PA-0034-0010 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Tuttle, Richard G. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0005 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Williams, A. Taylor (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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