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