On September 30, 1970, five inmates of the Pulaski County, Arkansas, jail filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the county sheriff, jail superintendent, and county judge. The plaintiffs, represented by legal ...
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On September 30, 1970, five inmates of the Pulaski County, Arkansas, jail filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the county sheriff, jail superintendent, and county judge. The plaintiffs, represented by legal services attorneys, sought declaratory judgment, injunctions and "other appropriate relief," citing a list of twenty areas of concern, including over-crowding, insufficient number of guards to protect the inmates, and lack of access to medical and dental care. The conditions at the jail, they claimed, did not meet constitutional standards.
The Defendants responded by moving to dismiss. The District Court (Judge Garnett Eisele) denied the motion. On February 24, 1971, defendants filed a stipulation acknowledging that the conditions at the jail did, indeed, fall short of constitutional standards and promising future improvements. A month later (April 2, 1971), plaintiffs filed a report recognizing some improvements, but noting many areas not yet addressed. Five days after that report, defendants filed their own report rebutting some claims and conceding others. They further noted the heavy costs required to meet all necessary improvements. The court stated that a lack of resources is not a valid reason for denying constitutional rights. The court (Judge Eisele), in a June 2, 1971 opinion called upon each side's attorney to draft an interim decree, and set the date of September 1, 1971 as the deadline for full compliance of that decree. Hamilton v. Love, 328 F. Supp. 1182 (E.D. Ark 1971).
The deadline was not met, however, and 1972 saw a back and forth of motions, but at an August 31, 1972, hearing, the court declined to find defendants in contempt. Just a few weeks later though, the court showed signs of changing its tone by noting that the defendants had become "lax" and "indifferent" to the persisting problems at the jail. On April 25, 1973, the court (Judge Eisele) entered its final decree, finding all three defendants to be in contempt and fining them each a few hundred dollars, but suspending the fines for sixty days with a warning of larger fines if compliance was not met at that time. Hamilton v. Love, 358 F. Supp. 338 (E.D. Ark. 1973). The court awarded $1,500 fees to the plaintiffs' attorney.
On July 11, 1973, the court (Judge Eisele) entered an order declaring that following an inspection by the plaintiffs' lawyer, the jail finally met constitutional standards. Hamilton v. Love, 361 F. Supp. 1235 (E.D. Ark. 1973). The court accordingly revoked the contempt fines it had imposed on the defendants in its April order. The court also addressed a request from the plaintiffs' attorney for additional fees. The court noted the complex nature of the case, but also cited the budgetary constraints that had led to the defendants' trouble in complying with the ordered improvements. Balancing the two factors, the court granted $750 of the requested $2,310 additional fees, and imposed a November 23, 1973 deadline for the additional payment to be made. Leaving open the possibility of further action in the event of a non-payment of these additional fees, the court declared the case otherwise closed.Ben Kelly - 02/18/2006