University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Armstrong v. Metropolitan Gov. of Nashville and Davidson County JC-TN-0002
Docket / Court 87-262 ( M.D. Tenn. )
State/Territory Tennessee
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Case Summary
On March 31, 1987, inmates and pretrial detainees being held at the jails in Davidson County, Tennessee filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Tennessee Department of Corrections and the Metropolitan Government of the City of Nashville in the U.S. District Court for the Middle ... read more >
On March 31, 1987, inmates and pretrial detainees being held at the jails in Davidson County, Tennessee filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Tennessee Department of Corrections and the Metropolitan Government of the City of Nashville in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. The plaintiffs, represented by the Vanderbilt University Legal Clinic, alleged that their constitutional rights had been violated conditions at the jail, including overcrowding, poor sanitation, poor security, and lack of fire safety.

On October 20, 1989, the Metropolitan Government admitted before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee (Judge Thomas Higgins) that its jails were unconstitutional, but Department of Corrections did not admit such violations to exist. On December 13, 1989, the court (Judge Higgins) bifurcated the litigation, and on July 25, 1990, the court ordered the Department of Corrections to remove its convicted felons from the Metropolitan Government's facilities.

On April 30, 1991, the court (Judge Higgins) issued an injunction setting population caps on the Metropolitan jails and approved a remedial plan that addressed the other constitutional violations. Specifically, the plan addressed violations in the areas of personal safety, classification, recreation, programming, sanitation, fire safety, and access to courts. On June 3, 1993, the parties agreed that the Metropolitan jails were no longer unconstitutional and had met the remedial plan's requirements. This was confirmed by the court on November 17, 1993.

On May 18, 1995, the parties agreed that the litigation should end if the Metropolitan Government could demonstrate its ability to control overcrowding in its jails. On February 9, 1997, the Metropolitan Government opened a new 600-bed facility, and on April 7, 2000, they filed a final jail management plan with the court, asking the court to dissolve the population cap injunction and dismiss the case.

On March 11, 2002, the court (Judge Higgins) dissolved the injunction and dismissed the case, holding that conditions in the new jails conformed to the constitution's requirements. Armstrong v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville, 196 F.Supp.2d 673 (M.D.Tenn. 2002).

Kristen Sagar - 06/13/2007


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Pre-PLRA Population Cap
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Assault/abuse by staff
Classification / placement
Fire safety
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Recreation / Exercise
Religious programs / policies
Sanitation / living conditions
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Tennessee Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description inmates and pretrial detainees being held at the jails in Davidson County
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Confession of Judgment
Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1991 - 2002
Case Closing Year 2002
Case Ongoing No
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)
87-262 (M.D. Tenn.) 03/13/2002
JC-TN-0002-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Memorandum 03/11/2002 (196 F.Supp.2d 673) (M.D. Tenn.)
JC-TN-0002-0001 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Judges Higgins, Thomas Aquinas (M.D. Tenn.)
JC-TN-0002-0001 | JC-TN-0002-9000
Monitors/Masters Breed, Allen F. (California)
JC-TN-0002-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Kay, Susan Laurie (Tennessee)
JC-TN-0002-0001 | JC-TN-0002-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Charles, James Lawrence (Tennessee)
JC-TN-0002-0001 | JC-TN-0002-9000
Frayn, Kimberly (Tennessee)
JC-TN-0002-0001 | JC-TN-0002-9000
Kennedy, John Lee (Tennessee)
JC-TN-0002-0001 | JC-TN-0002-9000
Roberts-Turner, Rita (Tennessee)
JC-TN-0002-0001 | JC-TN-0002-9000
Robinson, Charles E. (North Carolina)
JC-TN-0002-9000
Sawyers, Kennetha (Tennessee)
JC-TN-0002-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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