In 1971, the plaintiffs, a class of all juveniles past, present, or future adjudicated delinquent and involuntarily committed to the custody of the Texas Youth Council (TYC), filed suit against the TYC challenging conditions of confinement. The plaintiffs were supported by amici curiae from the United States Department of Justice and the American Orthopsychiatric Association. The action was brought against the Executive Director of the TYC, members of the TYC, and various employees of the TYC.
Juveniles incarcerated in institutions under jurisdiction of the Texas Youth Counsel (TYC) prior to 1971 were often denied a court hearing and, once incarcerated, were subject to conditions rife with violence. The litigation of this case, spanning over a decade, represented an attempt to reform the Texas juvenile justice system to prevent such abuses of power.
Prior to the 1971 start of this lawsuit, a writ of habeas corpus was filed on behalf of a minor incarcerated in an institution under jurisdiction of the TYC in the Juvenile Court of El Paso County. The habeas petitioner's lawyer, an attorney from El Paso Legal Assistance Society, sought a discovery order to interview and depose the petitioner and eighteen other inmates incarcerated in institutions under the TYC system, after learning that they may have been committed without a court hearing or any other requirement of due process. The El Paso lawyer and another attorney associated with the Youth Law Center of San Francisco attempted to interview six girls on January 27, 1971 at the Gainesville State School for Girls, and six minors in the Gatesville State School for Boys on January 29 and 30, 1971. When officials from the TYC prevented the attorneys from interviewing the juveniles without a TYC supervisor present, the attorneys filed this case and a motion for a preliminary injunction in the Sherman Division of the Eastern District of Texas on February 16, 1971.
The Court (Judge William Wayne Justice) first found that the plaintiffs had entered into a valid attorney-client relationship with the two lawyers and then entered an injunctive order preventing TYC officials from (1) interfering with the plaintiffs' right to confer privately with counsel; (2) impeding their correspondence through the mail; and (3) retaliating against any persons seeking to exercise their rights under the order. Subsequently, it was discovered that approximately 2,600 juveniles had been incarcerated in TYC institutions either without a court hearing at all, or without legal representation in conjunction with their adjudicatory hearings and incarcerations. These findings were agreed to by the parties and, on December 27, 1972, the Court entered an order granting declaratory relief to the plaintiffs which required that juveniles be given (1) full notice of charges prior to juvenile court proceedings; (2) their Miranda rights prior to any confession, guilty plea or entry of judgment; (3) a hearing in open court; (4) an opportunity to confront and cross-examine witnesses; (4) an opportunity for trial by jury; (5) a transcript of proceedings; (6) a full explanation of possible consequences of proceedings; (7) an explanation of the right to appeal from any decision in the juvenile court. In addition, the Court ordered that every juvenile be provided with an attorney at all critical stages in proceedings. To ensure compliance with this order, the Court directed the various TYC institutions to submit a plan for provision of these due process requirements to the plaintiffs' attorneys within 60 days, and a list of every minor child adjudicated delinquent in derogation of his or her right to due process within 120 days.
Evidence was presented at the time of trial that prompted the Court to issue an Interim Emergency Order on August 31, 1973 regarding the use of cruel and unusual punishment in the Juvenile institutions. Morales v. Turman, 364 F.Supp. 166 (E.D.Tex. 1973). The testimony of four individuals designated by the court as participant observers reinforced these findings. The institutions under the TYC largely lacked a coherent set of policies or regulations by which officials were meant to abide. Tear gas was used as a crowd control device, suspected homosexual individuals were segregated from the general population in "punk" dorms, and psychological screening tests were not administered to juveniles prior to their entry into the institution. The juveniles were left in an open dormitory with the only correctional officer on duty locked in an elevated cage. Most harrowing was the lexicon of violence utilized by those institutionalized and those in charge to describe the various, often arbitrary, punishments inflicted on the juveniles. The boys in many institutions were "racked," or forced to line up against the wall, hands in pockets, while the correctional officer punched them in the stomach. They were also struck on the back with a fist or open hand while leaning over, a punishment called "peeling." The incidents were often misreported and covered up, and teachers who tried to testify were blacklisted.
In its order finding the defendants liable for constitutional violations, the Court (Judge Justice) reviewed the practices and policies of six TYC training schools and issued findings with regard to Eleventh and Eighth Amendment violations, conditions, disciplinary procedures, assessment and placement procedures, academic and vocational education, institutional life, medical and psychiatric care, casework and child care. Referring to one juvenile institution, Mountain View, Judge Justice noted that "rituals and codes of conduct are in existence which are as grim as the Sicilian omerta, all imposed on children, some of whom are no older than twelve." An expert witness who had just returned from Angola Prison in Louisiana, characterized as the worst prison in America, concluded that there was less regimentation at Angola than at Mountain View. The Court (Judge Justice) ordered that TYC abandon the use of two schools, Mountain View and Gatesville, as quickly as possible on August 30, 1974. Morales v. Turman, 383 F.Supp. 53 (E.D.Tex. 1974). Additionally, the defendants were ordered to cease the institutionalization of all individuals except those found by a responsible professional assessment to be unsuited for alternative forms of rehabilitative treatment. Defendants were ordered to create community-based treatment alternatives, and to actually treat those individuals whose institutionalization is necessary with a virtually one-to-one staff ratio. No injunctive relief was issued, however, as the Court ordered the plaintiffs and defendants, along with experts, to draft a detailed plan to accomplish its goals.
The defendants appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. On July 21, 1976, the Court of Appeals (Judge Robert Andrew Ainsworth Jr.) held that it did not have jurisdiction over the case, as the plaintiffs sought to enjoin the operation of state legislative and administrative policies, triggering the three-judge court requirement. Thus it reversed and remanded the case. Morales v. Turman, 535 F.2d 864 (5th Cir. 1976). Rehearing was denied on September 17, 1976. Morales v. Turman, 539 F.2d 710 (5th Cir. 1976). The plaintiffs sought United States Supreme Court review of the case.
On March 21, 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a per curiam opinion, reversed the Court of Appeals judgment and remanded the case. Morales v. Turman, 430 U.S. 322 (1977). It reasoned that the three-judge court requirement was not triggered by generalized, unwritten practices of administration, and that the District Judge properly exercised jurisdiction to decide the case. A petition for rehearing was denied on April 25, 1977. Morales v. Turman, 430 U.S. 988 (5th Cir. 1977).
The case was remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. On November 11, 1977, the Court (Judges Robert Andrew Ainsworth Jr., Lewis Render Morgan, and Paul Hitch Roney) remanded the case for further evidentiary proceedings in order to determine changes that had occurred at the TYC since the District Court issued its findings. Morales v. Turman, 562 F.2d 993 (5th Cir. 1977). Those changes were declared to be relevant to any injunctive relief granted. In addition, the Fifth Circuit held that the minimum requirements established by the District Court were "excessively detailed." Rehearing En Banc was denied. Morales v. Turman, 565 F.2d 1215 (1977).
On remand, the parties apparently negotiated a settlement. On June 28, 1983, the District Court (Chief Judge Justice) reviewed a settlement agreement submitted by the parties and ordered the parties to remedy several defects in the proposed agreement before the court would grant approval. Morales v. Turman, 569 F.Supp. 332 (E.D. Tex. 1983). In particular, the Committee of Consultants, a monitoring panel provided for in the agreement, was stipulated to receive funding which the Court deemed inadequate to suit its needs and the TYC would be notified in advance of any inspection such that it could potentially "script and rehearse misleading presentations for the Committee's mollification." A hearing was scheduled for July 11, 1983. Additionally, the Court (Judge Justice) awarded over $300,000.00 in attorney's fees to the American Orthopsychiatric Association, which had participated extensively as amicus curiae. The defendants appealed from this judgment.
On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (Judge Patrick E. Higginbotham) reversed the award of attorney's fees. Morales v. Turman, 820 F.2d 728 (5th Cir. 1987). The Court reasoned that the amicus curiae were not entitled to compensation because they had volunteered their services and had not attempted to intervene in the lawsuit. Rehearing was denied.
We have no further information about the case. Stacey Jensen - 05/31/2006