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Case Name Washington v. Lee PC-AL-0020
Docket / Court 2350 ( M.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On February 18, 1966, a class action lawsuit challenging racial discrimination in Alabama's correctional system was filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama against Alabama's Commissioner of Corrections, Board of Corrections, and two defendant classes, defined as ... read more >
On February 18, 1966, a class action lawsuit challenging racial discrimination in Alabama's correctional system was filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama against Alabama's Commissioner of Corrections, Board of Corrections, and two defendant classes, defined as all Alabaman sheriffs and all wardens and jailers of city and town jails in Alabama. Five African-American inmates and one white inmate represented the plaintiff class, which purported to represent the interest of incarcerated males and females even though the named plaintiffs were probably all male. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought declaratory and injunctive relief.

The parties agreed that Alabama law mandated the racial segregation of inmates, which the plaintiffs claimed was unconstitutional. The plaintiffs also alleged that the defendants discriminated in hiring for law enforcement and corrections jobs. On the same day that they filed the Complaint, the plaintiffs asked the court to grant a preliminary injunction to stop both the enforcement of laws mandating racial segregation for inmates and discriminatory hiring practices.

On March 21, 1966, a three-judge panel (Judges Frank M. Johnson, Jr., Richard T. Rives, and Seybourn H. Lynne) was convened to hear the constitutional issues, pursuant to the now-obsolete requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 2281 et seq. On June 9, 1966, the plaintiffs issued interrogatories to the Commissioner of Corrections, Jefferson County Sheriff, and Birmingham City Jail's Warden. The file contains responses to all interrogatory requests, filed June 14-25, 1966. The various defendants filed Answers to the Complaint from June 14-16, 1966.

On November 21, 1966, the court (Judge Johnson) identified procedural and substantive issues to be briefed and addressed during the trial. Specifically, the defendants challenged the plaintiffs' standing to sustain an action against the Birmingham City Jail, claiming that none of the named plaintiffs were either still confined at or had shown a likelihood of future detention at the jail.

On December 12, 1966, the court (Judge Johnson) held that the plaintiffs should not be required to show the likelihood of being detained at the Birmingham City Jail, reasoning that such a requirement might encourage rather than deter criminal activity. Washington v. Lee, 263 F. Supp. 327 (M.D. Ala. 1966). Ruling on the merits of the case, the court held that the Alabama law mandating racial segregation in prisons violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and ordered the immediate desegregation of state and local penal institutes. The court implemented a two-pronged plan to ensure compliance. First, the counties were required to report the racial composition of inmates and on efforts to desegregate the population every quarter. Second, the Commissioner of Corrections was required to inspect all local jails every three months.

Pending the defendants' appeal to the United States Supreme Court, the district court stayed its judgment on February 15, 1967. The file contains several documents regarding the appellate process, including the Supreme Court's finding of probable jurisdiction. Lee v. Washington, 38 U.S. 928 (1967). On March 11, 1968, the Supreme Court (Justice Hugo L. Black) affirmed, but held that racial segregation could be used by corrections in good faith and when necessary to promote prison security, discipline, and order. Lee v. Washington, 390 U.S. 333 (1968). Following the Supreme Court's opinion, the three-judge panel was dissolved on January 16, 1969. On March 13, 1970, the court closed the case and reduced the frequency of status reports to once a year.

On October 13, 1970, the plaintiffs asked the court to find the State in contempt. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that in 1969, Holman Prison Unit was re-segregated. On April 24, 1973, the defendants moved the court to modify the frequency of mandatory jail and prison monitoring, which the State claimed was inefficient because jails in small communities were often empty when inspected. The plaintiffs were concerned that such a change would be detrimental to desegregation efforts because enforcement would be left in the hands of the inmates themselves.

On August 13, 1975, the plaintiffs asked the court to hold the Commissioner of Corrections in contempt for a second time. The plaintiffs alleged that the Commissioner had not taken the necessary steps to desegregate the State's correctional system, including its educational and vocational programs. On September 12, 1975, the court (Judge Johnson) dismissed the plaintiff's motion for contempt, concluding that the shortage of operating funds made racial segregation temporarily necessary to ensure prison security. The court, however, impressed upon the parties the importance of properly funding corrections programs instead of relying on segregation to make up for deficits.

We have no additional information on this lawsuit.

Elizabeth Chilcoat - 06/28/2006

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Race discrimination
Racial segregation
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
42 U.S.C. § 1981
Defendant(s) Alabama Prison System
Plaintiff Description Incarcerated males and females in Alabama
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1966 - n/a
Case Closing Year 1970
Case Ongoing Unknown
Case Listing PC-AL-0019 : Beard v. Lee (S.D. Ala.)
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Links The Oyez Project, Lee v Washington, 390 U.S. 333 (1968)
Posted: Mar. 11, 1968
By: Oyez Project (IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Contract for Service in a Nonfederal Institution 01/27/1966
PC-AL-0020-0001 PDF | Detail
Complaint 02/18/1966
PC-AL-0020-0002 PDF | Detail
Motion for Preliminary Injunction 02/18/1966
PC-AL-0020-0003 PDF | Detail
Designation of Three-Judge Panel 03/22/1966 (M.D. Ala.)
PC-AL-0020-0004 PDF | Detail
Interrogatories to A. Melvin Bailey, Sheriff of Jefferson County, Alabama 06/09/1966
PC-AL-0020-0005 PDF | Detail
Interrogatories to Robert K. Austin, Warden of the City Jail of Birmingham, Alabama 06/09/1966
PC-AL-0020-0006 PDF | Detail
Interrogatories to Frank Lee, Commissioner of Corrections of Alabama 06/09/1966
PC-AL-0020-0007 PDF | Detail
Answer of Defendant Frank Lee, as Commissioner of Corretions of Alabama; and Other Defendants, as Members of the Board of Corrections of Alabama 06/14/1966
PC-AL-0020-0008 PDF | Detail
Answer of Defendant Frank Lee to Plaintiffs' Interrogatories 06/14/1966
PC-AL-0020-0009 PDF | Detail
Answer of Robert K. Austin, as Warden, to Complaint 06/17/1966
PC-AL-0020-0010 PDF | Detail
Answer of Defendant A. Melvin Bailey 06/20/1966
PC-AL-0020-0011 PDF | Detail
Contract for Service in Nonfederal Institution / Answers of Defendant, Robert K. Austin, Warden of the City Jail of Birmingham, Alabama, to Interrogatories Propounded to Him by Plaintiffs 06/25/1966
PC-AL-0020-0012 PDF | Detail
Answers to Interrogatories to A. Melvin Bailey 06/25/1966
PC-AL-0020-0014 PDF | Detail
Order on Pretrial Hearing 11/22/1966 (M.D. Ala.)
PC-AL-0020-0013 PDF | Detail
Letter from City Attorneys regarding standing of Plaintiff 11/25/1966
PC-AL-0020-0015 PDF | Detail
Order 12/12/1966 (263 F.Supp. 327) (M.D. Ala.)
PC-AL-0020-0016 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Notice of Appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States 02/08/1967
PC-AL-0020-0017 PDF | Detail
Order / Motion for Stay Pending Appeal 02/15/1967 (M.D. Ala.)
PC-AL-0020-0018 PDF | Detail
Record on Appeal Taken by All Defendants Save A. Melvin Bailey, as Sheriff of Jefferson County Alabama, From Decision of Three-Judge District Court 03/03/1967
PC-AL-0020-0019 PDF | Detail
Order 03/09/1967
PC-AL-0020-0021 PDF | Detail
Appellants' Jurisdictional Statement 03/31/1967
PC-AL-0020-0032 PDF | Detail
[Noting probable jurisdiction] 06/03/1967 (387 U.S. 928)
PC-AL-0020-0020 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Reported Opinion 03/11/1968 (390 U.S. 236)
PC-AL-0020-0034 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Opinion 04/11/1968 (390 U.S. 333)
PC-AL-0020-0022 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Order 01/17/1969 (M.D. Ala.)
PC-AL-0020-0023 PDF | Detail
Order 03/13/1970 (M.D. Ala.)
PC-AL-0020-0024 PDF | Detail
Order 10/13/1970 (M.D. Ala.)
PC-AL-0020-0025 PDF | Detail
Motion for Modification of the Court's Order 04/25/1973
PC-AL-0020-0026 PDF | Detail
Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Modification of the Court's Order 05/29/1973
PC-AL-0020-0027 PDF | Detail
Memorandum in Support of Motion to Implement Decree and for Order to Show Cause Why Defendant L.B. Sullivan Should Not be Held in Contempt of Court 08/13/1975
PC-AL-0020-0028 PDF | Detail
Motion to Implement Decree and for Order to Show Cause why Defendant L.B. Sullivan Should not be held in Contempt of Court 08/13/1975
PC-AL-0020-0030 PDF | Detail
Defendants' Response to Plaintiffs' Motion of Aug. 13, 1975 09/08/1975
PC-AL-0020-0029 PDF | Detail
Order 09/12/1975 (M.D. Ala.)
PC-AL-0020-0031 PDF | Detail
Judges Black, Hugo Lafayette (SCOTUS)
Johnson, Frank Minis Jr. (Fifth Circuit, M.D. Ala., Eleventh Circuit)
PC-AL-0020-0013 | PC-AL-0020-0015 | PC-AL-0020-0016 | PC-AL-0020-0018 | PC-AL-0020-0023 | PC-AL-0020-0024 | PC-AL-0020-0025 | PC-AL-0020-0026 | PC-AL-0020-0031
Lynne, Seybourn Harris (N.D. Ala.)
PC-AL-0020-0016 | PC-AL-0020-0023
Rives, Richard Taylor (Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit)
PC-AL-0020-0016 | PC-AL-0020-0023
Tuttle, Elbert Parr (Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit)
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Billingsley, Orzell Jr. (Alabama)
PC-AL-0020-0002 | PC-AL-0020-0003 | PC-AL-0020-0015 | PC-AL-0020-0017 | PC-AL-0020-0018 | PC-AL-0020-0019 | PC-AL-0020-0026 | PC-AL-0020-0027
Bradley, Neil T. (Georgia)
PC-AL-0020-0028 | PC-AL-0020-0030
Cooper, Algernon Johnson Jr. (Alabama)
PC-AL-0020-0026 | PC-AL-0020-0027
Crittenden, Judith (Alabama)
PC-AL-0020-0028 | PC-AL-0020-0030
Dawson, William Monroe Jr. (Alabama)
PC-AL-0020-0028 | PC-AL-0020-0030
Drake, Jack (Alabama)
PC-AL-0020-0026 | PC-AL-0020-0027
McDonald, Moffatt Laughlin (Georgia)
PC-AL-0020-0005 | PC-AL-0020-0006 | PC-AL-0020-0007 | PC-AL-0020-0019 | PC-AL-0020-0027 | PC-AL-0020-0028 | PC-AL-0020-0030
Morgan, Charles Jr. (Georgia)
PC-AL-0020-0002 | PC-AL-0020-0003 | PC-AL-0020-0015 | PC-AL-0020-0017 | PC-AL-0020-0018 | PC-AL-0020-0019 | PC-AL-0020-0026 | PC-AL-0020-0027 | PC-AL-0020-0034
Still, Edward (Alabama)
PC-AL-0020-0028 | PC-AL-0020-0030
Wulf, Melvin L. (New York)
PC-AL-0020-0002 | PC-AL-0020-0003 | PC-AL-0020-0017 | PC-AL-0020-0018 | PC-AL-0020-0019 | PC-AL-0020-0026 | PC-AL-0020-0027
Defendant's Lawyers Baxley, William J. (Alabama)
PC-AL-0020-0026 | PC-AL-0020-0029
Breckenridge, J. M. (Alabama)
PC-AL-0020-0010 | PC-AL-0020-0015 | PC-AL-0020-0017 | PC-AL-0020-0018 | PC-AL-0020-0019 | PC-AL-0020-0032
Dominick, Frank (Alabama)
PC-AL-0020-0015 | PC-AL-0020-0017 | PC-AL-0020-0018 | PC-AL-0020-0019
Fletcher, Walter (Alabama)
PC-AL-0020-0011 | PC-AL-0020-0015 | PC-AL-0020-0017 | PC-AL-0020-0018 | PC-AL-0020-0019
Flowers, Richmond M. (Alabama)
Gallion, MacDonald (Alabama)
PC-AL-0020-0017 | PC-AL-0020-0018 | PC-AL-0020-0019 | PC-AL-0020-0032
Hare, Nicholas S. (Alabama)
PC-AL-0020-0032 | PC-AL-0020-0034
Madison, Gordon (Alabama)
PC-AL-0020-0008 | PC-AL-0020-0015 | PC-AL-0020-0017 | PC-AL-0020-0018 | PC-AL-0020-0019 | PC-AL-0020-0032
McBee, Earl (Alabama)
PC-AL-0020-0010 | PC-AL-0020-0012 | PC-AL-0020-0017 | PC-AL-0020-0019
Newman, Larry R. (Alabama)
Sorrells, Thomas W. (Alabama)
Other Lawyers None on record

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