University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Harper v. Bennett JC-GA-0023
Docket / Court 1:04-cv-01416-MHS ( N.D. Ga. )
State/Territory Georgia
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Jail Conditions
Special Collection Court-ordered receiverships
Post-PLRA enforceable consent decrees
Attorney Organization Southern Center for Human Rights
Case Summary
On May 19, 2004, inmates at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, Georgia filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The plaintiffs sued Fulton County and the Georgia Department of Corrections under 42 U.S.C. §1983 challenging the conditions of their ... read more >
On May 19, 2004, inmates at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, Georgia filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The plaintiffs sued Fulton County and the Georgia Department of Corrections under 42 U.S.C. §1983 challenging the conditions of their confinement under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The class action suit, brought on behalf of inmates who were currently or would be incarcerated in the future at the Fulton County Jail facilities in Atlanta, sought compensatory and punitive damages along with declaratory and injunctive relief. The complaint alleged that the inmates were confined in unconstitutional living conditions due to an excessive number of inmates in the jail, an inadequate number of detention officers to ensure their safety, the breakdown of the ventilation, plumbing and laundry systems, and other circumstances. The plaintiff class was represented by the Southern Center for Human Rights and additional private counsel.

The conditions at the jail were described in a report of Dr. Robert Griefinger dated May 31, 2004. Dr. Greifinger was a consultant with regard to health care at the jail, initially for the United States District Court and then for Fulton County.

The parties agreed that Dr. Greifinger's report accurately described the conditions at the jail. Pursuant to the Consent Order of the District Court (Judge Marvin H. Shoob) on July 7, 2004, the parties agreed to the appointment of a Receiver by the Court. On July 14, the Court appointed a Receiver to take charge of the jail.

On December 21, 2005, the Court entered a Consent Order which provided the terms and conditions necessary to ensure constitutional compliance by the jail. The terms of the Consent Order set minimum staffing levels, staff training procedures, inmate population limits, inmate processing requirements and other inmate housing requirements. The Consent Order also covered inmate visitation, medical care (including prescription medication, mental health care and dental care requirements), inmates with physical disabilities, safety and emergency procedures and inmate grievance procedures. The Consent Order also appointed a Court Monitor.

In December 2005, Georgia Public Defenders challenged the transfer of inmates at the jail to distant locations in a separate case filed originally in state court: Georgia Public Defender Standards Council v. Freeman, 1:05-cv-03286-MHS (N.D. Ga) (JC-GA-0024 in this Clearinghouse). That case was removed to federal court where a separate Consent Order was entered on February 28, 2006, after it was consolidated with the this case (Harper v. Bennett).

The Court Monitor filed his First Quarterly Report on May 15, 2006. After the Monitor's Fourth Quarterly Report, the plaintiffs filed a Memorandum on Compliance on June 22, 2007. In the Memorandum, the plaintiffs commended the Sheriff and the County for the progress that had been achieved in many areas covered by the Consent Order. However, the plaintiffs stated that in some areas, especially in areas related to the safety and security of inmates and staff, full compliance with the Order had not been achieved.

After the Seventh Quarterly Report, the Court issued an Order to Show Cause on July 10, 2008. The Court mentioned that nearly two-and-a-half years after the Consent Order, the Sheriff was still not in compliance with many of its mandates, including requirements in such critical areas as staffing and security, population limits and housing, provision of medical services, and timely release of inmates. The Court ordered that the Sheriff appear in Court and show cause why he should not be held in contempt.

On August 22, 2008, the Sheriff filed a Status Report Pursuant to Court Order. In his Report, the Sheriff Freeman acknowledged his failure to comply with the Consent Order in the critical areas of jail staffing and population. However, the Sheriff contended that his efforts have been hampered by Fulton County's failure to authorize funding for all the staff positions needed and for outsourcing pretrial inmates to other jails. Fulton County denied any lack of adequate funding. On January 26, 2009, the Court issued an Order concerning the County's decision to cut the Sheriff's FY09 budget, stating that if the necessary funding was not provided, the County defendants might be held in contempt.

On January 4, 2010, the Sheriff filed a Status Report Pursuant to Court Order describing the steps he was taking to eliminate inmate outsourcing and to provide adequate space for all Fulton County inmates.

The monitor continued to file quarterly reports.

On January 29, 2013, the Court denied the defendant's motion for prospective relief on the grounds that the jail had yet to address two pressing issues within the jail: the understaffing and the malfunctioning locks. And stated that prospective relief remains necessary to correct a current and ongoing violation of plaintiffs' federal rights, extends no further than necessary to correct the violation.

On October 10, 2013, the plaintiffs filed a class motion for the defendants to show cause why they should not be held in contempt. The motion supported this point by discussing how the appointed monitor, Mr. Calvin Lightfoot, plainly stated in his reports to the Court that the defendants have violated the Consent Order by forcing detainees to sleep on the floor of their housing units, by failing to staff all mandated posts in the Jail, and by continuing to detain people in cells whose locks are broken or compromised. The plaintiffs sought an order imposing monetary sanctions until compliance with the Consent Order was achieved, and requiring the defendants to submit a plan to the Court to bring themselves into compliance with the Consent Order.

On November 25, 2013, the court granted the plaintiffs' motion that the defendants must show cause as to why they should not be held in contempt. The court found that the defendants were clearly in violation of the Consent Decree as overcrowding, understaffing, and poor facility maintenance continued to be the norm at the jail. A show cause hearing was to be scheduled for the near future, wherein the Chairman of the Fulton County Commission and the Sheriff of Fulton County will be required to attend the hearing in person.

On February 3, 2014, the parties filed a joint motion to remove the show cause hearing from the calendar and decided to hold a status conference in its place. This joint motion was granted in an order on February 4, 2014.

On May 12, 2015, the Court issued an order granting the defendants' motion that all prospective relief be terminated. Based on the evidence of the jail conditions presented by the defendants and the testimony of the Court Monitor the Court found that the defendants were in compliance with the Consent Decree. Based upon the evidentiary record, the Court could not find that there were current and ongoing violations of the plaintiffs’ federal rights. As such the civil case against the defendants was terminated.

Xin Chen - 01/21/2012
Erin Pamukcu - 03/28/2016


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Content of Injunction
Receivership
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Post-PLRA Population Cap
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Disciplinary procedures
Fire safety
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Pepper/OC spray
Sanitation / living conditions
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Totality of conditions
Visiting
Medical/Mental Health
Dental care
Medical care, general
Medication, administration of
Mental health care, general
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Fulton County
Georgia Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Inmates who are now or will be incarcerated in the future at the Fulton County Jail facilities in Atlanta, Georgia
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Southern Center for Human Rights
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2005 - 2015
Case Closing Year 2015
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing JC-GA-0024 : Georgia Public Defender Standards Council v. Freeman (N.D. Ga.)
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
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)
1:04-cv-01416-MHS (N.D. Ga.) 03/17/2016
JC-GA-0023-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 05/19/2004
JC-GA-0023-0001.pdf | Detail
Amended Complaint 06/22/2004
JC-GA-0023-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Conference Scheduling Order 06/25/2004 (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0023-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion by Plaintiff for Class Certification 06/25/2004
JC-GA-0023-0007.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion by Plaintiff for Inspection of Fulton County Jail 06/29/2004
JC-GA-0023-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion to Intervene 07/06/2004
JC-GA-0023-0008.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Appearance 07/07/2004
JC-GA-0023-0009.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Order Regarding Jail Custodian and Receiver 07/07/2004 (2008 WL 476122) (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0023-0010.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum of Law by Defendant in Response to Show Cause Order 07/08/2004
JC-GA-0023-0011.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Appointing Monitor 07/12/2004 (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0023-0012.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Overruling Objection to Appoint of Monitor 07/12/2004 (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0023-0013.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Appointing Temporary Receiver as Custodian of Fulton County Jail 07/14/2004 (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0023-0014.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant Motion for Conditional Class Certification 10/06/2004
JC-GA-0023-0015.pdf | Detail
Consent Order Granting Conditional Class Certification 10/12/2004 (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0023-0016.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Order 12/21/2005
JC-GA-0023-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion to Provide Notice to Class of Settlement Agreement 12/21/2005
JC-GA-0023-0004.pdf | Detail
Scheduling Order 12/22/2005 (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0023-0017.pdf | Detail
Second Amended Complaint 01/09/2006
JC-GA-0023-0018.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Quarterly Report of the Court Monitor 10/11/2006
JC-GA-0023-0022.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Status Report 10/25/2006
JC-GA-0023-0019.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Memorandum on Compliance 06/22/2007
JC-GA-0023-0023.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order to Show Cause 07/10/2008 (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0023-0028.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Fulton County Sheriff's Report Pursuant to the Court's Order, Dated July 22, 2008 08/22/2008
JC-GA-0023-0027.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
ORDER concerning the County's budget cut 01/26/2009 (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0023-0024.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 10/06/2009 (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0023-0025.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report of Sheriff Defendant 01/04/2010
JC-GA-0023-0026.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order to Amend Consent Order 04/29/2010 (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0023-0029.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 01/29/2013 (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0023-0030.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Class Members' Motion to Order Defendants to Show Cause Why They Should Not Be Held in Contempt 10/10/2013
JC-GA-0023-0031.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order 11/25/2013 (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0023-0032.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 02/04/2014 (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0023-0033.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 05/12/2015 (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0023-0034.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Shoob, Marvin Herman (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0023-0003 | JC-GA-0023-0005 | JC-GA-0023-0010 | JC-GA-0023-0012 | JC-GA-0023-0013 | JC-GA-0023-0014 | JC-GA-0023-0016 | JC-GA-0023-0024 | JC-GA-0023-0025 | JC-GA-0023-0028 | JC-GA-0023-0029 | JC-GA-0023-0030 | JC-GA-0023-9000
Thrash, Thomas W. Jr. (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0023-0032 | JC-GA-0023-0033 | JC-GA-0023-0034 | JC-GA-0023-9000
Monitors/Masters McManus, Patrick D. (Minnesota)
JC-GA-0023-0022
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bright, Stephen B. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0002 | JC-GA-0023-0003 | JC-GA-0023-0004 | JC-GA-0023-0006 | JC-GA-0023-0007 | JC-GA-0023-0008 | JC-GA-0023-0009 | JC-GA-0023-0015 | JC-GA-0023-0017 | JC-GA-0023-0018 | JC-GA-0023-0019 | JC-GA-0023-0023 | JC-GA-0023-0031 | JC-GA-0023-9000
Buch, Vanessa (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0002 | JC-GA-0023-0006 | JC-GA-0023-0007 | JC-GA-0023-0015 | JC-GA-0023-0017 | JC-GA-0023-0018 | JC-GA-0023-9000
Claiborne, James Patrick (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0008
Claiborne, William Charles III (District of Columbia)
JC-GA-0023-0008
Cunningham, Lynn E. (District of Columbia)
JC-GA-0023-0008
DeWoskin, Daniel Eliot (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0008
Kelly, Mary Sidney (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0017
Kung, Lisa L. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-9000
Lipman, Joshua R (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0002 | JC-GA-0023-0003 | JC-GA-0023-0006 | JC-GA-0023-0007 | JC-GA-0023-0015 | JC-GA-0023-0017 | JC-GA-0023-0018 | JC-GA-0023-9000
Pekor, Charles B. Jr. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0008
Primerano, Ryan (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-9000
Sweet, John F. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0002 | JC-GA-0023-0004 | JC-GA-0023-0006 | JC-GA-0023-0007 | JC-GA-0023-0015 | JC-GA-0023-0018 | JC-GA-0023-9000
Velez, Melanie (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0031 | JC-GA-0023-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Belaga, Julianne N. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0015
Brantley, Overtis Hicks (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0002 | JC-GA-0023-0003 | JC-GA-0023-0004 | JC-GA-0023-0006 | JC-GA-0023-0007 | JC-GA-0023-0008 | JC-GA-0023-0009 | JC-GA-0023-0018 | JC-GA-0023-0019 | JC-GA-0023-9000
Burwell, Kaye Woodard (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-9000
D'Haene, Kimberly W. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0015
Dancy, Rolesia Butler (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-9000
DeLoach, Jerry L. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0008
DiSantis, Linda (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0008
Dobras, Rebecca Jean (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-9000
Dunnigan, E. Vaughn (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-9000
Johnson, Coy J. Jr. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-9000
Jones, John Custer (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0003 | JC-GA-0023-0004 | JC-GA-0023-0018 | JC-GA-0023-0019 | JC-GA-0023-9000 | JC-GA-0023-9000
Lackland, Theodore Howard (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0003 | JC-GA-0023-0004 | JC-GA-0023-0009 | JC-GA-0023-0015 | JC-GA-0023-0018 | JC-GA-0023-0019 | JC-GA-0023-9000
Lovett, William Jake Jr. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-9000
McDonald, Nikisha L. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-9000
Moore, Sidney Leighton (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0015 | JC-GA-0023-0019 | JC-GA-0023-9000
Nash, Paula Morgan (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0003 | JC-GA-0023-0004 | JC-GA-0023-0011 | JC-GA-0023-0019 | JC-GA-0023-9000
Nkumeh, Nwakaego Ijeoma (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-9000
Okparaeke, Nwakaego Ijeoma (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-9000
Ramsey, Larry Wayne Jr. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-9000
Robbins, Richard Lance (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0015
Roseborough, Teresa Wynn (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0004 | JC-GA-0023-0015 | JC-GA-0023-0018
Rosenberg, Steven E. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0011 | JC-GA-0023-9000
Sam-Buchanan, Yonette (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0026 | JC-GA-0023-9000
Spritzer, Erin Nicole (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-9000
Starkey, Rory K. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0011 | JC-GA-0023-9000
Turner, William Randall (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-0027 | JC-GA-0023-9000
Ware, Robert D. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-9000
Other Lawyers Drolet, Joseph J (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-9000
Orland, Devon (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-9000
Remar, Robert B. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0023-9000

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -