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Case Name Holt v. Sarver PC-AR-0004
Docket / Court 69-C-24 ( E.D. Ark. )
State/Territory Arkansas
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On April 17, 1969, inmates of the Cummins Farm Unit of the Arkansas State Penitentiary located in Lincoln County, Arkansas, brought a class action suit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas alleging that the conditions of their confinement in the ... read more >
On April 17, 1969, inmates of the Cummins Farm Unit of the Arkansas State Penitentiary located in Lincoln County, Arkansas, brought a class action suit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas alleging that the conditions of their confinement in the isolation unit constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The plaintiffs further alleged that they were denied adequate medical attention and that Penitentiary officials failed to take adequate steps to protect inmates from assaults by other inmates. Private attorneys from Little Rock, Arkansas (in conjunction with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund) provided counsel to the plaintiff inmates throughout this extensive litigation. On June 20, 1969, after a two-day trial, the District Court (Chief Judge Jesse Smith Henley) held that state prison officials failed to discharge their constitutional duty to protect inmates because inmates were sleeping on cots in open barracks with no guard within the actual sleeping area. Holt v. Sarver, 300 F.Supp. 825 (E.D.Ark. 1969). Chief Judge Henley also found that confinement of inmates in isolation cells constituted cruel and unusual punishment because the isolation cells were overcrowded, dirty, unsanitary and pervaded by bad odors from toilets. Chief Judge Henley requested that the prison officials suggest possible remedial measures.

Inmates at the Tucker Intermediate Reformatory subsequently brought additional claims against the defendant state prison officials which were consolidated with the case brought by the Cummins Farm Unit inmates. On Feb. 18, 1970, Chief Judge Henley held that conditions and practices throughout the Arkansas penitentiary system, including the open barracks system, conditions in isolation cells and the absence of a meaningful rehabilitation program amounted to a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Holt v. Sarver, 309 F.Supp. 362 (E.D.Ark. 1970). Chief Judge Henley ordered state prison officials to report to the District Court a plan to bring the penitentiary system into compliance with the United States Constitution. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (Judge Martin Donald Van Oosterhout) affirmed the District Court's declaratory judgment that the acts, policies and practices of the Arkansas penitentiary system violated inmates' constitutional rights. Holt v. Sarver, 442 F.2d 304 (8th Cir. 1971). The Court further held that the inmates' suit was not barred by the Eleventh Amendment as a suit against the State of Arkansas because it was an action to enjoin a state official from violating a federally guaranteed constitutional right.

On remand to the District Court, Chief Judge Henley held on August 13, 1973, that African-American Muslims confined in prisons may not be discriminated against on account of their religion, that racial discrimination between convicts is unconstitutional, that difficulty in hiring qualified African-Americans for prison positions was not to deter prison officials from trying to do so, that incoming privileged correspondence was to be opened in the presence of the prisoner and that prison officials must improve their investigations of the use of force against inmates. Holt v. Hutto, 363 F.Supp. 194 (E.D.Ark. 1973). Chief Judge Henley entered a supplemental decree enjoining the aforementioned practices of the Arkansas Department of Correction and determined that it was no longer necessary to retain jurisdiction of the case. The plaintiffs appealed, and on October 10, 1974, the Court of Appeals (Judge Donald Pomery Lay) held that the Arkansas penitentiary system was still unconstitutional and directed corrective action to be taken with respect to housing, racial discrimination, physical abuse and rehabilitative programs. Finney v. Arkansas Board of Correction, 505 F.2d 194 (8th Cir. 1974). The Court further held that the District Court should have retained continuing jurisdiction.

On March 19, 1976, the District Court (Judge Jesse Smith Henley had been promoted to the Court of Appeals, but he sat by designation) held that confinement of more than two men in a single cell in punitive isolation or administrative segregation is unconstitutional in non-emergency situations. Finney v. Hutto, 410 F.Supp. 251 (E.D.Ark. 1976). Judge Henley further held that the use of ""grue"" as food in state prisons was unconstitutional, and the policy of sentencing inmates to indeterminate periods of confinement in punitive isolation was unreasonable and unconstitutional. Judge Henley also awarded attorney fees and costs. On January 6, 1977, the Court of Appeals (Judge Donald Roe Ross) affirmed the District Court's finding that confinement of prisoners in punitive isolation for more than thirty days was impermissible cruel and unusual punishment. Finney v. Hutto, 548 F.2d 740 (8th Cir. 1977). The Court also found that the award of attorney fees and costs was justified and not barred by the Eleventh Amendment.

On June 23, 1978, the United States Supreme Court (Justice John Paul Stevens) affirmed, holding that conditions in the isolation cells violated the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and that the District Court had authority to place a maximum limit of thirty days on confinement in isolation cells. Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678 (1978). The Supreme Court additionally held that the Eleventh Amendment did not prevent an award of attorney fees against officers of the State Department of Correction, acting in their official capacity, as a result of the officers' bad faith failure to cure constitutional violations in the state prison system. The Supreme Court also found that the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act authorized the award of $2,500 to the inmates' counsel for their services on appeal and that the award was payable by the state. A petition for a rehearing before the Supreme Court was denied on January 15, 1979. Hutto v. Finney, 439 U.S. 1122 (1979).

On June 30, 1978, the District Court (Chief Judge Garnett Thomas Eisele) held that due process was violated at the Cummins Unit when high ranking prison officials ordered guilty verdicts in disciplinary proceedings and suggested certain punishments to the members of the unit's disciplinary committee. Finney v. Mabry, 455 F.Supp. 756 (E.D.Ark. 1978). Chief Judge Eisele further held that the disciplinary committee could not rely solely on secondary reports of rule violations in its proceedings without primary evidence of guilt (such as witness statements or physical evidence).

Chief Judge Eisele approved a consent decree entered into by the parties on October 5, 1978, which provided that the Department of Corrections would maintain an internal grievance procedure, that no inmate would be confined in punitive segregation for more than thirty consecutive days, that law libraries would be maintained by the Department for inmates' use, and that the Department would institute an affirmative action program for the recruitment and promotion of African-American employees. Finney v. Mabry, 458 F.Supp. 720 (E.D.Ark. 1978). After inmates challenged the Department of Correction's policy of administrative segregation, the District Court (Chief Judge Garnett Thomas Eisele) held that Arkansas prison regulations provided a sufficient guarantee that the inmates would not be confined in administrative segregation without the requisite due process protections. Finney v. Mabry, 528 F.Supp. 567 (E.D.Ark. 1981).

On February 19, 1982, Chief Judge Eisele found the Department of Correction in violation of the District Court's prior consent decree's provisions regarding open barracks, overcrowding, and affirmative action in the hiring of minorities. Finney v. Mabry, 534 F.Supp. 1026 (E.D.Ark. 1982). Chief Judge Eisele ordered the Department of Correction to file periodic reports on the progress being made to redress the violations of the consent decree.

Chief Judge Eisele ordered the Department of Correction on March 2, 1982, to file reports regarding improvements to be made to the facilities of the Cummins Unit. Finney v. Mabry, 546 F.Supp. 626 (E.D.Ark. 1982). On August 20, 1982, upon the filing of the Department of Correction's final report regarding the implementation of improvements in state prison facilities and procedures, Chief Judge Eisele held that the Department of Correction had come into compliance with the District Court's consent decree and the requirements of the U.S. Constitution. Finney v. Mabry, 546 F.Supp. 628 (E.D.Ark. 1982). Therefore, the case was dismissed.

According to the docket, available on PACER beginning in 1990, Chief Judge Eisele denied a motion to modify the consent decree on July 27, 1990. Chief Judge Eisele also denied subsequent motions to re-open the case on January 7, 1991, and March 29, 1999. The order denying the motion to re-open the case from March 29, 1999, is the last substantive entry on the docket.

Tom Madison - 05/01/2006


compress summary

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Administrative segregation
Assault/abuse by residents/inmates/students
Assault/abuse by staff
Classification / placement
Counseling
Disciplinary procedures
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Law library access
Mail
Religious programs / policies
Sanitation / living conditions
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Totality of conditions
Medical/Mental Health
Mental health care, general
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Cummins Farm & Tucker Farm
Plaintiff Description inmates at the Cummins Farm Unit at the Arkansas State Penitentiary
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
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 Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1969 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Unknown
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 ]

  After Decision: Implementation of Judicial Decrees in Correctional Settings (Part II: A Case Study of Holt v. Sarver)
Written: Oct. 01, 1966
By: Dudley P. Spiller, Jr.
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
By: Margo Schlanger (University of Michigan)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ 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 ]

  The Effects of "Prison Reform": The Arkansas Case Study
By: Ira P. Robbins (American University)
Citation: in 2 Prisoners' Rights Sourcebook: Theory, Litigation, Practice 467 (1980)
[ Detail ]

Links The Oyez Project, Hutto v Finney, 437 U.S. 678 (1978)
www.oyez.org
Posted: Jun. 23, 1978
By: Oyez Project
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
69-24 (E.D. Ark.) 05/01/2006
PC-AR-0004-9000 PDF | Detail
General Documents
Reported Opinion 06/20/1969 (300 F.Supp. 825) (E.D. Ark.)
PC-AR-0004-0006 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Opinion 02/18/1970 (309 F.Supp. 362) (E.D. Ark.)
PC-AR-0004-0013 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Reported Opinion 05/05/1971 (442 F.2d 304)
PC-AR-0004-0001 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Opinion 08/13/1973 (363 F.Supp. 194) (E.D. Ark.)
PC-AR-0004-0002 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Reported Opinion 10/10/1974 (505 F.2d 194)
PC-AR-0004-0003 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Reported Opinion 03/19/1976 (410 F.Supp. 251) (E.D. Ark.)
PC-AR-0004-0004 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Reported Opinion 02/03/1977 (548 F.2d 740)
PC-AR-0004-0005 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Decision 10/17/1977 (434 U.S. 901)
PC-AR-0004-0014 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Merits Opinion 06/23/1978 (437 U.S. 678)
PC-AR-0004-0015 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Opinion 06/30/1978 (455 F.Supp. 756) (E.D. Ark.)
PC-AR-0004-0008 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Consent Decree 10/05/1978 (458 F.Supp. 720) (E.D. Ark.)
PC-AR-0004-0007 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Decision 01/15/1979 (439 U.S. 1122)
PC-AR-0004-0016 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Opinion 12/15/1981 (528 F.Supp. 567) (E.D. Ark.)
PC-AR-0004-0012 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Opinion 02/19/1982 (534 F.Supp. 1026) (E.D. Ark.)
PC-AR-0004-0009 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Order 03/02/1982 (546 F.Supp. 626) (E.D. Ark.)
PC-AR-0004-0011 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Order 08/20/1982 (546 F.Supp. 628) (E.D. Ark.)
PC-AR-0004-0010 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Judges Eisele, Garnett Thomas (E.D. Ark.)
PC-AR-0004-0007 | PC-AR-0004-0008 | PC-AR-0004-0009 | PC-AR-0004-0010 | PC-AR-0004-0011 | PC-AR-0004-0012 | PC-AR-0004-9000
Henley, Jesse Smith (E.D. Ark., E.D. Ark., W.D. Ark., Eighth Circuit)
PC-AR-0004-0002 | PC-AR-0004-0004 | PC-AR-0004-0006 | PC-AR-0004-0013
Lay, Donald Pomery (Eighth Circuit)
PC-AR-0004-0003
Ross, Donald Roe (Eighth Circuit)
PC-AR-0004-0005
Stevens, John Paul (Seventh Circuit, Seventh Circuit)
PC-AR-0004-0015
Van Oosterhout, Martin Donald (Eighth Circuit)
PC-AR-0004-0001
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bass, Stanley A. (New York)
PC-AR-0004-0001 | PC-AR-0004-0005
Hays, Steele (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0006
Holt, Jack Jr. (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0001 | PC-AR-0004-0002 | PC-AR-0004-0004 | PC-AR-0004-0005 | PC-AR-0004-0007 | PC-AR-0004-0008 | PC-AR-0004-0009 | PC-AR-0004-0010 | PC-AR-0004-0011 | PC-AR-0004-0012 | PC-AR-0004-0013
Jackson, Jerry D. (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0006
Kaplan, Philip E. (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0001 | PC-AR-0004-0002 | PC-AR-0004-0003 | PC-AR-0004-0004 | PC-AR-0004-0005 | PC-AR-0004-0007 | PC-AR-0004-0008 | PC-AR-0004-0009 | PC-AR-0004-0010 | PC-AR-0004-0011 | PC-AR-0004-0012 | PC-AR-0004-0013 | PC-AR-0004-0015 | PC-AR-0004-9000
McMath, Phillip H. (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0004 | PC-AR-0004-0007 | PC-AR-0004-0007 | PC-AR-0004-0008 | PC-AR-0004-0009 | PC-AR-0004-0010 | PC-AR-0004-0011 | PC-AR-0004-0012
Defendant's Lawyers Boswell, Ted (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0002
Clark, Steve (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0009 | PC-AR-0004-0010 | PC-AR-0004-0011 | PC-AR-0004-0012
Hardage, Albert Carter (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0009 | PC-AR-0004-0010 | PC-AR-0004-0011 | PC-AR-0004-0012 | PC-AR-0004-9000
Hargraves, O. H. (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0003
Langston, Don (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0006 | PC-AR-0004-0013
Lassiter, Jack T. (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0004 | PC-AR-0004-0005
Lueken, Milton (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0002
Lyford, Robert M. (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0007 | PC-AR-0004-0008
Newcomb, Robert A. (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0004 | PC-AR-0004-0005
Smedley, James E. (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0007 | PC-AR-0004-0008
Taylor, Garner L. Jr. (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0015
Thornton, Ray (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0001
Tucker, Jim Guy (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0004 | PC-AR-0004-0005
Wilson, Mike (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0001 | PC-AR-0004-0006 | PC-AR-0004-0013
Other Lawyers Clinton, William Jefferson (Arkansas)
PC-AR-0004-0007 | PC-AR-0004-0007

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