University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name U.S. v. California PC-CA-0013
Docket / Court 2:89-cv-01233-LKK-JFM ( E.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection California's Prisoners' Rights Bar article
Case Summary
On September 12, 1989, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against the State of California, the California Department of Corrections (DOC), and the California Medical Facility at Vacaville (CMF), under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997, in ... read more >
On September 12, 1989, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against the State of California, the California Department of Corrections (DOC), and the California Medical Facility at Vacaville (CMF), under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Sacramento Division. The complaint alleged that the defendants failed to provide persons imprisoned at CMF with constitutionally required medical care, dental care, and psychiatric care. The complaint further alleged that the defendants' acts and omissions constituted a pattern and practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights, privileges and immunities secured or protected by the Constitution.

Contemporaneously with the filing of the complaint, the parties lodged a proposed Consent Decree which was eventually approved by the District Court.

Note that also on September 12, 1989, the DOJ filed a complaint in intervention in a related case, Gates v. Deukmejian, No. CIV S-89-1233 EJG-JFM (E.D. Ca.) [PC-CA-0004 of this collection].

This lawsuit followed a DOJ investigation of conditions at CMF pursuant to CRIPA which began in March 1985. During the investigation, DOJ attorneys conducted tours of CMF with outside expert consultants, examined documents and medical records and interviewed inmates. The investigation uncovered deficiencies at CMF with respect to staffing, psychiatric care, medical record-keeping, environment conditions, and overcrowding. On January 6, 1987, the DOJ sent a letter to the DOC in which it detailed its findings and outlined the minimum remedial measures necessary to correct the conditions at CMF, which included: an increase in medical staff, an expansion of the sick call clinic, specialized care services and general health surveillance, improved housekeeping and sanitation practices, and the end of the CMF practice to use untrained inmates as medical attendants.

Following the DOJ's recommendations, the defendants voluntarily took affirmative steps towards improvement of conditions at CMF, and implemented the following changes: increases in staffing, improvement of inmate access to sick call and specialized medical services, elimination of inmates from the provision of direct patient services, renovation of medical and psychiatric facilities, provision for staffing and operation of acute psychiatric services, improvements in staffing and operation of the medical record system and a decrease in the number of inmates housed at CMF. While changes at the CMF continued to be implemented, the parties negotiated a formal resolution of the issues as set forth in the Consent Decree.

The Consent Decree called for the defendants to implement changes to psychiatric care, medical services and treatment, and dental care. Further, the Decree specified procedures for compliance and implementation of its provisions. The District Court retained jurisdiction over the Decree for enforcement purposes.

Significant litigation followed respecting compliance with the Consent Decree until, on February 14, 1997, the District Court (Judge Lawrence K. Karlton) granted the parties' joint motion to dismiss.

Josh Altman - 11/10/2006

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Bathing and hygiene
Classification / placement
Sanitation / living conditions
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Medical/Mental Health
Dental care
Medical care, general
Medication, administration of
Mental health care, general
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq.
Defendant(s) California Department of Corrections
California Medical Facility
State of California
Plaintiff Description United States Department of Justice
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
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 1989 - 1997
Case Closing Year 1997
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing PC-CA-0004 : Gates v. Deukmejian (E.D. Cal.)
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 ]

2:89-cv-01233 (E.D. Cal.) 12/24/1997
PC-CA-0013-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Notice Letter re: CRIPA Investigation of California Medical Facility, Vacaville, California 03/07/1985
PC-CA-0013-0001 PDF | Detail
Findings letter re: CRIPA Investigation of California Medical Facility 01/06/1987
PC-CA-0013-0002 PDF | Detail
Complaint 09/08/1989
PC-CA-0013-0003 PDF | Detail
Order Setting Status (Pretrial Scheduling Conference) 09/12/1989 (E.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0013-0004 PDF | Detail
Consent Decree 09/12/1989 (E.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0013-0005 PDF | Detail
Judges Garcia, Edward J. (E.D. Cal.)
Karlton, Lawrence K. (E.D. Cal.)
Moulds, John F. (E.D. Cal.) [Magistrate]
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Fidler, Gayle D. (District of Columbia)
PC-CA-0013-0003 | PC-CA-0013-0005
Hughes, Verlin (District of Columbia)
PC-CA-0013-0003 | PC-CA-0013-0005 | PC-CA-0013-9000
Levi, David F. (California)
PC-CA-0013-0003 | PC-CA-0013-0005
Peabody, Arthur E. Jr. (District of Columbia)
PC-CA-0013-0003 | PC-CA-0013-0005
Preston, Judith C. (District of Columbia)
Reynolds, William Bradford (District of Columbia)
PC-CA-0013-0001 | PC-CA-0013-0002
Schoen, Benjamin P. (District of Columbia)
PC-CA-0013-0003 | PC-CA-0013-0005
Thornburgh, Dick (District of Columbia)
Turner, James P. (District of Columbia)
PC-CA-0013-0003 | PC-CA-0013-0005
Defendant's Lawyers Cuneo, James B. (California)
Flynn, James Edmund (California)
Santoki, Michael Allen (California)
Other Lawyers Jackson, Raymond D. Sr. (California)
Lauranzano, Richard (California)

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