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Case Name Dickerson v. Castle PC-DE-0001
Docket / Court 10256 ( State Court )
State/Territory Delaware
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization ACLU National (all projects)
ACLU National Prison Project
Case Summary
Prisoners in the Delaware state prison system filed a class action lawsuit in March 1980 in the Delaware Court of Chancery in New Castle County alleging that overcrowding at the prison in Smyrna violated article I, ยง11 of the Delaware Constitution which provides that ""in the construction of ... read more >
Prisoners in the Delaware state prison system filed a class action lawsuit in March 1980 in the Delaware Court of Chancery in New Castle County alleging that overcrowding at the prison in Smyrna violated article I, §11 of the Delaware Constitution which provides that ""in the construction of jails a proper regard shall be had to the health of prisoners."" The plaintiff class was represented by Community Legal Aid Society, the ACLU of Delaware and the ACLU National Prison Project. A settlement agreement was entered on November 28, 1988, and the agreement's broad provisions covered many areas not originally contained in the complaint by addressing health care services, legal access, and environmental conditions as well as overcrowding. The agreement's provisions were to be applied to all four major prisons operated by the Delaware Department of Correction. Approximately one year after entry of the agreement, the plaintiffs filed a motion to show cause why the defendants should not be held in civil contempt based on alleged violations of the settlement agreement. After filing the contempt motion, the defendants, state prison officials, made significant improvements in the state prisons including improvements in ventilation systems, beginning construction of a new women's prison, and work release and pre-trial release programs to reduce overcrowding.

Because of these improvements, the Court of Chancery (Vice-Chancellor Chandler) found that the defendants were in compliance with the settlement agreement. Dickerson v. Castle, Civ.A.No. 10256, 1991 WL 208467 (Del.Ch. Oct. 15, 1991) (unpublished memorandum opinion). However, Vice-Chancellor Chandler concluded that under the Court of Chancery's inherent equitable powers, reasonable attorneys' fees to plaintiffs' counsel were to be awarded because the motion and ensuing litigation resulted in certain benefits for the plaintiff class. In subsequent litigation over the amount of attorneys' fees, the plaintiffs argued that they were entitled to the lodestar figure of $311,405. Vice-Chancellor Chandler instead held that plaintiffs' reasonable attorneys' fees were $30,000, considering the benefits obtained for the class and the causal connection of those benefits to this litigation. Dickerson v. Castle, Civ.A.No. 10256, 1992 WL 205796 (Del.Ch. Aug. 21, 1992) (unpublished memorandum opinion). The Supreme Court of Delaware affirmed the decision regarding attorneys' fees on March 2, 1993. Dickerson v. Castle, 622 A.2d 1094 (Del. 1993).

The plaintiffs filed a subsequent contempt motion which was settled by a stipulation order entered on December 15, 1992, that addressed overcrowding problems and tuberculosis control throughout the prison system and legal access at the Women's Correctional Institute. After a third contempt motion filed by the plaintiffs, Vice-Chancellor Chandler found for the defendants on all counts except for a finding that the defendants had failed to implement an adequate tuberculosis control system. Dickerson v. Castle, Civ.A.No. 10256, 1995 WL 606316 (Del.Ch. Sep. 7, 1995). Vice-Chancellor Chandler also dismissed the lawsuit and ordered that any future efforts to enforce the 1988 agreement or the 1992 stipulation must be brought as a separate contract action. No docket for this case is available on PACER because it was litigated in state court.

Tom Madison - 04/01/2006


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Sanitation / living conditions
Totality of conditions
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Delaware Department of Correction
Plaintiff Description prisoners in the Delaware State Prison System
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU National (all projects)
ACLU National Prison Project
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 1988 - 1995
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing No
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 ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Complaint for Preliminary and Permanent Injunction and Declaratory Judgment 03/17/1980
PC-DE-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: ACLU National Prison Project
Settlement Agreement (Class Action) 11/21/1988
PC-DE-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: ACLU National Prison Project
Memorandum Opinion 10/15/1991 (1991 WL 208467 / 1991 Del.Ch.LEXIS 157)
PC-DE-0001-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Opinion 08/21/1992 (1992 WL 205796)
PC-DE-0001-0010.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Stipulation for Dismissal of Second Motion for Order to Show Cause 10/14/1992
PC-DE-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: ACLU National Prison Project
Notice and Summary of Proposed Settlement in Class Action 10/30/1992
PC-DE-0001-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: ACLU National Prison Project
Order 12/15/1992
PC-DE-0001-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: ACLU National Prison Project
Order 03/02/1993 (622 A.2d 1094)
PC-DE-0001-0012.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Amended Complaint (Class Action) 01/01/1995
PC-DE-0001-0007.pdf | Detail
Document Source: ACLU National Prison Project
Stipulated Order 02/09/1995
PC-DE-0001-0008.pdf | Detail
Document Source: ACLU National Prison Project
Memorandum Opinion 09/07/1995 (1995 WL 606316 / 1995 Del.Ch.LEXIS 121)
PC-DE-0001-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Judges Chandler, William B. III (State Trial Court)
PC-DE-0001-0002 | PC-DE-0001-0006 | PC-DE-0001-0008 | PC-DE-0001-0009 | PC-DE-0001-0010 | PC-DE-0001-0011
Holland, Randy J. (State Supreme Court)
PC-DE-0001-0012
Horsey, Henry R. (State Supreme Court)
PC-DE-0001-0012
Veasey, E. Norman (State Supreme Court)
PC-DE-0001-0012
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Alexander, Elizabeth R. (District of Columbia)
PC-DE-0001-0002 | PC-DE-0001-0004 | PC-DE-0001-0007 | PC-DE-0001-0008 | PC-DE-0001-0009 | PC-DE-0001-0010 | PC-DE-0001-0011
Bronstein, Alvin J. (District of Columbia)
PC-DE-0001-0002 | PC-DE-0001-0009 | PC-DE-0001-0010
Castle, Ben T. (Delaware)
PC-DE-0001-0002 | PC-DE-0001-0007 | PC-DE-0001-0009 | PC-DE-0001-0010
Himelein, Neilson C. (District of Columbia)
PC-DE-0001-0002 | PC-DE-0001-0004 | PC-DE-0001-0005 | PC-DE-0001-0006 | PC-DE-0001-0007 | PC-DE-0001-0008 | PC-DE-0001-0009 | PC-DE-0001-0010 | PC-DE-0001-0011
Lopez, Mark J. (District of Columbia)
PC-DE-0001-0002 | PC-DE-0001-0009 | PC-DE-0001-0010 | PC-DE-0001-0011
Myers, Gary A. (Delaware)
PC-DE-0001-0001
Oberly, Charles M. (District of Columbia)
PC-DE-0001-0002 | PC-DE-0001-0004
Schab, H. William Jr. (Delaware)
PC-DE-0001-0001
Defendant's Lawyers Brady, Keith (Delaware)
PC-DE-0001-0004
Capano, Thomas J. (Delaware)
PC-DE-0001-0009 | PC-DE-0001-0010
Danburg, Carl C. (Delaware)
PC-DE-0001-0008 | PC-DE-0001-0011
Hubbard, Richard W. (Delaware)
PC-DE-0001-0002 | PC-DE-0001-0002
Stabler, W. Laird (Delaware)
PC-DE-0001-0002
Welch, John K. (Delaware)
PC-DE-0001-0008 | PC-DE-0001-0011
White, David A. (Delaware)
PC-DE-0001-0006 | PC-DE-0001-0009 | PC-DE-0001-0010
Other Lawyers None on record

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