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Case Name Costello v. Wainwright PC-FL-0001
Docket / Court 72-109 ( M.D. Fla. )
State/Territory Florida
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On February 9, 1972, prisoners of the state of Florida filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the Florida Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The plaintiffs, alleging that their constitutional rights had been violated by ... read more >
On February 9, 1972, prisoners of the state of Florida filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the Florida Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The plaintiffs, alleging that their constitutional rights had been violated by inadequate medical care, insufficient staffing, overcrowding, and poor sanitation, asked the court for an injunction closing Florida's prison system to additional entrants and requiring the defendants to reduce the current inmate population to levels consistent with constitutional standards.

On May 22, 1975, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida (Judge Charles R. Scott) denied the defendants' request for a three-judge court and granted the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction, holding that the conditions in question violated the plaintiffs' constitutional rights. Costello v. Wainwright, 397 F.Supp. 20 (M.D.Fl. 1975). The court ordered the defendants to reduce the state's inmate population to "emergency capacity" (as defined by a 1972 report prepared for the Florida Division of Corrections by the American Justice Institute) within one year, and to reduce that population to "normal capacity" by December 1, 1976. The court ordered the defendants to give each inmate his or her own bed upon which to sleep. The defendants appealed.

On July 25, 1975, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted the defendants a temporary stay of the district court's order pending appeal. On January 15, 1976, the Fifth Circuit (Judge Elbert Parr Tuttle) vacated the stay and affirmed the district court's decision. Costello v. Wainwright, 525 F.2d 1239 (5th Cir. 1976). The defendants requested a rehearing en banc. On March 3, 1976, the Fifth Circuit agreed to hear the case en banc. Costello v. Wainwright, 528 F.2d (5th Cir. 1976).

On September 27, 1976, the en banc Fifth Circuit (Judge Paul Hitch Roney) vacated the district court's decision and set the case for reconsideration by a three-judge panel. The court held that the district court's order requiring the defendants to lower inmate population levels was beyond the power of a single federal judge because the relief granted stretched beyond the legal ability of the defendants to comply. Costello v. Wainwright, 539 F.2d 547 (5th Cir. 1976). The plaintiffs filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.

On March 21, 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a per curiam opinion reversing the en banc judgment of the Fifth Circuit and remanding the case for reconsideration. The Court held that a three-judge panel was not required at the district court level, thus the Fifth Circuit could hear the appeal on the merits of the case. Costello v. Wainwright, 430 U.S. 325 (1977).

On May 31, 1977, the en banc Fifth Circuit declined to hear the appeal on the merits of the case and reinstated the Fifth Circuit panel's January 15, 1976 affirmation of the district court's original decision. Costello v. Wainwright, 553 F.2d 506 (5th Cir. 1977).

On October 23, 1979, the parties entered into a settlement agreement regarding the issues related to overcrowding. The agreement established a formula for determining the state prison system's maximum capacity and provided that the population of the system would never exceed that maximum capacity. On February 11, 1980, the district court (Judge Scott) approved the agreement as a consent decree. Costello v. Wainwright, 489 F.Supp. 1100 (M.D.Fla. 1980).

According to later opinions, the parties entered into additional consent decrees on July 27, 1981, regarding the issues of food service, overcrowding, and health care. Several years later, the plaintiffs asked the district court to hold the defendants in contempt for failure to honor the agreement relating to health care. On August 22, 1985, the district court (Judge Susan Harrell Black) appointed a special master (Joseph R. Julin from the University of Florida College of Law) to survey the medical situation in the prison system.

On December 18, 1987, the district court (Judge Black) entered yet another consent decree in the case. The decree held Richard L. Dugger, the Secretary of the Department of Corrections, in civil contempt of the court's earlier orders and enjoined him from failing to comply with the court's further orders. The decree enjoined the defendants' use of inmates in the provision of healthcare in prisons and ordered the defendants to make over-the-counter medications available to the general population in all housing units. The decree further required the defendants to transfer inmates requiring emergency care to an appropriate community hospital, to furnish x-rays within a reasonable amount of time, to provide necessary nursing care, to have each inmate in the prison system medically evaluated, and to properly educate and train their medical staff.

On October 9, 1992, the special master filed a report recommending that the district court close the case. On March 30, 1993, the district court (Judge Black) adopted the special master's recommendation and closed the case. Celestineo v. Singletary, 147 F.R.D. 258 (M.D.Fla. 1993).

Kristen Sagar - 06/26/2006

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Crowding / caseload
Pre-PLRA Population Cap
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Sanitation / living conditions
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Mental health care, general
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Florida Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description all prisoners in Florida
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1980 - 1993
Case Closing Year 1993
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 ]

  Mass Incarceration and the Paradox of Prison Conditions Litigation
Written: Dec. 01, 2010
By: Heather Schoenfeld
Citation: 44 Law & Soc'y Rev. 731 (2010)
[ Detail ]

72-109 (M.D. Fla.) 02/28/2005
PC-FL-0001-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Order and Preliminary Injunction and Opinion 05/22/1975 (397 F.Supp. 20) (M.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0001-0007 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Reported Opinion 01/15/1976 (525 F.2d 1239)
PC-FL-0001-0008 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
On Petition for Rehearsing and Petition for Rehearsing En Banc 03/03/1976 (528 F.2d 1381)
PC-FL-0001-0013 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Reported Opinion 09/27/1976 (539 F.2d 547)
PC-FL-0001-0009 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Reported Opinion 03/21/1977 (430 U.S. 325)
PC-FL-0001-0014 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Decision 03/31/1977 (553 F.2d 506)
PC-FL-0001-0010 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Settlement Agreement 10/23/1979
PC-FL-0001-0001 PDF | Detail
Consent Order and Judgment, and Stipulation of Dismissal 10/23/1979
PC-FL-0001-0002 PDF | Detail
Objections to Proposed Settlement (edited version) 01/01/1980
PC-FL-0001-0003 PDF | Detail
Order Approving Settlement Agreement 02/11/1980 (489 F.Supp. 1100) (M.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0001-0011 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Opinion and Order Preamble 08/22/1985 (M.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0001-0005 PDF | Detail
Consent Order 12/18/1987
PC-FL-0001-0006 PDF | Detail
Opinion and Order Granting Final Judgment 03/30/1993 (147 F.R.D. 258) (M.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0001-0012 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Judges Ainsworth, Robert Andrew Jr. (E.D. La., Fifth Circuit)
PC-FL-0001-0009 | PC-FL-0001-0010 | PC-FL-0001-0013
Black, Susan Harrell (Eleventh Circuit, M.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0001-0005 | PC-FL-0001-0006 | PC-FL-0001-0012
Brown, Stephen Thomas (S.D. Fla.) [Magistrate]
PC-FL-0001-0008 | PC-FL-0001-0009 | PC-FL-0001-0010 | PC-FL-0001-0013
Corrigan, Timothy J. (M.D. Fla.) [Magistrate]
Dyer, David William (Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit, S.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0001-0009 | PC-FL-0001-0010 | PC-FL-0001-0013
Gee, Thomas Gibbs (Fifth Circuit)
PC-FL-0001-0009 | PC-FL-0001-0010 | PC-FL-0001-0013
Gewin, Walter Pettus (Fifth Circuit)
PC-FL-0001-0009 | PC-FL-0001-0010 | PC-FL-0001-0013
Godbold, John Cooper (Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit)
PC-FL-0001-0009 | PC-FL-0001-0010 | PC-FL-0001-0013
Roney, Paul Hitch (Eleventh Circuit, FISCR, Fifth Circuit)
PC-FL-0001-0008 | PC-FL-0001-0009 | PC-FL-0001-0010 | PC-FL-0001-0013
Scott, Charles Ray (M.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0001-0007 | PC-FL-0001-0011
Thornberry, William Homer (W.D. Tex., Fifth Circuit)
PC-FL-0001-0009 | PC-FL-0001-0010 | PC-FL-0001-0013
Tjoflat, Gerald Bard (Eleventh Circuit, M.D. Fla., Fifth Circuit)
PC-FL-0001-0009 | PC-FL-0001-0010 | PC-FL-0001-0013
Tuttle, Arthur J. (E.D. Mich.)
PC-FL-0001-0008 | PC-FL-0001-0009 | PC-FL-0001-0010
Wisdom, John Minor (Fifth Circuit)
Monitors/Masters Cullen, Robert W. (Georgia)
Julin, Joseph R. (Florida)
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brown, Sharon Jacobs (Florida)
du Fresne, Elizabeth J. (Florida)
Greenberg, Jack (New York)
PC-FL-0001-0009 | PC-FL-0001-0010
Jacobs, Sharon B. (Florida)
PC-FL-0001-0005 | PC-FL-0001-0006
Sheppard, William J. (Florida)
PC-FL-0001-0005 | PC-FL-0001-0006 | PC-FL-0001-0012 | PC-FL-0001-9000
Simon, Tobias (Florida)
PC-FL-0001-0001 | PC-FL-0001-0002 | PC-FL-0001-0007 | PC-FL-0001-0008 | PC-FL-0001-0009 | PC-FL-0001-0010 | PC-FL-0001-0011 | PC-FL-0001-0013
Defendant's Lawyers Barley, John A. (Florida)
PC-FL-0001-0008 | PC-FL-0001-0009 | PC-FL-0001-0010 | PC-FL-0001-0013
Butterworth, Robert A. (Florida)
Gearey, Raymond W. (Florida)
PC-FL-0001-0007 | PC-FL-0001-0008 | PC-FL-0001-0009 | PC-FL-0001-0010 | PC-FL-0001-0013
McKenzie, Sydney H. III (Florida)
PC-FL-0001-0001 | PC-FL-0001-0002 | PC-FL-0001-0011
Oxner, Jerry E. (Florida)
PC-FL-0001-0007 | PC-FL-0001-0008 | PC-FL-0001-0013
Peters, James Allen (Florida)
Sherrill, William C. Jr. (Florida)
PC-FL-0001-0001 | PC-FL-0001-0002 | PC-FL-0001-0005 | PC-FL-0001-0009 | PC-FL-0001-0010 | PC-FL-0001-0011
Shevin, Robert L. (Florida)
PC-FL-0001-0008 | PC-FL-0001-0009 | PC-FL-0001-0010 | PC-FL-0001-0013
Smith, Jim (Florida)
PC-FL-0001-0001 | PC-FL-0001-0002 | PC-FL-0001-0011
Stinson, Donna H. (Florida)
PC-FL-0001-0008 | PC-FL-0001-0013
Tucker, Kimberly Jeanene (Florida)
PC-FL-0001-0006 | PC-FL-0001-0012
Vail, E. Jason (Florida)
Other Lawyers Graves, William C. (District of Columbia)
PC-FL-0001-0008 | PC-FL-0001-0009 | PC-FL-0001-0010 | PC-FL-0001-0013
Landsberg, Brian K. (District of Columbia)
PC-FL-0001-0008 | PC-FL-0001-0009 | PC-FL-0001-0010 | PC-FL-0001-0013
Utley, Margie A. (District of Columbia)
Vanderhoff, David J.W. (District of Columbia)

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