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Case Name Inmates of the Maine State Prison v. Zitnay PC-ME-0004
Docket / Court 78-90 ( D. Me. )
State/Territory Maine
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
This case represents three consolidated class actions challenging conditions and policies at the Maine State Prison (MSP), Maine's only maximum security correctional facility for men. Represented by the ACLU National Prison Project and Pine Tree Legal Assistance with the help of private counsel, ... read more >
This case represents three consolidated class actions challenging conditions and policies at the Maine State Prison (MSP), Maine's only maximum security correctional facility for men. Represented by the ACLU National Prison Project and Pine Tree Legal Assistance with the help of private counsel, inmates of the Maine State Prison brought the initial civil rights suit, No. 78-90 in federal court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 on May 5, 1978. This case was brought on behalf of all MSP inmates who had been or might be confined in administrative segregation. The case was subsequently consolidated with two related class actions filed by inmates at MSP: Maine State Prison et al v. Mental Health & Corr., No. 79-8, brought on behalf of all inmates in protective custody, and Lovell et al v. Corrections et al., No. 79-76, brought on behalf of all inmates in the general population. All three cases also challenged use of so-called ""restraint cells"" - also known as ""the hole"" by inmates - in the prison's segregation unit. Suit was brought against the Governor of Maine, the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections and the Warden at MSP.

In the first case, inmates challenged poor conditions in administrative segregation as well as the process for assigning inmates to administrative segregation, alleging that it not only violated the U.S. Constitution and state law, but also was in violation of a 1973 consent decree in Inmates v. Mullaney (No. 11-187) (D.Me. 1973), PC-ME-003. The other cases challenged conditions in protective custody and in the general population, alleging that they violated the 8th Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Following initial evidentiary hearings, a new warden was appointed to the prison, who made substantial improvements in the prison's programs, and the record was re-opened. However, further negotiations failed to resolve the cases, and comprehensive briefs were filed and oral arguments held in October 1982.

On June 22, 1983, Judge Edward Gignoux issued an opinion and order in the three cases, finding the claims related to administrative segregation meritorious, but rejecting the other challenges. Lovell v. Brennan, 566 F.Supp. 672 (D.Me. 1983), which was affirmed by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. Lovell v. Brennan, 728 F.2d 560 (1st Cir. 1984).

While finding that overall conditions of confinement did not violate inmates' rights, in his ruling, Judge Gignoux concluded that the procedures for assigning inmates to administrative segregation violated the terms of the 1973 consent decree and that the prison's use of restraint cells was ""so inhumane"" that it violated the 8th and 14th Amendments (the small, windowless cells had no internal lighting or heat and were completely barren, except for a hole in the floor which served as a toilet, which could not be flushed from inside the cell). The court issued an order barring further violations in those areas. The Court, dismissing the remaining claims, found that the other conditions of confinement the inmates complained of had improved substantially since the filing of the lawsuit and did not currently violate the constitution or the consent decree. Lovell v. Brennan, 566 F.Supp at 677. The court noted, however, that the prison conditions improved only because of the lawsuit and only to the minimum extent required by law.

Subsequently, the attorneys for the inmates in all three cases sought attorneys fees. The Court, in an opinion by Judge Gignoux, concluded that because the plaintiffs had succeeded on the major claims of their case, that they were considered ""prevailing parties"" and should be awarded attorneys fees. Inmates of the Maine State Prison v. Zitnay, 590 F.Supp. 979 (D.Me. 1984).

The partial docket sheet available on PACER includes only the parties' names.

Denise Lieberman - 10/16/2005


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Male
General
Administrative segregation
Classification / placement
Disciplinary segregation
Protective custody
Sanitation / living conditions
Totality of conditions
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) Maine Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description prisoners in administrative segregation at the Maine State Prison
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration 1983 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Unknown
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)
79-CV-00008 (D. Me.) 06/22/1983
PC-ME-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
2:78-CV-00090-ETG (D. Me.) 06/22/1983
PC-ME-0004-9001.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
79-CV-00076 (D. Me.) 06/22/1983
PC-ME-0004-9002.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Opinion and Order of the Court 06/22/1983 (566 F.Supp. 672) (D. Me.)
PC-ME-0004-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Opinion 02/29/1984 (728 F.2d 560)
PC-ME-0004-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Opinion of and Order of the Court 07/23/1984 (590 F.Supp. 979) (D. Me.)
PC-ME-0004-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Judges Bownes, Hugh Henry (D.N.H., First Circuit)
PC-ME-0004-0003
Breyer, Stephen Gerald (SCOTUS, First Circuit)
PC-ME-0004-0003
Coffin, Frank Morey (First Circuit)
PC-ME-0004-0003
Gignoux, Edward Thaxter (D. Me.)
PC-ME-0004-0001 | PC-ME-0004-0002 | PC-ME-0004-9000 | PC-ME-0004-9001 | PC-ME-0004-9002
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bronstein, Alvin J. (District of Columbia)
PC-ME-0004-0003
Davidson, R. James (Maine)
PC-ME-0004-0002
Geores, Martha E. (Maine)
PC-ME-0004-0002 | PC-ME-0004-0003
Klein, Edward (Maine)
PC-ME-0004-0002
Thibeault, Paul G. (Maine)
PC-ME-0004-0001 | PC-ME-0004-0002
Woodruff, Neville (Maine)
PC-ME-0004-0002
Defendant's Lawyers Laubenstein, William H. III (Maine)
PC-ME-0004-0001 | PC-ME-0004-0002 | PC-ME-0004-0003
Ogilvie, Gail (Maine)
PC-ME-0004-0001 | PC-ME-0004-0002 | PC-ME-0004-0003
Tierney, James E. (Maine)
PC-ME-0004-0003
Other Lawyers None on record

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