On January 9, 2001, inmates at the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP), represented by the ACLU, filed a Section 1983 class action suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio against officials of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Plaintiffs alleged violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Specifically, plaintiffs complained of inadequate medical and mental health services, improper classification and transfer procedures, and inadequate suicide prevention procedures.
Following discovery, the District Court (Judge James S. Gwin) granted plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction preventing defendants from returning seriously mentally ill inmates to OSP and set trial for January 2002. Prior to the trial, the parties agreed to a limited settlement agreement that addressed the classification of inmates, and the inadequacy of the medical and mental health services. In April 2002, following a fairness hearing, the court approved the settlement agreement.
Following the trial, Judge Gwin held that defendants had violated the plaintiff class's right to due process by denying the plaintiffs adequate notice, adequate hearing, and sufficiently detailed decisions regarding transfer. Austin v. Wilkinson, 189 F. Supp. 2d 719 (N.D. Ohio 2002). Following receipt of the parties' proposed injunctive orders, Judge Gwin issued an injunction directing defendants to correct each of the deficiencies the court had found. Austin v. Wilkinson, 204 F. Supp. 2d 1024 (N.D. Ohio 2002). Defendants appealed.
The Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded, holding that the district court lacked the power to modify substantive prison regulations. Austin v. Wilkinson, 372 F.3d 346 (2004). Prison officials applied for certiorari which was granted.
The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy held that although the inmates had a liberty interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause in avoiding assignment to the supermax prison, the State's new policy and procedures were sufficient to satisfy due process. Wilkinson v. Austin, 125 S. Ct. 2384 (2005).
On August 3, 2006, the District Court (Judge Gwin) granted the defendants' motion to terminate the medical provisions of the injunctive order.
On September 27, 2007, Judge Gwin granted in part and denied in part plaintiffs' motion for order directing defendants to modify their proposed prison administration policies. Judge Gwin ordered defendants to 1) consider and communicate in sufficient detail inmates’ positive behavior during the annual review process; 2) provide more justification for security assessments; and 3) revise the election form to better communicate the consequences of choosing to remain at OSP and thereby waiving certain rights. 2007 WL 2840352.
On October 18, 2007, Judge Gwin denied plaintiffs’ motion to vacate the previous judgment and reopen mental health claims, which they brought over five years ago and which they agreed as resolved through the Court’s earlier findings and orders. 2007 WL 3047157.
Defendants appealed the September 27, 2007, order and moved to stay that order pending appeal. On January 10, 2008, Judge Gwin denied defendants' motion to stay pending appeal because 1) defendants were unlikely to prevail on their appeal; 2) defendants were unlikely to suffer irreparable harm absent a stay; 3) others faced harm if the Court granted the stay; and 4) the stay was not in the public interest. 2008 WL 115094.
On March 12, 2008, Judge Gwin denied plaintiffs’ motion to extend the jurisdiction of the Court over this case for another year and granted defendants’ motion to terminate the prospective relief provided by the Court’s previous orders because defendants were no longer committing ongoing constitutional violations. 2008 WL 697679.
On July 16, 2008, the parties reached a settlement agreement and agreed to terminate the case. Defendants agreed to pay $59,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs. As such, on August 4, 2008, the appeal to the Sixth Circuit was dismissed.Kristen Sagar - 08/16/2007
Jessica Kincaid - 11/08/2013