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Case Name Peterkin v. Jeffes PC-PA-0024
Docket / Court 83-0304 ( E.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
In 1983, death row inmates confined at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institutions at Graterford, Huntingdon, and Pittsburgh filed a Section 1983 class action suit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against officials of the Bureau of Corrections of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. ... read more >
In 1983, death row inmates confined at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institutions at Graterford, Huntingdon, and Pittsburgh filed a Section 1983 class action suit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against officials of the Bureau of Corrections of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. Plaintiffs challenged the conditions of their confinement under the Eighth Amendment, restrictions on their first amendment right to the free exercise of religion, and restrictions on their sixth amendment right to access to the courts.

Following eleven days of hearings, the District Court (Judge Joseph L. McGlynn) held that the conditions of confinement did not inflict cruel and unusual punishment; prison policy prohibiting religious activities that required congregation did not violate the First Amendment; and restrictions on access to the prison library did not violate right to access to the courts. Peterkin v. Jeffes, 661 F. Supp. 895 (E.D. Pa. 1987). Plaintiffs appealed.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.) affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. The Court of Appeals held that plaintiffs had failed to establish that the totality of conditions of their confinement constituted cruel and unusual punishment, but also held that defendants' practice of only providing access to legal materials by request did not provide plaintiffs meaningful access to the courts. Peterkin v. Jeffes, 855 F.2d 1021 (3d Cir. 1988).

Following remand, the parties entered into negotiations and reached a settlement, which was approved by the court in November 1989. Peterkin v. Jeffes, 1989 WL 140489 (E.D. Pa. November 14, 1989). The settlement provided for the creation of a mini-law library in each Restricted Housing Unit, where death-sentenced individuals are housed, and allowed two class members to work together unless there is an "articulable security objection."

In 1991, an inmate moved to enforce the terms of the agreement claiming that he had been denied access to the law library while working with another inmate. The court denied the inmate's motion holding that inmates who are confined to disciplinary custody based on a breach of serious prison regulations constitute an "articulable security objection." Peterkin v. Jeffes, 1991 WL 137122 (E.D. Pa. October 26, 1991).

The docket for this case is not available on PACER, and therefore our information ends with the most recent decision, dated July 19, 1991.

Eoghan Keenan - 06/10/2005


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Administrative segregation
Law library access
Library (non-law) access
Religious programs / policies
Totality of conditions
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) State Correctional Institution
Plaintiff Description death row inmates confined at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institutions
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 Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1989 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Unknown
Case Listing PC-PA-0006 : Tillery v. Owens (W.D. Pa.)
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
Memorandum of Decision 05/04/1987 (661 F.Supp. 895) (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0024-0001 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Opinion of the Court 08/23/1988 (855 F.2d 1021)
PC-PA-0024-0002 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum 11/14/1989 (1989 WL 140489 / 1989 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 13828) (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0024-0003 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Memorandum 10/26/1990 (1990 WL 165865 / 1990 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 14392) (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0024-0004 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Table 01/28/1991 (925 F.2d 419)
PC-PA-0024-0005 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Memorandum 07/19/1991 (1991 WL 137122 / 1991 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 9966) (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0024-0006 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Table 01/08/1992 (953 F.2d 1380)
PC-PA-0024-0007 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Judges Higginbotham, Aloyisus Leon Jr. (E.D. Pa., FISCR, Third Circuit)
PC-PA-0024-0002
McGlynn, Joseph Leo Jr. (E.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0024-0001 | PC-PA-0024-0003 | PC-PA-0024-0004 | PC-PA-0024-0006
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bronstein, Donald S. (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0024-0003 | PC-PA-0024-0004 | PC-PA-0024-0006
Crawford, James D. (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0024-0003 | PC-PA-0024-0004 | PC-PA-0024-0006
Presser, Stefan (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0024-0001 | PC-PA-0024-0002 | PC-PA-0024-0003 | PC-PA-0024-0004 | PC-PA-0024-0006
Price, Nicholas N. (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0024-0003 | PC-PA-0024-0004 | PC-PA-0024-0006
Defendant's Lawyers Shellenberger, John O.J. (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0024-0003 | PC-PA-0024-0004 | PC-PA-0024-0006
Vickers, Maria Parisi (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0024-0001 | PC-PA-0024-0002 | PC-PA-0024-0004 | PC-PA-0024-0006
Other Lawyers None on record

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