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Case Name Brown v. Secretary, Department of Corrections PC-FL-0010
Docket / Court 2:03-cv-00526-JES-DNF ( M.D. Fla. )
State/Territory Florida
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization Southern Poverty Law Center
Case Summary
In the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, a group of state prisoners filed a class action complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on September 12, 2003. The plaintiffs' attorneys included lawyers of the Florida Institutional Legal Services, Inc., the Florida Justice Institute, ... read more >
In the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, a group of state prisoners filed a class action complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on September 12, 2003. The plaintiffs' attorneys included lawyers of the Florida Institutional Legal Services, Inc., the Florida Justice Institute, Inc., the Southern Poverty Law Center, and private counsel. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as attorneys' fees, from the defendant state officials, basing their complaint upon allegations that Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) officers improperly used chemical agents (tear gas and pepper spray) against prisoners in "non-spontaneous" circumstances. (Spontaneous circumstances, the plaintiffs explained, were those presenting an immediate need to use force without time for reflection or planning.)

According to the complaint, rather than use the chemical agents as a good-faith means of maintaining prison order and discipline, the officers used these chemicals maliciously and sadistically, contravening the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment,. The complaint detailed numerous instances of chemical agent misuse, in violation of applicable FDOC regulations governing use of force,. The complaint also set out allegations of officials' use of stronger-than-authorized chemical agents, officials' increasingly-common resort to use of chemical agents when unauthorized by regulations, their failure to fairly investigate and act upon prisoners' grievances stemming from the misuse and overuse of these sprays, and purposeful neglect of post-use procedures to limit pain and injury stemming from these chemicals. Plaintiffs sought an injunction that would forbidthe excessive and unjustified use of these chemical agents and require that the defendants develop and submit to the court a comprehensive plan ensuring only the constitutionally-justified use of this form of discipline.

On July 14, 2004, in an unpublished order, District Judge John E. Steel denied the defendants' motion to dismiss the case, finding that the plaintiffs had standing and had sufficiently alleged facts which, if proven true, would entitle them to relief. Judge Steel later, on September 20, 2004, denied the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and expressed reluctance to interfere in prison operations, at least at this stage of the proceedings.

The effort to have plaintiffs' case certified as a class action was rejected by Judge Steel on June 21, 2005. According to the court, the fact-intensive nature of the use of these sprays by correctional officers precluded his finding that the factual allegations by the named plaintiffs had sufficient typicality and commonality with other and future prisoners' circumstances. Plaintiffs' attempt to have Judge Steel reconsider his denial of class action status was denied on July 21, 2005.

On November 28, 2005, the case was dismissed without prejudice, after the parties had, on November 23, 2005, filed a stipulation of dismissal, with each party to bear its own costs and expenses. Although this suggests that a settlement occurred, we have neither a copy of a settlement agreement nor any information about settlement terms.

Mike Fagan - 04/10/2008


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Male
General
Assault/abuse by staff
Disciplinary procedures
Pepper/OC spray
Restraints : chemical
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Charlotte Correctional Institution
Florida Department of Corrections
Santa Rosa Correctional Institution
Washington Correctional Institution
Plaintiff Description Prisoners in the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections, and all of whom allege they have been the victims of unjustified or excessive use of chemical agents by Florida Department of Corrections employees.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Southern Poverty Law Center
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Unknown
Source of Relief Unknown
Form of Settlement Voluntary Dismissal
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2005
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)
2:03-cv-00526-JES-DNF (M.D. Fla.) 01/04/2006
PC-FL-0010-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 09/12/2003
PC-FL-0010-0001 PDF | Detail
Order [Granting Plaintiffs' Second Motion to Compel] 04/21/2004 (M.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0010-0002 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel] 04/23/2004 (M.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0010-0003 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel] 04/23/2004 (M.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0010-0004 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Denying Motion to Dismiss] 07/14/2004 (M.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0010-0005 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Denying Motion for Sanctions; Granting in Part Motion to Compel] 07/28/2004 (M.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0010-0006 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order [Denying Motion for Preliminary Injunction] 09/20/2004 (M.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0010-0007 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [RE: Plaintiff's Motion to Compel and for Rule 37(B) Sanctions] 12/17/2004 (M.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0010-0008 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order [Denying Motion for Class Certification] 06/21/2005 (2005 WL 473817) (M.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0010-0009 PDF | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Denying Motion to Compel Inspection of Prison Facilities] 06/21/2005 (M.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0010-0010 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [RE: Motion to Compel Response] 06/23/2005 (M.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0010-0011 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order [Denying Motion to Reconsider Order Denying Class Certification] 07/18/2005 (2005 WL 1702834) (M.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0010-0012 PDF | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judgment [Dismissing Case] 11/28/2005 (M.D. Fla.)
PC-FL-0010-0013 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Frazier, Douglas N. (M.D. Fla.) [Magistrate]
PC-FL-0010-0002 | PC-FL-0010-0003 | PC-FL-0010-0004 | PC-FL-0010-0006 | PC-FL-0010-0008 | PC-FL-0010-0010 | PC-FL-0010-0011 | PC-FL-0010-9000
Steele, John E. (M.D. Fla.) [Magistrate]
PC-FL-0010-0005 | PC-FL-0010-0007 | PC-FL-0010-0009 | PC-FL-0010-0012 | PC-FL-0010-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Berg, Randall Challen Jr. (Florida)
PC-FL-0010-0001 | PC-FL-0010-0002 | PC-FL-0010-0004 | PC-FL-0010-9000
Brownstein, Rhonda C. (Alabama)
PC-FL-0010-0001 | PC-FL-0010-0002 | PC-FL-0010-0004 | PC-FL-0010-9000
Capobianco, Cassandra J. (Florida)
PC-FL-0010-9000
Jones, Christopher Michael (Florida)
PC-FL-0010-0001 | PC-FL-0010-0002 | PC-FL-0010-0004 | PC-FL-0010-9000
Lentz, Kristen Cooley (Florida)
PC-FL-0010-9000
O'Brien, Cullin Avram (Florida)
PC-FL-0010-9000
Shirley, Lisa White (Texas)
PC-FL-0010-0001 | PC-FL-0010-0002 | PC-FL-0010-0004 | PC-FL-0010-9000
Siegel, Peter Michael (Florida)
PC-FL-0010-0001 | PC-FL-0010-0002 | PC-FL-0010-0004 | PC-FL-0010-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Dean, Dennis Allen (Florida)
PC-FL-0010-0002 | PC-FL-0010-0004 | PC-FL-0010-9000
Kilinski, Caryl (Florida)
PC-FL-0010-9000
La Plante, Donna M. (Florida)
PC-FL-0010-9000
Savor, Kathleen M. (Florida)
PC-FL-0010-0002 | PC-FL-0010-0004 | PC-FL-0010-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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