University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Hoffer v. Fair PC-MA-0029
Docket / Court SJ-1985-0071 ( State Court )
State/Territory Massachusetts
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Solitary confinement
Attorney Organization Legal Services/Legal Aid
Prisoners' Legal Services of Massachusetts
Case Summary
On February 8, 1985, six prisoners housed at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute-Cedar Junction Department Segregation Unit (DSU) ("10 Block plaintiffs") sent a letter entitled "An Open Letter from Ten Block MCI Walpole" to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, describing the recent ... read more >
On February 8, 1985, six prisoners housed at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute-Cedar Junction Department Segregation Unit (DSU) ("10 Block plaintiffs") sent a letter entitled "An Open Letter from Ten Block MCI Walpole" to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, describing the recent death of a fellow DSU inmate. The 10 Block plaintiffs alleged unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the DSU, including inadequate access to exercise and other activities; the denial of medical treatment and of visits from family and attorneys; and the closing of outer steel doors of DSU cells. On Februrary 25, 1985, the Supreme Judicial Court ordered that the letter be treated as a petition and referred the matter to Justice Paul J. Liacos for investigation and recommendation to the full court. The 10 Block plaintiffs eventually retained Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services (MCLS) as counsel.

On April 8, 1985, the Court ordered that MCLS staff attorneys and paralegals be permitted direct access to DSU inmates in order to determine whether any more of them required MCLS services. On June 20, 1985, the Court affirmed MCLS's visitation privileges, enjoining defendants from barring them from DOC facilities without court approval. The Court denied Defendant's motion to terminate these orders and Defendant appealed.

On June 21, 1985, the 10 Block plaintiffs filed an amended class action complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to conditions in segregation units and procedures by which inmates are placed and held there. 397 Mass. 152. On March 20, 1986, the Supreme Judicial Court (Justice Wilkins) affirmed the single justice's ruling, holding that defendant's prior violation of a court order permitting paralegal visitation privileges justified single justice's denial of motion to vacate. Id. On December 23, 1986, the Supreme Judicial Court (Master Linscott) granted the 10 Block plaintiffs motion for class certification.

On September 19, 1989, the Court (Justice Liacos) ordered that defendants promulgate new DSU regulations that comply with an specific minimum requirements regarding the process and standard of referral for transfer to DSU, as well as conditions within the DSU.

Even before all the above began place, one of the 10 Block Plaintiffs, Hoffer, had filed a §1983 suit in the Suffolk Superior Court of Massachusetts against the Massachusetts Commissioner of Corrections and the Superintendent of MCI, alleging violations of his state and federal due process rights. Specifically, Hoffer alleged that defendants illegally retained him in the DSU without setting a conditional release date or conditions of behavior. He sought sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as monetary damages. On March 3, 1992, the Suffolk Superior Court awarded plaintiff Hoffer monetary damages on his individual due process claim. Defendants appealed the amount of damages. The Supreme Judicial Court transferred the case from the Appeals Court and consolidated it with the "Open Letter" case. On April 13, 1992, the Supreme Judicial Court (Justice Nolan) held that plaintiff Hoffer was entitled to more than nominal damages regarding his individual due process claim, but only for the days after the first 90 of his commitment.

The parties settled, and the Court issued a final judgment on December 28, 1993, ordering defendants to provide minimum procedures and substantive protections in compliance with DSU regulations provided to DSU officials, staff, and inmates.

On July 26, 1995, the litigation heated up again, when the plaintiffs filed a motion for an emergency injunction preventing the state from repealing the DSU regulations. On September 26, 1995, the docket shows that the Court "post final judgment order" stating: "After considering Plaintiffs' Motion to Enjoin Repeal of DSU Regulations; Defendant's Opposition thereto; Plaintiffs' Reply Memorandum in Support of Motion to Enjoin Repeal of DSU Regulations; the authority granted the Commissioner under G.L. c. 127, sec. 39; the requirements of the Final Judgment entered in this matter; and the arguments of counsel at a hearing on September 20, 1995, it is hereby ORDERED that: Plaintiffs' Motion to Enjoin Repeal of DSU Regulations is allowed. (Greaney, J.)"

Timothy Shoffner - 05/01/2013

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Administrative segregation
Conditions of confinement
Disciplinary segregation
Recreation / Exercise
Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) State of Massachusetts
Plaintiff Description prisoners housed at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute-Cedar Junction Department Segregation Unit
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Legal Services/Legal Aid
Prisoners' Legal Services of Massachusetts
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1989 - n/a
Filed 02/08/1985
Case Closing Year 1993
Case Ongoing Perhaps, but long-dormant
1991-J-0376 (State Court of Appeals)
PC-MA-0029-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/24/1991
Source: State Court Website
1991-P-0766 (State Court of Appeals)
PC-MA-0029-9002.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/13/1991
Source: State Court Website
SJC-05821 (State Supreme Court)
PC-MA-0029-9003.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/13/1992
Source: State Court Website
SJ-1985-0071 (State Supreme Court)
PC-MA-0029-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/28/2007
Source: State Court Website
General Documents
Opinion (397 Mass. 152)
PC-MA-0029-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/20/1986
Source: Westlaw
Memorandum, Order and Judgment
PC-MA-0029-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/03/1988
Opinion (412 Mass. 450)
PC-MA-0029-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/13/1992
Source: Westlaw
PC-MA-0029-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/20/1993
Final Judgment
PC-MA-0029-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/28/1993
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Judges Greaney, John M. (State Supreme Court) show/hide docs
PC-MA-0029-0004 | PC-MA-0029-9000
Liacos, Paul J (State Supreme Court) show/hide docs
Nolan, Joseph R. (State Supreme Court) show/hide docs
Wilkins, Herbert P. (State Supreme Court) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Lewis, Daniel M. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
PC-MA-0029-9002 | PC-MA-0029-9003
Murphy, Charles G. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
PC-MA-0029-9001 | PC-MA-0029-9003
Defendant's Lawyers Hanson, Herbert (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
Madden, Veronica (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
Wyzanski, Charles Edward Jr. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
PC-MA-0029-0005 | PC-MA-0029-9001 | PC-MA-0029-9003

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