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Case Name Ball v. LeBlanc PC-LA-0014
Docket / Court 3:13-cv-00368 ( M.D. La. )
State/Territory Louisiana
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On June 10, 2013, several death row inmates filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections and the Louisiana State Penitentiary. The plaintiffs, represented by the Promise ... read more >
On June 10, 2013, several death row inmates filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections and the Louisiana State Penitentiary. The plaintiffs, represented by the Promise of Justice Initiative and private counsel, alleged they were subject to serious mental and physical health risks from continuous exposure to severe seasonal heat, which they claimed violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

On December 19, 2013, the District Court (Judge Brian A. Jackson) ordered that the defendants immediately develop a plan to reduce and maintain the heat index in the death row tiers at or below 88 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, the court sanctioned defendants based on their bad faith attempts to manipulate data and to abuse discovery. This was based on what plaintiffs had asserted before, that in response to an order to “monitor, record, and report the temperature, humidity, and heat index in each of the death row tiers,” defendants had instead attempted to manipulate the evidence by putting soaker hoses on awnings to mist the walls of certain tiers, and also unsuccessfully attempting to develop a sprinkler system to wet the roof and yard of the prison. Court thus awarded the plaintiffs reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.

The defendants appealed this ruling and moved to stay the order. On January 17, 2014, the District Court denied the defendants' motion to stay pending appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. A month later, the Fifth Circuit also denied a stay pending appeal.

Pursuant to the District Court's order, on February 17, 2014, the defendants submitted a plan to keep the index in death row at or below 88 degrees Fahrenheit between April 1 and October 31. The defendants hired an expert, who determined that the only way to maintain this temperature was to install facility-wide air conditioning. Accordingly, the defendants proposed the addition of nine tons of air conditioning capacity on each death row tier. The plan also provided for automatic monitoring and recording of temperature and humidity data, one cold shower per day for each inmate, and the provision of clean ice and ice chests.

As the District Court proceeded with the case (and while the appeal proceeded before the Fifth Circuit), the United States Department of Justice filed a notice of interest in the case, expressing its view that if the Court found a constitutional violation, broad relief--including an independent monitor and access rights for the plaintiffs' counsel--was within the authority of the District Court. (The United States took no position on whether the conditions at Angola violated the Eighth Amendment.)

On May 23, 2014, the District Court (Judge Jackson) approved the State's remediation plan and chose a monitor. On June 3, 2014, the court rendered final judgment, finding for the prisoners on the Eighth Amendment claim and for the State on the Americans with Disabilities Act claim. The State appealed. This time, on June 6, 2014, the Fifth Circuit granted a stay while that appeal was pending. According to the informal Supreme Court Docket on Westlaw, the prisoners asked the Supreme Court Justice Scalia (who is the Circuit Justice for the Fifth Circuit) to vacate the stay on June 30, but on July 3 Justice Scalia denied that request.

On July 8, 2015, the Fifth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, in a decision by Judge Edith Jones. The Court of Appeals upheld the liability finding of the resolution of the Eighth Amendment and disability claims, but said that under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the injunction was too broad. The District Court's order to maintain the heat index at or below 88 degrees, the Court explained, amounted to a requirement of facility-wide air conditioning -- and that was not constitutionally compelled. A narrower remedy would suffice: a daily cold shower, or fans and ice containers, or plentiful cold drinking water and ice. In addition, the relief should not have been awarded facility wide. Since the action was not a class action, relief should have been awarded for the three plaintiffs, individually. Judge Reavley dissented, explaining that the injunction was sufficiently narrow. The Court remanded for crafting of an appropriately tailored injunction.

Meanwhile, the attorney’s fees and costs that plaintiffs had been granted on December 19, 2013 were still at issue. On July 20, 2015, the plaintiffs filed a request of $16,892 for attorney’s fees and costs. The court reassessed costs and damages at $15,262, and this ruling was entered on July 20, 2015. Plaintiffs and defendants agreed to attempt settlement as to the plaintiff’s motions for attorney’s fees, and submit confidential affidavits regarding settlement efforts by April 11, 2016.

On December 22, 2016, the District Court ordered the defendants to implement remedial measures described as the “Third Plan” whenever the heat index exceeded 88 degrees in plaintiffs’ death row tiers. Defendants appealed this ruling once more to the Fifth Circuit, arguing that the District Court violated the Fifth Circuit’s July 8, 2015 judgment. Meanwhile, on May 2, 2017, plaintiffs alleged that defendants had taken away the exhaust fans in plaintiff’s cells, and that defendants were violating the court’s injunctive order and were failing to maintain the status quo. Plaintiffs once more sought attorney’s fees for this violation. On December 22, 2017, special master Paul J. Hebert submitted a status report that was adopted as the court’s opinion, finding that the defendants were in fact complying with the Third Plan and that it seemed to be working, despite plaintiff’s objections. As such, the court denied plaintiff’s requests for attorney’s fees, though they did order defendants to pay for plaintiff’s expert costs.

On January 31, 2018, the Fifth Circuit issued a judgment (Judges Jerry E. Smith, Rhesa Hawkins Barksdale, and Stephen A. Higginson). The court began by explaining the procedural history of the entire case. They then went on to decide the claim of whether the Third Plan violated the Fifth Circuit’s July 8, 2015 judgment. The court held that the "heat index" part of the Third Plan, finding that it was not necessary or relevant. The court upheld the rest of the plan as having already been approved by the court and found necessary to remedy the harm experienced by the plaintiffs. Special Master Paul J. Hebert filed a status report that was last amended on June 4, 2018. According to the special report, the unremediated areas in the death row tiers were excessively hot, and ranged from 88 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit almost every day in June through September.

Plaintiff withdrew their motion for attorney's fees on August 15, 2018. The special master is continuing to issue reports as of November 2018.

Meredith Osborne - 11/03/2013
Jessica Kincaid - 03/09/2014
Jennifer Huseby - 10/25/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Male
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Monitor/Master
Preliminary relief granted
Recordkeeping
Reporting
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Conditions of confinement
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections
Plaintiff Description Inmates alleging injury due to extreme heat during summer months.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Filing Year 2013
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
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
Book
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
13A1286 (U.S. Supreme Court)
PC-LA-0014-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/03/2014
Source: Supreme Court website
3:13−cv−00368 (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0014-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/10/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-LA-0014-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/10/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Statement of Interest of the United States [ECF# 64]
PC-LA-0014-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/02/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [denying Defendants' motion to remove awnings] [ECF# 82] (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0014-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/17/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Ruling and Order [ECF# 87] (988 F.Supp.2d 639) (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0014-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/19/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Ruling and Order [Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for Judicial Notice of Prison Regulations and Louisiana Laws Requiring Climate Control] [ECF# 88] (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0014-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/19/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Ruling and Order [Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiffs' Motions for Sanctions] [ECF# 88] (300 F.R.D. 270) (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0014-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/19/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Ruling and Order [ECF# 88] (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0014-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/19/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Ruling and Order [Denying Defendants' Motion to Stay Pending Appeal] [ECF# 100] (2014 WL 231920) (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0014-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 01/17/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Ruling and Order [Denying Motion for Guidance from the Court] [ECF# 117] (2014 WL 639504) (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0014-0008.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/13/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Submission of Heat Remediation Plan [ECF# 118]
PC-LA-0014-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/17/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Approving Defendants' Heat Remediation Plan [ECF# 170] (E.D. La.)
PC-LA-0014-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/23/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Final Order Approving Special Master [ECF# 173] (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0014-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/29/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judgment [ECF# 175] (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0014-0017.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/02/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting Motion for Stay Pending Appeal] [Ct. of App. ECF# 178]
PC-LA-0014-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/06/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
[Opinion] Appeals from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana [Ct. of App. ECF# 00513108060] (792 F.3d 584)
PC-LA-0014-0018.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
Date: 07/08/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Clement, Edith Brown (E.D. La., Fifth Circuit)
PC-LA-0014-0013
Jackson, Brian Anthony (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0014-0002 | PC-LA-0014-0003 | PC-LA-0014-0004 | PC-LA-0014-0006 | PC-LA-0014-0007 | PC-LA-0014-0008 | PC-LA-0014-0010 | PC-LA-0014-0015 | PC-LA-0014-0016 | PC-LA-0014-0017 | PC-LA-0014-9000
Jones, Warren Leroy (Eleventh Circuit, Fifth Circuit)
PC-LA-0014-0013
Jones, Edith Hollan (Fifth Circuit)
PC-LA-0014-0018
Prado, Edward Charles (Fifth Circuit, W.D. Tex.)
PC-LA-0014-0013
Reavley, Thomas Morrow (Fifth Circuit)
PC-LA-0014-0018
Riedlinger, Stephen C. (M.D. La.) [Magistrate]
PC-LA-0014-9000
Monitors/Masters Hebert, Paul J. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0014-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Compa, Elizabeth Claire (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0014-0001 | PC-LA-0014-9000
Dellinger, Walter (District of Columbia)
PC-LA-0014-9001
Kamin, Mitchell A. (California)
PC-LA-0014-0001 | PC-LA-0014-9000
Kornberg, Jessica C (California)
PC-LA-0014-0001 | PC-LA-0014-9000
Montagnes, Mercedes Hardy (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0014-0001 | PC-LA-0014-9000
Scheckman, Steven Robert (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0014-0001 | PC-LA-0014-9000
Vora, Nilay U (California)
PC-LA-0014-0001 | PC-LA-0014-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Atkinson, Judith R. E. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0014-0009 | PC-LA-0014-9000
Balhoff, Thomas E (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0014-0009 | PC-LA-0014-9000
Guillot, Joseph Charles (Alabama)
PC-LA-0014-9000
Hilburn, James L (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0014-0009 | PC-LA-0014-9000 | PC-LA-0014-9001
Jones, Carlton, III (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0014-0009 | PC-LA-0014-9000
McInnis, Amy L (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0014-0009 | PC-LA-0014-9000
Shows, Edmond Wade (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0014-0009 | PC-LA-0014-9000
Wilson, Jacqueline B (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0014-0009 | PC-LA-0014-9000
Other Lawyers Austin, Roy L. (District of Columbia)
PC-LA-0014-0012
Barnett−Bernal, S. Brooke (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0014-9000
Coon, Laura (District of Columbia)
PC-LA-0014-0012
Ewing, John Lane Jr. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0014-9000
Green, J. Walter (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0014-0012
Jordan, LaToya D. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0014-9000
Maraist, Catherine M. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0014-0012 | PC-LA-0014-9000
Myrthil, Marlysha (District of Columbia)
PC-LA-0014-0012
Patterson, Michael A. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0014-9000
Samuels, Jocelyn (District of Columbia)
PC-LA-0014-0012
Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)
PC-LA-0014-0012

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