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Case Name Williams v. City of Philadelphia JC-PA-0034
Docket / Court 2:08-cv-01979-RBS ( E.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Post-PLRA Jail and Prison Private Settlement Agreements
Attorney Organization Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, LLP
Case Summary
On April 28, 2008, inmates in the Philadelphia Prison System (PPS) filed a putative class-action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law against the City of Philadelphia and its Commissioner of Corrections. The plaintiffs, ... read more >
On April 28, 2008, inmates in the Philadelphia Prison System (PPS) filed a putative class-action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law against the City of Philadelphia and its Commissioner of Corrections. The plaintiffs, represented by the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project and the Disabilities Law Project, asked the court for injunctive and declaratory relief, claiming that PPS subjected inmates to dangerous, unsanitary, severely overcrowded, degrading, and cruel conditions of confinement. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that PPS's practice of housing three inmates in cells designed to hold only two--referred to as "triple-celling"--violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.

On May 14, 2008 the District Attorney of the City and County of Philadelphia filed a motion to intervene, which was granted.

On June 27, 2008, the City of Philadelphia filed a third-party complaint against the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, and against the Honorable C. Darnell Jones, II, and Louis Presenza, President Judges of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas and Municipal Court, respectively. At the same time, the City of Philadelphia moved for a preliminary injunction and a motion to dismiss because the prisoners failed to join the Secretary and the judges, or alternatively a motion to join. The prisoners opposed the attempt to join the Secretary and the judges.

On July 28, 2010, Judge Surrick granted the Secretary's and the judges' motion to dismiss the complaint against them and denied the City's motion to dismiss and motion for preliminary injunction as moot. Williams v. City of Philadelphia, 08-1979, 2010 WL 2977485 (E.D. Pa. July 27, 2010).

On October 8, 2010, Judge Surrick granted the plaintiffs' motion for class certification, with the relevant class defined as "All persons who are or will in the future be confined in the Philadelphia Prison System, and who are or will in the future be subjected to the conditions of confinement, including triple celling, or placement in dormitories, without
minimally adequate security, services or programs as set forth in plaintiffs’
Complaint." Williams v. City of Philadelphia, 270 F.R.D. 208 (E.D. Pa. 2010).

On April 29, 2011, the parties reached a settlement agreement. Taking into consideration the reduction in the inmate population at the PPS that the defendants had achieved over the past two years, the settlement agreement essentially preserved the status quo and provided for monitoring of the situation by the plaintiffs' counsel for the next two years. The City defendants agreed to continue to implement the programs that haD reduced the inmate population in the PPS and to make reasonable efforts to reduce the triple-celling of inmates. The City defendants also agreed to make reasonable efforts to minimize the use of lockdowns and to provide inmates with medical and social services during lockdowns. Under the settlement, plaintiffs "reserve[d] the right to reinstate the[] proceedings during the pendency of the Settlement Agreement."

On May 2, 2011, Judge Surrick preliminarily approved the settlement agreement and scheduled a fairness hearing for June 15, 2011. At the fairness hearing, counsel for all of the parties agreed that the Settlement Agreement was fair and reasonable, particularly in light of the steps the City Defendants have taken to reduce the prison population over the past two years.

On August 8, 2011, Judge Surrick approved the settlement agreement. Williams v. City of Philadelphia, CIV.A. 08-1979, 2011 WL 3446954 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 8, 2011) (the approval order) and Williams v. City of Philadelphia, CIV.A. 08-1979, 2011 WL 3471261 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 8, 2011) (opinion explaining the approval).

In the fall of 2012, the plaintiffs moved to reinstate the case, as was their right under the settlement, due to a rising inmate population in the Philadelphia Prison System. (Oddly, this motion does not appear in the PACER docket.) The court granted the motion on December 3, 2012, setting a period of time for discovery and directing the parties to proceed towards trial. After the reinstatement of the complaint, the parties engaged in extensive discovery. A fight over class counsel's access to members of the plaintiff class' mental health records led to an opinion granting such access, on Oct. 22, 2014.

In April 2016, the City of Philadelphia received a MacArthur Foundation funding grant TAT would fund a project aimed at reducing jail population by approximately 30% over a two- to three-year period. Some of the measures funded by the grant include developing and implementing pre-arrest diversion programs for low-risk offenders, reducing cash bail amounts and increasing utilization of community-based alternatives to cash bail, providing continuity of services coordination for individuals with mental illness, and implementing administrative programs to help expedite plea offers and parole petition review.

In light of developments including the MacArthur Foundation initiatives and a significant reduction in the PPS population over 2015, the parties again entered into settlement negotiations in early 2016. The court granted preliminary approval of a proposed settlement hearing on March 16, 2016, and ordered that the city defendants post the notice of class action settlement in every housing unit and in every law library in the Philadelphia Prison System. Approximately 18 inmates housed in the PPS filed objections to the proposed settlement, but most concerned conditions rather than the terms of the settlement. The parties agreed that the settlement was fair and reasonable in a May 5, 2016 fairness hearing, but the court raised a concern monitoring period. The parties submitted a revised settlement agreement extending the monitoring period during which the plaintiffs may reinstate the complaint from one year to two.

Judge Surrick approved the settlement agreement on June 13, 2016. Williams v. City of Philadelphia, CIV.A. 08-1979, 2016 WL 3258377 (E.D. Pa. June 13, 2016). The settlement agreement provided that the defendants would continue making reasonable efforts to implement and operate programs, policies, and procedures designed to reduce the population at the PPS, to reduce the use of lockdowns and restricted movements, and to limit the use of triple-celling for seriously mental ill inmates and ensure that any inmates in triple cells are provide clean cells, adequate bedding, and adequate shower and toilet access. Plaintiffs' counsel had the right to inspect any PPS facilities if the population is significantly higher than that at the time of settlement, and monitored the prison population and use of triple-celling for two years.

As two years have passed since approval of the settlement agreement and no further information appears on the docket, the case is now presumed closed.

Jessica Kincaid - 07/07/2014
- 02/25/2015
Sarah McDonald - 08/05/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Monitoring
Reporting
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Bathing and hygiene
Conditions of confinement
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) City of Philadelphia
Plaintiff Description All persons who are or will in the future be confined in the Philadelphia Prison System, and who are or will in the future be subjected to the conditions of confinement, including triple celling, or placement in dormitories, without minimally adequate security, services or programs as set forth in plaintiffs’ Complaint.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, LLP
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 2016 - 2018
Filing Year 2008
Case Closing Year 2018
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
2:08-cv-01979-RBS (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0034-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/12/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
JC-PA-0034-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/28/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion [To Intervene] [ECF# 9]
JC-PA-0034-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/14/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting Motion to Intervene] [ECF# 13] (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0034-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/06/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum [In Support of the City Defendants' Motion to Dismiss] [ECF# 15]
JC-PA-0034-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/27/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant's Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 16]
JC-PA-0034-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/27/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Third Party Complaint [ECF# 17]
JC-PA-0034-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/30/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ Denying Defendant's Third Party Motion to Dismiss] [ECF# 70] (2010 WL 2977485) (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0034-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/28/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Class Certification [ECF# 80] (270 F.R.D. 208) (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0034-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/08/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement [ECF# 87]
JC-PA-0034-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/29/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ That the Settlement Agreement is Preliminarily Approved] [ECF# 86] (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0034-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/02/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Approving Settlement Agreement] [ECF# 94] (2011 WL 3446954) (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0034-0011.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/08/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
SCHEDULING ORDER [ECF# 99] (2014 WL 5393988) (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0034-0012.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 12/03/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum [ECF# 125] (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0034-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/22/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 141] (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0034-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/16/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum [ECF# 144] (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0034-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/13/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Surrick, Richard Barclay (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0034-0003 | JC-PA-0034-0007 | JC-PA-0034-0008 | JC-PA-0034-0009 | JC-PA-0034-0011 | JC-PA-0034-0012 | JC-PA-0034-0013 | JC-PA-0034-0014 | JC-PA-0034-0015 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bender, Brad P (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-9000
Darr, Kelly L. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0014
Feinberg, Jonathan H. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0001 | JC-PA-0034-0010 | JC-PA-0034-0014 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Hart, Sarah Vandenbraak (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0002 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Hughes, Bryan C. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-9000
Janssen, Matthew D (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0001 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Love, Angus R. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0001 | JC-PA-0034-0010 | JC-PA-0034-0014 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Meek, Robert W. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0010 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Mosser, Todd M (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-9000
Richman, David (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0001 | JC-PA-0034-0010 | JC-PA-0034-0014 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Rubin, Elizabeth J (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-9000
Rudovsky, David (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0001 | JC-PA-0034-0010 | JC-PA-0034-0014 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Taylor, Anne B (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-9000
Travassos, Priya M. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-9000
Yeh, Su Ming (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0001 | JC-PA-0034-0010 | JC-PA-0034-0014 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Kolansky, Jeffrey M. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0004 | JC-PA-0034-0005 | JC-PA-0034-0006 | JC-PA-0034-0010 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Kramer, Barry N. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-9000
Maguire, Mark (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-9000
Scott, Jeffrey M. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0004 | JC-PA-0034-0006 | JC-PA-0034-0010 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Straw, Craig M. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-9000
Tulante, Sozi Pedro (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0014
Tuttle, Richard G. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-0005 | JC-PA-0034-9000
Williams, A. Taylor (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-9000
Other Lawyers Siegrist, Stephen E. (Pennsylvania)
JC-PA-0034-9000

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