On September 13, 2013, an African American prisoner in the Arizona State Prison Complex in Tucson filed this lawsuit, pro se, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona (Tucson Division). The plaintiff brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State of Arizona and the Arizona Department of Corrections. He alleged that the prison assigned him to a particular cell on the basis of his race, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The plaintiff alleged that the State of Arizona persisted in continuous and systematic racial segregation in the areas of housing and personal care of the prisoners.
On October 30, 2013, the judge assigned to this case, Judge Cindy A. Jorgenson, granted a motion by attorneys from the law firm Kendall, Brill, and Kelly to represent plaintiff. Among those attorneys was Bert Deixler, who had litigated Johnson v. California, in which the Supreme Court held that racial housing assignments in prison were usually unconstitutional. Johnson is PC-CA-0041
in this Clearinghouse.
On February 4, 2014, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint against all the defendants adding the governor of Arizona as a defendant.
The governor and the director of the department of corrections moved to dismiss the case on March 13, 2014. They argued that the plaintiff improperly sued them based on a letter mailed to him and denial of a grievance appeal, despite admitting that the defendants had no involvement in housing, work, or other assignments in the Tucson prison. On March 17, 2014, the Warden of the Arizona State Prison Complex-Tucson also filed a motion to dismiss alleging that the plaintiff improperly sued based on a letter mailed to him.
The plaintiff filed a notice of voluntary dismissal without prejudice of the claims against the Division Director of Offender Operation for the Arizona State Department of Corrections on April 3, 2014, and also filed to substitute the public officer with the Division Director of Operations. The plaintiff also filed a notice of voluntary dismissal without prejudice of the claims against the governor.
On May 8, 2014, Judge Jorgenson granted the voluntary dismissal of the claims against the governor, and then denied the governor's motion to dismiss as moot. Judge Jorgenson also granted the substitution of the public officer (the Division Director of Offender Operations).
On June 9, 2014, the Division Director of Offender Operations filed a motion to dismiss. The defendant claims that he is superfluous to this lawsuit and should be dismissed. But, on July 23, 2014, Judge Jorgenson denied the motion to dismiss.
As discussed in a joint settlement status report filed November 14, 2014, all parties requested a Magistrate Judge to be appointed to the case in order to act as settlement judge in this matter. On November 24, 2014, their request was granted, and Magistrate Judge Charles R. Pyle was chosen to oversee settlement negotiations.
On December 22, 2015, the parties notified the court that they had reached a settlement. Under the settlement agreement, defendants agreed to stop segregating prisoners by race in housing, except for in individual cases where a prisoner has a documented history of racial animosity. Defendants also agreed to curtail racially discriminatory practices in prison employment opportunities. They agreed to narrowly tailor any consideration of race in connection to employment assignments to address a compelling state interest, and to only ever consider race as one factor in a comprehensive and objective assessment of employment assignment or service. The change in policy would apply to Arizona Department of Corrections prison complexes in Douglas, Eyman, Florence, Lewis, Perryville, Phoenix, Safford, Tucson, Winslow, and Yuma. Defendants also agreed to pay $5,000 in monetary damages to the named plaintiff, and to pay $195,000 to plaintiff's counsel in attorneys’ fees and costs.
The agreement is intended to last until at least 2023, and contains a clause prohibiting either party from moving to terminate the agreement during that period. Plaintiff’s counsel are to act as monitors over defendants’ compliance with the terms of the agreement, and defendants are to provide plaintiff’s counsel documents, reports, and access to defendants’ facilities for monitoring purposes. In the event of a breach or perceived breach of the agreement, there's a process for trying to resolve the issue out of court, and then plaintiff’s counsel may seek court enforcement. The agreement bars the court from ordering defendants to construct new prisons or to hire a specific number or type of staff unless defendants propose to do so as part of a plan to remedy a failure to comply.
On February 8, 2016, Judge Jorgenson issued an order approving the settlement agreement, and agreeing to enforce its terms. There have been no further substantive developments in the case as of July 20, 2016.Jenn Nelson - 10/10/2015
Ryan Berry - 07/20/2016