University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name McGee v. Pallito PC-VT-0005
Docket / Court 04-cv-00335-JGM ( D. Vt. )
State/Territory Vermont
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Post-PLRA enforceable consent decrees
Post-WalMart decisions on class certification
Case Summary
On December 9, 2004, an inmate in the Vermont Department of Corrections filed this lawsuit pro se in the U.S. District Court District of Vermont. The plaintiff sued the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Corrections and the Superintendents of Southern State Correctional Facility and Northern ... read more >
On December 9, 2004, an inmate in the Vermont Department of Corrections filed this lawsuit pro se in the U.S. District Court District of Vermont. The plaintiff sued the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Corrections and the Superintendents of Southern State Correctional Facility and Northern State Correctional Facility under 42 U.S.C. §1983. The pro se plaintiff sought declaratory relief stating the defendants’ actions were unlawful and violated the plaintiff’s rights, along with an injunction stopping the conduct itself. The plaintiff claimed that the defendants violated the Eighth Amendment and inflicted cruel and unusual punishment by illuminating cells with bright lights twenty-four hours per day, thus preventing him and other inmates from sleeping.

In September 2005, many other inmates attempted to join the suit by filing motions to intervene. The plaintiff filed a Notice of Class Action on September 15, 2005. However, the court denied these motions and issued an order denying class certification because Plaintiff was pro se on September 26, 2005. After the plaintiff filed three motions for appointment of counsel, the court finally appointed counsel on December 1, 2005.

Over the next several months, more inmates filed motions to intervene, which were granted by the court. The plaintiff filed a new motion for class certification on July 11, 2006. On October 16, 2006, the court granted the plaintiff’s motion for class certification shortly after a report and recommendation from Magistrate Judge Jerome J. Niedermeier. 2006 WL 2975752. The class consisted of inmates: "who have been subjected, are currently being subjected, or who will be subjected to constant illumination in Vermont prison cells and who suffer injuries as a result."

The plaintiff filed a second amended complaint on April 16, 2007. After about two years of discovery, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on April 30, 2009. The court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on December 20, 2010. 2010 WL 5389996.

The plaintiff appealed the summary judgment order to the Second Circuit on April 11, 2011. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the district court appointed class counsel whose performance was deficient. The Second Circuit agreed and found that the district court abused its discretion in appointing the class counsel because it did not consider counsel’s inexperience in class actions and the lack of resources for counsel to litigate the case properly. In addition, the Second Circuit vacated the summary judgment order and remanded the case for further proceedings. On remand, the district court appointed new class counsel for the plaintiffs.

After further discovery, the parties came to a settlement agreement that was approved by the court on July 12, 2017. The settlement required that the correction facilities keep the lights dim, make sleep masks available to inmates, provide sleep masks, and pay $50,000 in attorneys’ fees. On July 14, 2017, the court ordered the case dismissed with prejudice, costs, and attorney’s fees in accordance with the settlement agreement. The parties agreed that the settlement agreement met the requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (18 U.S.C. § 3626). The PLRA provides that the settlement is terminable upon motion of any party two years after the date the court approved the settlement agreement. As of January 2020, there was no further activity on the case and the settlement agreement remained in place.

Katie Chan - 10/12/2017
Emma Himes - 11/27/2019


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Conditions of confinement
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Vermont Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Inmates who have been subjected, are currently being subjected, or who will be subjected to constant illumination in Vermont prison cells and who suffer injuries as a result.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2017 - n/a
Filing Year 2004
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  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)
5:04−cv−00335 (D. Vt.)
PC-VT-0005-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/14/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 6]
PC-VT-0005-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/09/2004
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Class Action Lawsuit [ECF# 83]
PC-VT-0005-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/19/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 92] (D. Vt.)
PC-VT-0005-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/26/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion for Class Certification [ECF# 181]
PC-VT-0005-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/07/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation [ECF# 188-1]
PC-VT-0005-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/25/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 195]
PC-VT-0005-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/16/2007
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 288] (2010 WL 5389996) (D. Vt.)
PC-VT-0005-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 12/20/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 298] (2011 WL 1211514) (D. Vt.)
PC-VT-0005-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/30/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Appeal [ECF# 303]
PC-VT-0005-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/05/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Summary Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 321]
PC-VT-0005-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/25/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement [ECF# 412-1]
PC-VT-0005-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/12/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Final Approval of Proposed Settlement [ECF# 413] (D. Vt.)
PC-VT-0005-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/12/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Crawford, Geoffrey William (D. Vt.) show/hide docs
PC-VT-0005-0010 | PC-VT-0005-9000
Murtha, John Garvan (D. Vt.) show/hide docs
PC-VT-0005-0006 | PC-VT-0005-0007
Niedermeier, Jerome J. (D. Vt.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-VT-0005-0003 | PC-VT-0005-0011
Plaintiff's Lawyers Franklin, Gary L. (Vermont) show/hide docs
PC-VT-0005-9000
Hoover, Timothy W. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-VT-0005-9000
Lipschutz, Seth E. (Vermont) show/hide docs
PC-VT-0005-0005 | PC-VT-0005-9000
Maguire, Daniel R. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-VT-0005-0010 | PC-VT-0005-0012 | PC-VT-0005-9000
Manning, Kenneth A. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-VT-0005-0010 | PC-VT-0005-0012 | PC-VT-0005-9000
Ritschdorff, Todd A. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-VT-0005-9000
Schlossberg, Todd D. (Vermont) show/hide docs
PC-VT-0005-9000
Seibert, Dawn M. (Vermont) show/hide docs
PC-VT-0005-0004 | PC-VT-0005-9000
Simon, William J. (New York) show/hide docs
PC-VT-0005-9000
Valerio, Matthew F. (Vermont) show/hide docs
PC-VT-0005-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Mclean, David R. (Vermont) show/hide docs
PC-VT-0005-0010 | PC-VT-0005-0012 | PC-VT-0005-9000
Schwendler, April E. (Vermont) show/hide docs
PC-VT-0005-9000
Viens, Mathew L. (Vermont) show/hide docs
PC-VT-0005-9000

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -