On December 15, 1976, inmates at the Hamilton County Justice Complex filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the county in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. The plaintiffs, represented by the Legal Aid Society of Cincinnati, alleged that their constitutional rights had been violated by deficiencies in the areas of overcrowding, staffing, classification, security, fire safety, exercise and recreation, discipline procedures, ventilation, lighting, medical care, and training of correctional officers.
After discovery, the parties negotiated a settlement agreement. In 1985, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio (Judge Herman Weber) incorporated the terms of the settlement agreement into an Agreed Final Judgment (AFJ). The court ordered the defendants to provide notice of the AFJ the members of the plaintiff class, setting the deadline for plaintiff objections to the AFJ at August 15, 1985.
On September 12, 1985, the court (Judge Weber) held a hearing to consider objections to the proposed AFJ and rejected all concerns expressed by members of the plaintiff class. The court further stated that, since the relief requested was analogous to affirmative action, the decree would have to be temporary in nature and subject to sunset provisions. The plaintiff class objected on the grounds that the parties had not agreed to any temporal limitations on relief, arguing that once the final judgment order was dissolved, the defendants would return to their prior practices, prompting further litigation. On September 25, 1985, the court (Judge Weber) entered the AFJ as the court's final order in the case, including the sunset provisions. The plaintiffs appealed.
On December 4, 1986, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Judge Cornelia Kennedy, Judge Herbert Milburn, and Judge Bailey Brown) remanded the case back to the district court for clarification, approving the AFJ as final judgment in the case, rejecting the plaintiffs' request for a permanent injunction, and ordering that the district court monitor the defendants' compliance with the judgment. Heath v. Wood, 1986 WL 18468 (6th Cir.(Ohio) Dec. 4, 1986).
On April 3, 1987, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio (Judge Weber) clarified its intent according to the order of the circuit court. The appellants notified the circuit court that the district court's order was acceptable to them as a total resolution of the issues raised in the case. Accordingly, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Judges Kennedy, Milburn, and Brown) ordered that the appeal be dismissed. Heath v. Wood, 1987 WL 44627 (6th Cir.(Ohio) Sept. 3, 1987).
On June 6, 1988, the district court (Judge Weber) entered an Agreed Modification of Agreed Final Judgment (AMAFJ) in the case. This modification permitted double-celling of inmates at the Justice Complex in 168 cells, capped the inmate population at 1016, and gave the defendants the authority to comply with the population cap by releasing inmates and by refusing admission of inmates.
The following year, Joseph DeCourcy succeeded Robert Wood as the Hamilton County Commissioner. On June 6, 1988, the defendants asked the court to further modify the AMAFJ, allowing the defendants to change their inmate classification procedures. On November 15, 1988, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio (Judge Weber) held that the defendants' motion to modify the AMAFJ would be granted in part and denied in part, allowing only small modifications of the classification procedures. Heath v. DeCourcy, 704 F.Supp. 799 (S.D.Ohio 1988). The plaintiffs appealed.
On November 3, 1989, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Judge Cornelia Kennedy, Judge David Nelson, and Judge Thomas Wiseman) affirmed the district court's judgment modifying the AMAFJ. Heath v. DeCourcy, 888 F.2d 1105 (6th Cir. 1989).
In September, 1990, the plaintiffs asked the district court to hold the defendants in contempt for failure to comply with the AMAFJ. On November 19, 1990, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio (Judge Carl Rubin) held that the defendants had complied in five of the seven areas raised in the complaint. The court deferred judgment on the other two areas (acoustics and education programs) in order to allow the defendants to take appropriate action by January 1, 1991.
On April 5, 1991, the district court ordered sua sponte an April 12, 1991 hearing to determine whether the defendants had complied in the two remaining areas and whether the court's supervision of the Justice Complex should be terminated. At the hearing, the district court terminated supervision over all provisions of the AMAFJ except Paragraph A, which addressed the facility's population cap. Lauren Cutson - 05/26/2005