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Case Name Lancaster v. Tilton / Thompson v. Gomez PC-CA-0012
Docket / Court 79-1630 ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection California's Prisoners' Rights Bar article
Attorney Organization Prison Law Office
Case Summary
On July 6, 1979, prisoners on death row at the California State Prison at San Quentin filed a class action lawsuit under 42 USC § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the Prison Warden and the State Director of Corrections alleging a violation of their ... read more >
On July 6, 1979, prisoners on death row at the California State Prison at San Quentin filed a class action lawsuit under 42 USC § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the Prison Warden and the State Director of Corrections alleging a violation of their Eighth Amendment rights. A consent decree was entered on October 23, 1980, which required the prison to take corrective actions in areas such as housing, treatment, and privileges afforded to condemned prisoners.

In 1982, the plaintiffs moved to hold prison officials in contempt for failure to comply with the consent decree. Plaintiffs also moved for an order requiring the defendants to provide hearings for reclassifications of prisoners. Both motions were denied on June 29, 1982. The District Court (Judge Stanley A. Weigel) held that the officials were not in contempt because their noncompliance was based largely upon increases in prison populations and that officials were not required to provide hearings for reclassification. Thomson v. Enomoto, 542 F. Supp. 768 (N.D.Cal. 1982).

On January 11, 1985, plaintiffs moved to have a monitor appointed. After arguments on both sides, the Court appointed a monitor on March 25, 1985. The defendants appealed and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Judge Diarmuid Fionntain O'Scannlain) dismissed the appeal holding that the order was not appealable. Thompson v. Enomoto, 815 F.2d 1323 (9th Cir. 1987).

On March 17, 1988, after the monitor's second report, the parties agreed to modify the decree. The prison officials agreed to provide free weights for outside exercise and access to electronic typewriters. In exchange, the prisoners agreed to afford the prison officials latitude to restrain them during movement off the tier and to dismiss a pending action by an individual prisoner regarding access to typewriters.

On October 5, 1989, the District Court adopted the monitor's fourth report, which included a recommendation to withdraw certain privileges from Grade B condemned prisoners. The plaintiffs appealed regarding these recommended changes. The defendants also appealed the order adopting the fourth report. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the adoption of the report on October 4, 1990. Thompson v. Enomoto, 915 F.2d 1383 (9th Cir. 1990).

In December, 1989, plaintiffs moved for attorney's fees and in an order dated December 12, 1990, plaintiffs were granted 82.7% of the fee amount they originally sought. In July, 1992, plaintiffs submitted a claim for merits fees incurred since the first motion for fees. In July, 1993, the District Court (Judge Weigel) approved an arithmetic reduction of fees-on-fees, such that the plaintiffs would be awarded 82.7% of the amount they requested. Plaintiffs appealed and the Court of Appeals (Judge Alfred Theodore Goodwin) affirmed on January 25, 1995. Thompson v. Gomez, 45 F.3d 1365 (9th Cir. 1995).

In 1997, defendants moved to terminate the remainder of the consent decree under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), which requires courts to terminate prospective relief upon defendants' motion under certain circumstances. Plaintiffs filed a counter motion to declare the termination provision of the PLRA unconstitutional. The District Court (Judge Charles A. Legge) found that the termination provision, as applied, was constitutional and granted the defendants' motion for termination. Thompson v. Gomez, 993 F.Supp. 749 (N.D.Cal. 1997).

Plaintiffs appealed the termination. This appeal was consolidated with another Constitutional challenge to the PLRA. The Court of Appeals (Judge Betty Binns Fletcher) held that the District Court should have examined the court record and the relief granted by the decree in order to determine whether it was narrowly tailored and minimally intrusive, rather than simply having considered whether there were any explicit findings to this effect. Both cases were reversed and remanded. Gilmore v. People of the State of California, 220 F.3d. 987 (9th Cir. 2000).

In May 2004, Judge William Alsup denied the plaintiffs' motion to modify the consent decree. The plaintiffs' attempts to appeal were also denied. In May 2005, the parties jointly stipulated to certain modifications of the consent decree. Neither party presented any evidence, and counsel stipulated that the modification was based on violations of the Eighth Amendment and that it was narrowly drawn to correct the violation.

On October 4, 2006, the District Court refused to accept the stipulated PLRA findings and denied the motion to modify the consent decree, stating that it "cannot in good faith acquiesce in such a conclusory and collusive finding." Lancaster v. Tilton, No. C 79-01630, 2006 WL 2850015 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 4, 2006). Both parties appealed the District Court's decision, but in January 2007 filed a joint motion for voluntary dismissal.

On February 6, 2007, Judge Alsup awarded plaintiffs attorney's fees for the period from January 1, 1999 through December 31, 2006 in the amount of $141,797.63.

Plaintiffs filed three motions on April 2, 2007: a Motion to Modify the Consent Decree, a Motion for Contempt and Order Enforcing Consent Decree, and a Motion to Enforce Judgment. On June 21, 2007, Judge Alsup granted in part and denied in part the plaintiffs' Motion for Contempt and Enforcement, and found that an evidentiary hearing was necessary to determine certain issues (2007 WL 1807825). On August 21, 2007, defendants moved to terminate the consent decree. Due to an interlocutory appeal that was eventually withdrawn (07-16283), the hearing had to be renoticed in mid-October 2007.

Judge Alsup granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion to terminate the consent decree on December 21, 2007 (2007 WL 4570185). The District Court's Order terminated provisions related to the following issues: meals and hot carts, hobbycraft, high school education, classification, staff screening, interruption of access to exercise yards, weight benches, jump ropes, ping-pong tables, yard showers, clothing, number of tier showers, contents of showers, and group religious services. Many of these provisions were terminated because they exceeded any "federal right" within the meaning of the PLRA and thus were required to be terminated. Others were terminated because they were not necessary to correct a current and ongoing violation of a federal right. Judge Alsup also found there was a need for further factual development with respect to the remaining provisions in dispute regarding outdoor exercise, raincoats, laundry, cleaning supplies, shower cleaning, rodents and vermin, noise, tier telephones, visitation, and access to legal materials. Accordingly, Judge Alsup set an evidentiary hearing which began January 14, 2008 and lasted six days. On February 15, 2008, Judge Alsup issued an Order finding that with respect to cleaning supplies, shower cleaning, noise, rodents and vermin, either there were current and ongoing constitutional violations or, at a minimum, defendants had not carried their burden to establish the contrary. Judge Alsup found that defendants met their burden of showing that there were no current and ongoing constitutional violations for the rest of the provisions, which were then terminated by the Order (2008 WL 449844).

On February 28, 2008, Judge Alsup ordered Magistrate Judge Nandor J. Vadas to assist in supervising the consent decree and mediating certain issues relating to sanitary conditions from the February 15 Order. The parties met and, on March 25, 2008, entered into a stipulation regarding how the work would be accomplished so the facility would be in compliance with the District Court's February 15 Order.

Judge Alsup granted plaintiffs attorney's fees on July 14, 2008 (2008 WL 2774260). Judge Alsup specified the method the parties were to use to determine the fees, and the parties were directed to confer regarding the calculation.

On March 3, 2009, Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas submitted a final report regarding the remaining violations in the consent decree and recommended the consent decree be vacated. Judge Alsup adopted the report on March 26, 2009 (2009 WL 837643). The parties were invited to show cause as to why the consent decree should not be vacated and the case closed. Neither party objected to the report or recommendation. On April 14, 2009, Judge Alsup terminated the consent decree.

The final award of attorney's fees and costs, for the period of January 1, 2009 to April 20, 2009, was awarded on May 1, 2009 in the amount of $3,841.04.

Kristen Sagar - 11/09/2006
Samantha Kirby - 11/12/2014

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Content of Injunction
Bathing and hygiene
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Law library access
Loss or damage to property
Recreation / Exercise
Religious programs / policies
Sanitation / living conditions
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Plaintiff Description Prisoners on death row at the California State Prison at San Quentin.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Prison Law Office
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1979 - 2009
Filed 07/06/1979
Case Closing Year 2009
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing PC-CA-0007 : Gilmore v. State of California (N.D. Cal.)
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
C-79-1630-CAL (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/20/2001
Source: District Court
79-1630 (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/29/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Order re contempt and for further proceedings (542 F.Supp. 768) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/29/1982
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (815 F.2d 1323)
PC-CA-0012-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/30/1987
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (915 F.2d 1383)
PC-CA-0012-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/04/1990
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion [Denying Writ for Certiorari] (502 U.S. 1071)
PC-CA-0012-0014.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/27/1992
Source: Westlaw
Opinion (45 F.3d 1365)
PC-CA-0012-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/25/1995
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion and Order (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/24/1997
Opinion and Order (993 F.Supp. 749) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/24/1997
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (220 F.3d 987)
PC-CA-0012-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/04/2000
Source: Google Scholar
Order Granting Motion to Intervene (2006 WL 889391 / 2006 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 20155) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/06/2006
Order Denying Motions to Intervene and Related Requests (2006 WL 1490233 / 2006 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 38436) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/25/2006
Order Denying Application for Certificate of Appealability (2006 WL 1582024 / 2006 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 41161) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/05/2006
Order: (1) Granting Motion to Substitute Plaintiffs, (2) Granting Class Certification, and (3) Denying Motion to Modify Consent Decree (2006 WL 2850015 / 2006 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 75121 ) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/04/2006
Order Re Motion for Contempt and Motion to Modify Consent Decree (2007 WL 1807825 / 2007 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 48403) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-0012.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/21/2007
Order Re Notice of Class Deficiency (2007 WL 1807953 / 2007 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 48399) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-0013.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/21/2007
Order Denying Intervenor's Motion to Enforce The Consent Decree (2007 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 48412) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-0015.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/21/2007
Source: LexisNexis
Order Awarding Attorney's Fees and Costs and Reserving Rights [ECF# 117] (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/31/2007
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion to Postpone Effective Date of Automatic Stay (2007 WL 4145963) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-0023.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 11/19/2007
Source: Westlaw
Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Motion to Terminate Consent Decree, And Setting Evidentiary Hearing and Allowing Certain Discovery [ECF# 1324] (2007 WL 4570185) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-0017.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 12/21/2007
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law After Bench Trial On Motion To Terminate Consent Decree [ECF# 1493] (2008 WL 449844) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-0018.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/15/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney's Fees (2008 WL 2774260) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-0022.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/14/2008
Source: Westlaw
Final Report and Recommendation Re Compliance With Court's Order Regarding Sanitation at Death Row, San Quentin, CA. [ECF# 1596]
PC-CA-0012-0020.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/03/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Final Report and Recommendation Re Compliance with Court's Order Regarding Sanitation at Death's Row, San Quentin, CA (2009 WL 837643) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-0024.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/26/2009
Source: Westlaw
Joint Stipulation and Order for Payment of Undisputed Attorneys' Fees and Costs [ECF# 1605] (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-0021.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/01/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Re Second Letter From Theodore Shove [ECF# 1609] (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-0025.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/02/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Related Case Order [ECF# 1612] (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0012-0026.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/27/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Aldisert, Ruggero John (Third Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0005 | PC-CA-0012-0011
Alsup, William Haskell (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0008 | PC-CA-0012-0009 | PC-CA-0012-0010 | PC-CA-0012-0012 | PC-CA-0012-0013 | PC-CA-0012-0016 | PC-CA-0012-0017 | PC-CA-0012-0018 | PC-CA-0012-0021 | PC-CA-0012-0022 | PC-CA-0012-0023 | PC-CA-0012-0025 | PC-CA-0012-0026 | PC-CA-0012-9000
Bright, Myron H. (Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
Fletcher, Betty Binns (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
Goodwin, Alfred Theodore (D. Or., Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
Hug, Procter Ralph Jr. (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
Legge, Charles A. (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0001 | PC-CA-0012-0006
O'Scannlain, Diarmuid Fionntain (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
Pregerson, Harry (C.D. Cal., Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
Schroeder, Mary Murphy (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0003 | PC-CA-0012-0005
Skopil, Otto Richard Jr. (D. Or., Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
Tang, Thomas (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
Thompson, David R. (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
Vadas, Nandor J. (N.D. Cal.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0020 | PC-CA-0012-0024 | PC-CA-0012-9000
Weigel, Stanley Alexander (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
Monitors/Masters Riggs, Robert R. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0001 | PC-CA-0012-9001
Plaintiff's Lawyers Edwards, C. Kip (California) show/hide docs
Erickson, Arnold (California) show/hide docs
Fama, Steven (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0006 | PC-CA-0012-0008 | PC-CA-0012-0009 | PC-CA-0012-0010 | PC-CA-0012-0011 | PC-CA-0012-0012 | PC-CA-0012-0013 | PC-CA-0012-0015 | PC-CA-0012-9000
Farbiarz, Rachel A. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0015 | PC-CA-0012-9000
Farrell, John (California) show/hide docs
Fuller, Lynn D. (California) show/hide docs
Gayle, Steven R. (California) show/hide docs
Hardy, Alison (California) show/hide docs
Norman, Sara Linda (California) show/hide docs
Prado, Laura B. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0003 | PC-CA-0012-9001
Rosen, Sanford Jay (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0005 | PC-CA-0012-9001
Satris, Michael H. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0004 | PC-CA-0012-9001
Specter, Donald H. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0003 | PC-CA-0012-0004 | PC-CA-0012-0006 | PC-CA-0012-0007 | PC-CA-0012-0008 | PC-CA-0012-0009 | PC-CA-0012-0010 | PC-CA-0012-0011 | PC-CA-0012-0012 | PC-CA-0012-0013 | PC-CA-0012-0015 | PC-CA-0012-9000 | PC-CA-0012-9001
Stroud, Andrew Walter (California) show/hide docs
Wohl, Jeffrey D. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0002 | PC-CA-0012-0003 | PC-CA-0012-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Chen, Bonnie J (California) show/hide docs
Ciccotti, Christine Marie (California) show/hide docs
Crown, Allen Robert (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0006 | PC-CA-0012-9000
DeKercor, Diane E. (California) show/hide docs
DeKervor, Diane E. (California) show/hide docs
Deukmejian, George (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0004 | PC-CA-0012-9001
Donhoff, John G. Jr. (California) show/hide docs
East, Rochelle C. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0008 | PC-CA-0012-0009 | PC-CA-0012-0011 | PC-CA-0012-0012 | PC-CA-0012-0013 | PC-CA-0012-9000
Humes, James M. (California) show/hide docs
Lungren, Daniel E. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0006 | PC-CA-0012-9001
Mayer, Karl S. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0004 | PC-CA-0012-9001
McClain, Damon Grant (California) show/hide docs
Mossler, Julianne (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0015 | PC-CA-0012-9000 | PC-CA-0012-9000
O'Bannon, Danielle Felice (California) show/hide docs
O'Brien, Edward P. (California) show/hide docs
OReilley, Michael D. (California) show/hide docs
Philibosian, Robert H (California) show/hide docs
Russell, Jay C. (California) show/hide docs
Siegel, Daniel Mark (California) show/hide docs
Siggins, Peter J. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0006 | PC-CA-0012-9001
Stein, William D. (California) show/hide docs
Turner, Sara E. (California) show/hide docs
Ugaz, Sarah (California) show/hide docs
Williamson, George H. (California) show/hide docs
Other Lawyers Carbone, Charles F.A. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0015 | PC-CA-0012-9000
Samuelson, Diana (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0012-0015 | PC-CA-0012-9000

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