On November 30, 1977, an inmate at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City ("Old Max") filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado against the Governor of Colorado, several senators, the Department of Corrections, and administrators of the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City, Colorado. The class consisted of all persons who were or would be incarcerated in a maximum security unit of Old Max. The ACLU and the National Prison Project represented the class. The class sought declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the totality of conditions at the Old Max violated various constitutional rights of the inmates confined there.
After extensive discovery and a five week trial, the District Court (Judge John L. Kane Jr.) ruled from the bench on November 15, 1979 and issued a memorandum opinion and order on December 20, 1979. Ramos v. Lamm, 485 F. Supp. 122 (D. Colo. 1979). The court held that the conditions at Old Max constituted various statutory and constitutional violations. Specifically, the conditions included insufficient living space with inadequate sanitation, ventilation, light, heat, noise control, and fire safety; lack of protection from violence; pervasive idleness because of lack of productive activity; inadequate health care; unnecessarily restrictive classification of inmates. The court ordered that the Old Max facility be closed, but temporarily stayed its order on the condition that the State take immediate states to provide the plaintiff class with basic human needs and that the State present a detailed plan regarding the protection of the plaintiff class from further constitutional violations.
The defendants appealed. On September 25, 1980, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (Judge William Judson Holloway, Jr.) affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the District Court. Ramos v. Lamm, 639 F.2d 559 (10th Cir. 1980). The court held that the District Court did not err in refusing to abstain from deciding the case, that the District Court did not err in finding Eighth Amendment violations in the areas of shelter, sanitation, food, safety, and health care, and a finding of a violation of the right of access to the courts. The court also upheld the District Court's ruling regarding the mail policies at Old Max. The court set aside the District Court's rulings regarding visitation restrictions, finding that the restrictions imposed were not unreasonable and serve legitimate penal concerns, and regarding idleness, classification and motility, because those areas were not of constitutional dimension. The Tenth Circuit vacated the remedial order and remanded the case for further proceedings. Both parties petitioned for writ of certiorari and were denied on April 6, 1981. Ramos v. Lamm, 450 U.S. 1041 (1981); Lamm v. Ramos, 450 U.S. 1041 (1981).
The plaintiffs applied for attorneys' fees and the District Court (Judge Kane) awarded fees and costs on March 17, 1982. Ramos v. Lamm, 539 F. Supp. 730 (D. Colo. 1982). The defendants' appealed the award of attorneys' costs and fees and the Tenth Circuit (Judge James Kenneth Logan) established guidelines for the award of attorneys' fees under the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Award Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1988, and remanded for further proceedings. Ramos v. Lamm, 713 F.2d 546 (10th Cir. 1983). The District Court (Judge Kane) re-evaluated the fees and costs and determined an award on June 3, 1985, which was withdrawn upon the parties' objections and requests for another hearing on the matter. On March 27, 1986, the District Court (Judge Kane) again evaluated attorneys' fees and costs and awarded the plaintiffs' attorneys a total of $1,059,913.45 less the amount the defendant had previously paid. Ramos v. Lamm, 632 F. Supp. 376 (D. Colo. 1986).
Sometime between 1986 and 1990, Ramos v. Lamm became Diaz v. Romer. On August 7, 1985, the District Court entered a Consent Order directing defendants to comply with numerous provisions in the operation of three facilities. The case was to terminate within eighteen months of the order. As a result of changed circumstances, the 1985 Consent Order remained in effect. On March 21, 1989, the court entered the Amended (Master) Consent Order, which maintained and modified the provisions of the 1985 order. The plaintiffs continued to investigate and monitor the conditions at the facilities, and compliance with the court orders. In February 1990, the plaintiffs raised the issue of defendants' compliance with the Court's orders and filed a formal pleading.
After substantial discovery and negotiations, the parties made a Joint Motion for Entry of an Amended Consent Order. In September 1990, during the fairness hearing, the District Court (Judge James R. Carrigan) created two sub-classes of plaintiffs (those who were HIV positive, and those who were HIV negative). On March 7, 1990, the court refused to approve the provision of the consent order regarding the policies for HIV testing. The defendants appealed these decisions. On April 20, 1992, the Tenth Circuit (Judge Monroe G. McKay) affirmed the decision of the District Court. Diaz v. Romer, 961 F.2d 1508 (10th Cir. 1992).
On February 24, 1992, the parties made another joint motion for the approval of proposed settlement agreements. The proposed settlement agreements were to settle three class action lawsuits (this case (previously Ramos v. Lamm), Nolasco v. Romer (Docket No. 90-00340), and Arguello v. Romer (Docket No. 88-01335)) each challenging conditions of confinement in Colorado prisons. On June 12, 1992, the District Court (Judge Carrigan) granted the motion and approved the settlement agreements. Diaz v. Romer, 801 F. Supp. 405 (D. Colo. 1992). The Tenth Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision on October 21, 1993. Diaz v. Romer, 9 F.3d 116 (10th Cir. 1993).
The settlement agreement for Diaz v. Romer provided for the hiring of a full-time medical director, the hiring of an additional full-time psychiatrist, the establishment of a unit for the chronically mentally ill, and the hiring of forty-eight additional correctional and health care staff. The agreement further provided that inmates would not be double-bunked for a two-year period, unless necessary for renovations. The defendants agreed to arrange for qualified representatives from the American Correctional Association or the National Institute of Corrections to review the operations of the correctional facilities. The Settlement Agreement dissolved all previous consent orders of the District Court, and the court only retained jurisdiction to insure compliance with the settlement agreement.
Nolasco v. Romer and Arguello v. Romer had not proceeded to trial, unlike Diaz v. Romer. These two cases challenged the conditions at Colorado correctional facilities as unconstitutional. The jointly submitted settlement agreement in these cases appears to be substantially similar to the agreement in Diaz v. Romer. The only obvious difference is the obligation of the defendants to provide sex offenders with sex offender treatment. The court dismissed these cases with prejudice and ordered the parties to carry out the terms of the agreement.
In response to the motion filed by a member of the plaintiff class attacking the final judgment and dismissal of the class action, the District Court ruled that the class action was closed and that any motion should be filed by the class counsel. On November 30, 1993, the Tenth Circuit (per curiam) affirmed the District Court's decision. Diaz v. Romer, 13 F.3d 405 (10th Cir. 1993).
The case appears to be closed.Kaitlin Corkran - 06/06/2006