On February 9, 1972, prisoners of the state of Florida filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the Florida Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The plaintiffs, alleging that their constitutional rights had been violated by inadequate medical care, insufficient staffing, overcrowding, and poor sanitation, asked the court for an injunction closing Florida's prison system to additional entrants and requiring the defendants to reduce the current inmate population to levels consistent with constitutional standards.
On May 22, 1975, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida (Judge Charles R. Scott) denied the defendants' request for a three-judge court and granted the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction, holding that the conditions in question violated the plaintiffs' constitutional rights. Costello v. Wainwright, 397 F.Supp. 20 (M.D.Fl. 1975). The court ordered the defendants to reduce the state's inmate population to "emergency capacity" (as defined by a 1972 report prepared for the Florida Division of Corrections by the American Justice Institute) within one year, and to reduce that population to "normal capacity" by December 1, 1976. The court ordered the defendants to give each inmate his or her own bed upon which to sleep. The defendants appealed.
On July 25, 1975, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted the defendants a temporary stay of the district court's order pending appeal. On January 15, 1976, the Fifth Circuit (Judge Elbert Parr Tuttle) vacated the stay and affirmed the district court's decision. Costello v. Wainwright, 525 F.2d 1239 (5th Cir. 1976). The defendants requested a rehearing en banc. On March 3, 1976, the Fifth Circuit agreed to hear the case en banc. Costello v. Wainwright, 528 F.2d (5th Cir. 1976).
On September 27, 1976, the en banc Fifth Circuit (Judge Paul Hitch Roney) vacated the district court's decision and set the case for reconsideration by a three-judge panel. The court held that the district court's order requiring the defendants to lower inmate population levels was beyond the power of a single federal judge because the relief granted stretched beyond the legal ability of the defendants to comply. Costello v. Wainwright, 539 F.2d 547 (5th Cir. 1976). The plaintiffs filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.
On March 21, 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a per curiam opinion reversing the en banc judgment of the Fifth Circuit and remanding the case for reconsideration. The Court held that a three-judge panel was not required at the district court level, thus the Fifth Circuit could hear the appeal on the merits of the case. Costello v. Wainwright, 430 U.S. 325 (1977).
On May 31, 1977, the en banc Fifth Circuit declined to hear the appeal on the merits of the case and reinstated the Fifth Circuit panel's January 15, 1976 affirmation of the district court's original decision. Costello v. Wainwright, 553 F.2d 506 (5th Cir. 1977).
On October 23, 1979, the parties entered into a settlement agreement regarding the issues related to overcrowding. The agreement established a formula for determining the state prison system's maximum capacity and provided that the population of the system would never exceed that maximum capacity. On February 11, 1980, the district court (Judge Scott) approved the agreement as a consent decree. Costello v. Wainwright, 489 F.Supp. 1100 (M.D.Fla. 1980).
According to later opinions, the parties entered into additional consent decrees on July 27, 1981, regarding the issues of food service, overcrowding, and health care. Several years later, the plaintiffs asked the district court to hold the defendants in contempt for failure to honor the agreement relating to health care. On August 22, 1985, the district court (Judge Susan Harrell Black) appointed a special master (Joseph R. Julin from the University of Florida College of Law) to survey the medical situation in the prison system.
On December 18, 1987, the district court (Judge Black) entered yet another consent decree in the case. The decree held Richard L. Dugger, the Secretary of the Department of Corrections, in civil contempt of the court's earlier orders and enjoined him from failing to comply with the court's further orders. The decree enjoined the defendants' use of inmates in the provision of healthcare in prisons and ordered the defendants to make over-the-counter medications available to the general population in all housing units. The decree further required the defendants to transfer inmates requiring emergency care to an appropriate community hospital, to furnish x-rays within a reasonable amount of time, to provide necessary nursing care, to have each inmate in the prison system medically evaluated, and to properly educate and train their medical staff.
On October 9, 1992, the special master filed a report recommending that the district court close the case. On March 30, 1993, the district court (Judge Black) adopted the special master's recommendation and closed the case. Celestineo v. Singletary, 147 F.R.D. 258 (M.D.Fla. 1993).Kristen Sagar - 06/26/2006