On April 6, 1977, in Dee v. Brewer, a group inmates at Iowa State Prison (ISP) filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Iowa prison officials in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Central Division. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that mail policies at the prison were in violation of the Constitution.
Previously, in a related case, on August 19, 1975, in Hazen v. Reagan, another group of ISP inmates filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Iowa prison officials in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. Those plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that policies and practices at ISP violated the Fourteenth Amendment. The Dee and Hazen cases were later consolidated after consent decrees were separately approved in each case.
On July 25, 1980, the District Court (Judge Charles R. Wolle) approved a consent decree in the Dee case. Under the Dee consent decree, (a) an inmate's legal papers could not be taken or searched outside of the inmate's presence and observation without the inmate's prior knowledge and consent, (b) if an inmate requested that his legal papers be searched only in his presence, the person conducting the search had to take the papers from the inmate, search the papers while the inmate watched, and then return the legal papers to the inmate immediately, (c) any searches of inmates' legal papers had to be made only to detect the presence of contraband and inmates' legal papers could not be read, and (d) in the absence of exigent circumstances, inmates' legal papers could not be taken from or searched in his cell or room while the inmate was not present unless the inmate gave prior consent to such a taking or search. The information about this consent decree is referenced in an unrelated case, Welch v. Spangler, 939 F.2d 570 (8th Cir. 1991).
In 1981, the parties in Hazen entered into a settlement agreement, and in 1982, the District Court (Judge William C. Stuart) approved the consent decree. Among other things, the Hazen consent decree provided for the creation of a Prisoners' Advisory Committee (PAC). Further, the Court retained jurisdiction over the matter.
In 1993, in Hazen, the District Court (Judge Charles R. Wolle) denied the plaintiffs' motion to hold the defendants in contempt for violation of the consent decree with respect to a prison transfer allegedly intended to frustrate one inmates' nomination to the PAC. The plaintiffs appealed.
On February 16, 1994, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Levin H. Campbell) affirmed the District Court's decision, refusing to hold the defendants in contempt. Hazen v. Reagan, 16 F.3d 921 (8th Cir. 1994).
Sometime before 1996, Dee and Hazen were consolidated.
On November 29, 1996, the District Court (Judge Wolle) denied the defendants' motion to terminate the consent decrees pursuant the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). Hazen v. Reagan, No. 4-75-CV090201, No. 4-77-CV-80102, 1996 WL 932550 (S.D. Iowa Nov. 29, 1996). The Court held the immediate termination provisions of the PLRA to be unconstitutional. The defendants appealed.
On appeal, on April 4, 1997, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held the cases in abeyance pending the outcome of an unrelated case, Gavin v. Brandstad, PC-IA-0003. The Court issued an opinion in Gavin v. Brandstad on August 5, 1997, and a mandate on November 24, 1997. Subsequently, on February 2, 1998, the Eighth Circuit (Judges Pasco M. Bowman, Morris S. Arnold, and Roger L. Wollman) reversed the District Court's November 29, 1997, decision and remanded.
After substantial litigation respecting the defendants' resistance to enforcement of the decrees, on August 7, 1998, the District Court (Judge Wolle) granted the defendants' motion to terminate relief and dismissed the cases. The plaintiffs appealed.
On March 31, 2000, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Pascal Middleton Bowman II) affirmed the District Court's August 7, 1998, ruling, which terminated the consent decrees. As the plaintiffs had apparently argued a novel contract theory, the Court held that the PLRA prohibited state-court enforcement of federal prison conditions consent decrees and so it was within the power of Congress to remove state-court jurisdiction to enforce federal consent decrees. Hazen v. Reagan, 208 F.3d 697 (8th Cir. 2000).
We have no more information on this case.Josh Altman - 06/26/2006