In December 1978, Sheridan Correctional Center inmate Gary South sued prison officials seeking to improve the law library and to have a disciplinary charge expunged from his record. South sought both money damages and injunctive relief. In December 1980, prior to the resolution of this case, Smith was discharged. His lawsuit remained active until February 11, 1982 when the parties entered into a court-approved settlement agreement: defendants agreed to expunge all records of the challenged disciplinary charge and entered into a consent decree regarding prison law library operation. The consent decree imposed several obligations on defendants with regard to the operation of the prison library. Specifically, the consent decree addressed the availability of materials, minimum hours of inmate access, and the provision of documents to draft legal filings, typewriters and photocopiers. A copy of the consent decree was required to be posted in the law library. Finally, the consent decree provided that the court would retain jurisdiction over the parties for two years to ensure enforcement of the decree's provision and that the library would be monitored by visits by counsel for both parties.
According to the opinion in the subsequent appeal, on February 10, 1984, the day before the expiration of the consent decree, inmate Thomas Radick filed a motion to extend the court' jurisdiction beyond the original two-year period in the Northern District of Illinois. In a supporting brief, he requested to be added as an additional plaintiff or that he be permitted to intervene in the cases. The motions were based on allegations that the library, relocated to a new location during the construction of a permanent library, was not being maintained as specified in the consent decree. Additionally, Radick's attorney (private counsel) contended that prison officials first claimed that the permanent library would be finished in January 1984, but at the end of that month, he discovered it would not be completed until the end of 1984.
Radick contended that defendants failed to comply with the terms of the decree and that until completion of the new library, future compliance was uncertain. Defendants countered that the consent decree amounted to a bargained-for binding contract, the terms of which could not be altered. The district court (Judge Leighton) held that the provision limiting the jurisdiction was a nullity, as courts can indefinitely enforce their decrees and parties cannot bargain away congressionally conferred jurisdiction. Therefore, the court could enforce the decree beyond February 11, 1984.
The district court also held that the intent of the parties to the decree was not to restrict the benefits to South, but was intended to benefit all the inmates at the prison. Moreover, the court held that as Radick was a current inmate, he was a third-party beneficiary and therefore a real party in interest. Finally, the court held that Radick should be added to the original case as a plaintiff as it would not prejudice defendants and would prevent the multiplicity of lawsuits, but that such additions only occurred in exceptional circumstances. Nevertheless, the court held that his motion for intervention was timely, and could therefore be added to the case as an intervenor. South v. Rowe, 102 F.R.D. 152 (N.D.Ill. 1984).
Prison officials appealed and the Court of Appeals affirmed district court's order allowing Radick to intervene to enforce the consent decree, but reversed its holding that the two-year enforcement term was a nullity. In reversing the lower court, the Court of Appeals (Senior Circuit Judge Swygert) explained that the two-year limit was not a private agreement, but had been judicially approved. South v. Rowe, 759 F.2d 610 (7th Cir. 1985).
The docket for this case is not available on PACER, and therefore our information ends with the most recent court opinion, dated April 8, 1985.Sherrie Waldrup - 09/01/2005