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Case Name Williams v. McKeithen PC-LA-0001
Docket / Court 71-CV-98B ( M.D. La. )
State/Territory Louisiana
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Civil Rights Division Archival Collection
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
This is one of a collection of § 1983 inmate cases filed in Louisiana federal courts to challenge the operation and conditions of confinement in the Louisiana prison system and in parish and city jails through Louisiana. These cases have worked their way through the federal courts over the last ... read more >
This is one of a collection of § 1983 inmate cases filed in Louisiana federal courts to challenge the operation and conditions of confinement in the Louisiana prison system and in parish and city jails through Louisiana. These cases have worked their way through the federal courts over the last four decades and are part of this collection, located at PC-LA, JC-LA and JI-LA.

In this case, four Louisiana prison inmates filed a civil rights lawsuit on March 26, 1971, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, against the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections [the Department] in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. Plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, alleged unconstitutional conditions of confinement in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as class certification. The case was originally styled Williams v. McKeithen, (case no. 71-98B.) and was subsequently styled Williams v. Edwards. (Pleadings and court opinions have used both case captions.)

After suit was filed, on July 21, 1994, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) intervened in the case on the § 1981 claims of racial discrimination and appeared as amicus curiae on the other issues.

A bench trial on the merits was held in December 1973 before a Magistrate Judge acting as Special Master. In June 1975, the District Court (Judge E. Gordon West) adopted the Special Masters report and entered an injunction designed to improve prison conditions and decentralize the Louisiana prison system. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed on February 15, 1977 and remanded the case for a determination of appropriate inmate population limits and security staffing requirements. Williams v. Edwards, 547 F.2d 1206 (5th Cir. 1977).

On remand, the case moved into the remedial phase. In 1983, the District Court entered an order (1983 Order or Consent Decree), which approved a Department plan proposing staffing patterns and inmate population limits throughout the state.

In November 1986 and again in January 1988, the District Court extended the duration of the 1983 Order so that the Department could comply with its provisions. On January 28, 1991, the district court certified the case a class action. In 1993, the District Court again issued an order extending the 1983 Order, and between 1992 and 1994, the District Court modified the 1983 Order seven different times at the request of the Department. In February 1995, the Court ordered the Department to identify (1) each facility that was used to house state inmates, (2) the number of beds available in the state prisons, and (3) whether any additional beds could be made available.

In May 1995, the District Court issued findings of fact which included: (1) State prisons were at or near capacity authorized by the 1983 Order; (2) less that 1000 vacancies existed in all local facilities; (3) a crisis existed with respect to housing the Department's inmates; (4) inmates were being released prematurely due to lack of jail space; and (5) there was no plan to construct additional bed space. After meeting with the parties and experts, in July 1995, the Court issued the "'95 Reinstatement Order," which vacated each of the seven modification orders to the 1983 Order. The Department appealed.

On appeal, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Jacques Loeb Wiener, Jr.) held that the original 1983 Order, which had been treated as a consent decree, had the full force and effect of a judicial resolution of the dispute. Additionally, the Fifth Circuit ordered that the District Court had properly retained jurisdiction of the matter, and that it did not abuse its discretion in issuing the 1995 Reinstatement Order. Williams v. Edwards, 87 F.3d 126 (5th Cir. 1996), rehearing en banc denied, 95 F.3d 56 (5th Cir. 1996).

On September 26, 1996, the Williams parties filed a Petition for Order Approving Settlement for Purpose of Terminating Consent Decrees, in which the parties had agreed to the "dismissal of all consent decrees" for all state, parish, and city facilities housing DOC inmates, except the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola and specified juvenile detention facilities, effective April 1, 1997. Following a hearing, the District Court (Judge Frank J. Polozola) approved the settlement.

The plaintiffs in the case Hamilton v. Morial [JC-LA-3], (Hamilton plaintiffs) sought intervention in the Williams case, to challenge the settlement and dismissal of population cap consent decrees. Intervention was denied.

Pursuant to the settlement, April 1, 1997 Judge Polozola entered an order finally releasing all state facilities, with the exception of five institutions including the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, from further supervision and reporting requirements and, in doing so, noted that it earlier had released all parish and local facilities from further supervision and reporting requirements. The Hamilton plaintiffs appealed, but the appeal was ultimately dismissed as untimely. Hamilton plaintiffs v. Williams plaintiffs, 147 F.3d 367 (5th Cir. 1998).

In November 1998, District Judge Polozola ordered the Williams consolidated with U.S. v. Louisiana Civ. No. 98-947-B-1 [JI-LA-1] (CRIPA lawsuit alleging unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the Jetson, Bridge City, Swanson and Tallulah juvenile facilities) and Brian B. v. Stadler Civ. No. 98-886-B-M1 [JI-LA-6] (private class action challenging conditions at Tallulah). A Settlement Agreement was reached in the consolidated cases in 2000, followed by modified agreements in 2003 and 2004. On May 2, 2006, at the joint request of all parties, the District Court (Judge James J. Brady) dismissed all of the consolidated cases.

See U.S. v. Louisiana (JI-LA-1) for a more detailed summary of the procedural history of the case after the 1998 consolidation.

Dan Dalton - 02/23/2007

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Crowding / caseload
Pre-PLRA Population Cap
Race discrimination
Classification / placement
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Totality of conditions
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Louisiana State Penitentiary
Plaintiff Description Inmates challenging the constitutionality of their housing conditions at Louisiana facilities
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1975 - 2006
Case Closing Year 2006
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing JI-LA-0001 : United States v. Louisiana (M.D. La.)
JC-LA-0021 : In re Parish Prison [Jail] Populations (M.D. La.)
JI-LA-0006 : Brian B. v. Stalder (M.D. La.)
JI-LA-0008 : In re Juvenile Justice Facilities (M.D. La.)
JI-LA-0007 : A.A. v. Wackenhut (M.D. La.)
Additional Resources
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  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

71-CV-98 (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/21/1998
71-CV-98 (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/07/2004
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Settlement Agreement for Medical, Dental, Mental Health, Rehabilitation and Juvenile Justice Issues
PC-LA-0001-0020.pdf | External Link | Detail
Special Master's Report
PC-LA-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/28/1975
Judgment and Order (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/10/1975
Opinion (547 F.2d 1206)
PC-LA-0001-0032.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/15/1977
Source: Google Scholar
[Order] (495 F.Supp. 707) (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0034.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/04/1980
Source: Google Scholar
Stipulation & Consent Decree
PC-LA-0001-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/19/1983
Memorandum on the Issue of Who Represents the State (1990 WL 265971) (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0036.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/20/1990
Reported Opinion (939 F.2d 1100)
PC-LA-0001-0029.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/13/1991
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (963 F.2d 70)
PC-LA-0001-0030.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/04/1992
Source: Google Scholar
Order (1993 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 21193) (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0038.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/27/1993
Source: LexisNexis
Opinion (87 F.3d 126)
PC-LA-0001-0033.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/16/1996
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (95 F.3d 56)
PC-LA-0001-0037.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/24/1996
Petition for order approving settlement for purpose of terminating Consent Decrees
PC-LA-0001-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/26/1996
Order approving Settlement (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/26/1996
Order (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/26/1996
Amended November 17, 1995 Judgment and order (09-26-96) (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/26/1996
Minute Entry (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0024.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/26/1996
Order (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0023.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/22/1996
Order (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/09/1996
Motion and Order to clarify consent Decree (12-20-96) (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/20/1996
Order (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/24/1997
Order (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/01/1997
Order (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0019.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/06/1997
Order (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/22/1997
Order (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0017.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/10/1997
Order (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0018.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/31/1997
Opinion (147 F.3d 367)
PC-LA-0001-0031.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/14/1998
Source: Google Scholar
United States' Jena Agreement
PC-LA-0001-0022.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/01/2000
Memorandum Opinion (121 F.Supp.2d 943) (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0035.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/03/2000
Source: Google Scholar
Order (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0028.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/13/2001
2003 Settlement Agreement
PC-LA-0001-0021.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 01/17/2003
Order (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0026.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/22/2004
Order (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0027.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/05/2005
Judges Ainsworth, Robert Andrew Jr. (E.D. La., Fifth Circuit)
Brady, James J. (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0026 | PC-LA-0001-0027
Davis, W. Eugene (W.D. La., Fifth Circuit)
Garwood, William Lockhart (Fifth Circuit)
Hill, James Clinkscales (N.D. Ga., Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit)
King, Carolyn Dineen (Fifth Circuit)
Politz, Henry Anthony (Fifth Circuit)
Polozola, Frank Joseph (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0001 | PC-LA-0001-0005 | PC-LA-0001-0009 | PC-LA-0001-0010 | PC-LA-0001-0011 | PC-LA-0001-0012 | PC-LA-0001-0013 | PC-LA-0001-0014 | PC-LA-0001-0015 | PC-LA-0001-0016 | PC-LA-0001-0017 | PC-LA-0001-0018 | PC-LA-0001-0019 | PC-LA-0001-0023 | PC-LA-0001-0024 | PC-LA-0001-0028 | PC-LA-0001-0034 | PC-LA-0001-0035 | PC-LA-0001-0036 | PC-LA-0001-0038 | PC-LA-0001-9000 | PC-LA-0001-9001
West, Elmer Gordon (E.D. La., M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0001-0001 | PC-LA-0001-0002
Wiener, Jacques Loeb Jr. (Fifth Circuit)
Monitors/Masters Polozola, Frank Joseph (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0001-0001 | PC-LA-0001-0005 | PC-LA-0001-0009 | PC-LA-0001-0010 | PC-LA-0001-0011 | PC-LA-0001-0012 | PC-LA-0001-0013 | PC-LA-0001-0014 | PC-LA-0001-0015 | PC-LA-0001-0016 | PC-LA-0001-0017 | PC-LA-0001-0018 | PC-LA-0001-0019 | PC-LA-0001-0023 | PC-LA-0001-0024 | PC-LA-0001-0028 | PC-LA-0001-0034 | PC-LA-0001-0035 | PC-LA-0001-0036 | PC-LA-0001-0038 | PC-LA-0001-9000 | PC-LA-0001-9001
Plaintiff's Lawyers Behan, Kathleen A. (District of Columbia)
Biles, Blake A. (District of Columbia)
Bower, Karen A. (District of Columbia)
Boyd, Ralph F. Jr. (District of Columbia)
Celeste, Gabriella (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0001-0020 | PC-LA-0001-0035
Cooper, Robert Howard (Louisiana)
Denlinger, June E. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0001-0015 | PC-LA-0001-0020 | PC-LA-0001-0021 | PC-LA-0001-0024 | PC-LA-0001-0031 | PC-LA-0001-0033 | PC-LA-0001-0035 | PC-LA-0001-9000 | PC-LA-0001-9001
Dugas, David R. (Louisiana)
Fontana, Luke J. Jr. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0001-0029 | PC-LA-0001-0032
Frohboese, Robinsue (District of Columbia)
PC-LA-0001-0020 | PC-LA-0001-0022
Goff, Addison Kennon III (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0001-0035 | PC-LA-0001-9000
Gonzales, Douglas M. (Louisiana)
Hymel, L. J. Jr. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0001-0020 | PC-LA-0001-0035
Kahn, Ayesha (District of Columbia)
Kendall, Robert Jr. (District of Columbia)
Lee, Bill Lann (California)
Morgan, David L. Jr. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0001-0032 | PC-LA-0001-0034
Nordyke, Keith B (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0001-0008 | PC-LA-0001-0011 | PC-LA-0001-0020 | PC-LA-0001-0021 | PC-LA-0001-0024 | PC-LA-0001-0029 | PC-LA-0001-0031 | PC-LA-0001-0033 | PC-LA-0001-0035 | PC-LA-0001-9000 | PC-LA-0001-9001
Pelletier, Angela M. (District of Columbia)
Prager, Lutz Alexander (District of Columbia)
Preston, Judith C. (District of Columbia)
PC-LA-0001-0020 | PC-LA-0001-0021 | PC-LA-0001-0022
Reid, Herbert O. Sr. (District of Columbia)
Resetarits, Jeffrey (District of Columbia)
Rosenbaum, Steven H. (District of Columbia)
PC-LA-0001-0020 | PC-LA-0001-0021 | PC-LA-0001-0022
Utter, David J. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0001-0020 | PC-LA-0001-0021 | PC-LA-0001-0035 | PC-LA-0001-9000
Vanderhoof, David J.W. (District of Columbia)
Wendtland, Linda S. (District of Columbia)
Wolleson, P. Scott (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0001-0035 | PC-LA-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Ardoin, J. Winston (Louisiana)
Baker, John Elliott (Louisiana)
Bardwell, Stanford O. Jr. (Louisiana)
Bowers, Patricia Nalley (Louisiana)
Cedars, Chester R. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0001-9000 | PC-LA-0001-9001
Curry, Richard A. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0001-0008 | PC-LA-0001-0011 | PC-LA-0001-0020 | PC-LA-0001-0021 | PC-LA-0001-0022 | PC-LA-0001-0024 | PC-LA-0001-0031 | PC-LA-0001-0033 | PC-LA-0001-0035
Dubos, Michael L. (Louisiana)
Guste, William J. Jr. (Louisiana)
Halphen, Ann M. (Louisiana)
Hicks, M. Brent (Louisiana)
Ieyoub, Richard P. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0001-0020 | PC-LA-0001-0021 | PC-LA-0001-0022
Jordan, Eddie J. Jr. (Louisiana)
Joseph, Cheney (Louisiana)
Kline, William Lester (Louisiana)
Koury, Constance A. (Louisiana)
La Clercq, Frederic Theodore (Louisiana)
Lambert, Amy Collier (Louisiana)
Lamonica, P. Raymond (Louisiana)
Lancaster, Michael E. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0001-9000 | PC-LA-0001-9001
Matthews, Freeman Rudolph (Louisiana)
Montgomery, J. Marvin (Louisiana)
Phelps, Donald T.W. (Louisiana)
Plauche, W. Evan (Louisiana)
Reiger, Shannan Sweeney (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0001-0008 | PC-LA-0001-0011 | PC-LA-0001-0024 | PC-LA-0001-0031
Reynolds, William Bradford (District of Columbia)
Roy, A.J. Jr. (Louisiana)
Russell, Kevin K. (District of Columbia)
Simmons, Richard T. Jr. (Louisiana)
Skinner, Michael D. (Louisiana)
Spilman, Joseph L. III (Louisiana)
Thompson, Ronald (Louisiana)
Tooke, Margaret L. (Louisiana)
Tulley, Frederic R. (Louisiana)
Usry, Thomas Allen (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0001-0010 | PC-LA-0001-0024 | PC-LA-0001-0029 | PC-LA-0001-0031
Walker, Annabelle Hoppe (Louisiana)
Other Lawyers Goldschmidt, Iris (District of Columbia)
PC-LA-0001-0020 | PC-LA-0001-0022 | PC-LA-0001-0035 | PC-LA-0001-9000
Landsberg, Brian K. (District of Columbia)
Silver, Jessica Dunsay (District of Columbia)

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