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Case Name Fambro v. Fulton County JC-GA-0015
Docket / Court 82-2136 ( N.D. Ga. )
State/Territory Georgia
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Case Summary
On September 29, 1982, inmates at the Fulton County Jail filed a class action lawsuit against Fulton County, Georgia in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs were represented by Georgia Legal Services Program and Atlanta Legal ... read more >
On September 29, 1982, inmates at the Fulton County Jail filed a class action lawsuit against Fulton County, Georgia in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs were represented by Georgia Legal Services Program and Atlanta Legal Aid Society.

Because this case predates PACER, we do not have access to the docket prior to February 4, 1991. We know from the procedural history in a later opinion that in 1984, the district court issued a consent decree to resolve the overcrowding in the Fulton County Jail.

The court's monitor made tentative findings of fact on the current conditions of the jail, dated April 11, 1989, at which point the jail had been under a consent decree for five years. The monitor found that within 90 days of entering into the consent decree, the defendant had been in violation of that consent decree to major or minor extents and had been at all times since then. Previously, at various times, in an effort to address persistent overcrowding, the court had authorized the sheriff in his discretion to release inmates under a prioritized release order. The court had also imposed a fine of $100 per day for each inmate sleeping on a mattress on the floor. The monitor reported that there were currently 400 inmates sleeping on mattresses on the floor and stated that the overcrowding "had a severely negative impact on medical services, food services, grievance and disciplinary procedures, maintenance service, sanitation service, library service, laundry service, inmate telephone privileges, inmate visitation services and inmate recreation privileges.” Fambro v. Fulton County, GA., 713 F.Supp. 1426 (N.D.Ga. 1989).

On April 21, 1989, the court held that: (1) substandard delivery of medical care in jail was unconstitutional; (2) substandard sanitation in jail was unconstitutional; and (3) release order was appropriate remedy.

The court found that there had been deficiencies in the medical system for more than a year, and that these shortcomings subjected inmates to "unnecessary risk of contracting dangerous or fatal communicable diseases, that inmates are having to suffer unnecessary pain and discomfort ranging from the common cold through major abscesses without help of medical science, and that whole classes of inmates that are dependent upon pharmaceuticals for the regulation and management of life-threatening conditions cannot predictably receive their medicine and sometimes must wait for up to three days to receive it." The court held that the jail did not meet the Constitution's requirement only that a jail not be deliberately indifferent to the medical needs of their inmates. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976).

The court also discussed the sanitation problems at the jail and found that the defendant had failed to meet its constitutional obligation of providing reasonably adequate sanitation for their inmates. Green v. Ferrell, 801 F.2d 765, 771 (5th Cir. 1986).

Judge Forrester explained that the current conditions were an "immediate crisis" and the only available solution was a release order, a last resort. The jail had not been responsive to past sanctions and had been accruing potential fines for years at rates of between $10,000 and $40,000 per day, which had not solved the problem. The court ordered the sheriff to submit weekly lists of pre-trial inmates to the state courts of Fulton County, who would have veto power over individuals' release, and would begin releasing inmates until the population was reduced to the limits set by the court. The release order would expire upon the full occupation of a new jail the defendant was in the process of constructing to alleviate the overcrowding problem, which was due to be completed four to nine months from the date of the order. The sheriff was ordered to release inmates pursuant to the order until the male population reached 1616 inmates and the female population reached 165 inmates.

The plaintiffs' motion for contempt on issues relating to overcrowding was stayed.

A consent order related to staffing was entered on February 4, 1991. Litigation related to the court monitor's findings on sanitation continued until April 15, 1994.

Judge Forrester ordered the case dismissed on April 15, 1994, but litigation continued through February 16, 1996 related to the court monitor's compensation and reimbursement of expenses. The case is now closed.

Lauren Cutson - 05/18/2006
Elizabeth Greiter - 01/26/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Content of Injunction
Monitoring
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
General
Conditions of confinement
Sanitation / living conditions
Totality of conditions
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Fulton County Jail
Plaintiff Description Inmates at the Fulton County Jail
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1984 - n/a
Case Closing Year 2004
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  The implementation of consent decrees in correctional institutions: a case study of Fulton county jail, Georgia
Robert W. Woodruff Library, Atlanta University Center
Date: May 1, 1987
By: Thembekile Charles Zingitwa (Atlanta University Student)
Citation: Zingitwa, Thembekile Charles, "The implementation of consent decrees in correctional institutions: a case study of Fulton county jail, Georgia" (1987). ETD Collection for AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library. Paper 312.
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
82-CV-2136-JOF (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0015-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/16/1996
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Reported Opinion (713 F.Supp. 1426) (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0015-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/21/1989
Source: Google Scholar
Judges Forrester, J. Owen (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0015-0001 | JC-GA-0015-9000
Monitors/Masters Keating, J. Michael (Rhode Island)
JC-GA-0015-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cullen, Robert W. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0015-0001 | JC-GA-0015-9000
Gottlieb, Steven (Georgia)
JC-GA-0015-0001
Holmen, Phyllis J. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0015-9000
Leshaw, Gary Jay (Georgia)
JC-GA-0015-0001 | JC-GA-0015-9000
Miller, Martha A. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0015-0001 | JC-GA-0015-9000
Ratner, Gary A. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0015-0001
Rowan, Milton Dale (Alabama)
JC-GA-0015-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Hewitt, William Davis (Georgia)
JC-GA-0015-0001 | JC-GA-0015-9000
Hirsch, Allen I. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0015-0001
Lackland, Theodore Howard (Georgia)
JC-GA-0015-0001 | JC-GA-0015-9000
Long, Elizabeth E. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0015-0001
Riddell, Karen S. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0015-0001
Schneider, Peter Wayne (Georgia)
JC-GA-0015-0001 | JC-GA-0015-9000
Sinkfield, Richard H. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0015-0001 | JC-GA-0015-9000

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