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Case Name Johnson v. Galley PC-MD-0003
Docket / Court 77-113 ( D. Md. )
State/Territory Maryland
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization ACLU National (all projects)
ACLU National Prison Project
Case Summary
In 1977, inmates at the Maryland House of Correction ("MHC") filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. The plaintiffs, who were represented in part by the ... read more >
In 1977, inmates at the Maryland House of Correction ("MHC") filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. The plaintiffs, who were represented in part by the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, asked the Court for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the defendants had violated their constitutional rights by allowing MHC to become dangerously overcrowded, subjecting them to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. In 1978, a similar lawsuit was filed challenging the conditions at the Maryland Correctional Institute ("MCI") at Hagerstown, Maryland. The cases were subsequently consolidated.

On May 17, 1978, the District Court (Judge Alexander Harvey II) granted declaratory and injunctive relief to the plaintiffs, finding that the prison was unconstitutionally overcrowded and ordering the prison to discontinue the use of double-celling. The Court ruled that the parties to the lawsuit must try to agree upon an appropriate plan for elimination of overcrowding, warning that if no agreement could be reached, the court would itself determine what relief would be entered. Johnson v. Levine, 450 F.Supp. 648 (D.Md. 1978). The defendants appealed.

In the interim, the defendants came forth with a plan involving construction of a new facility, conversion of an old facility, and early release of prisoners that were believed to be appropriate for release. They claimed that under this plan, the overcrowded conditions would be gone by June 1, 1980. On December 13, 1978, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a per curiam opinion partially affirming the District Court's decision, holding that the prisons were unconstitutionally overcrowded, but finding that the defendants' plan to alleviate overcrowding deserved judicial approval. Johnson v. Levine, 588 F.2d 1378 (4th Cir. 1978).

We are unsure about whether the District Court adopted the defendants' proposed plan, but in 1983, the parties entered into a stipulated agreement providing for population caps and other procedures to address the conditions at both facilities. In 1987, the plaintiffs moved to modify that agreement. As a result of negotiations, the parties entered into a new stipulated agreement on July 8, 1987, resolving a majority of the claims raised by the plaintiffs.

On December 3, 1987, the parties agreed to a supplemental stipulated agreement resolving the remaining issues. These agreements provided comprehensive prospective relief governing a broad spectrum of issues: population limitations, double-celling, environmental conditions, repair and replacement of windows, plumbing fixtures, painted surfaces, roofing, ventilation systems, food services, security, work programs, recreational programs, educational programs, and healthcare. The District Court approved these agreements on February 19, 1988.

On March 8, 1990, the parties jointly stipulated that there were still critical issues in the areas of healthcare, nutrition, environmental conditions, fire safety, and population limits at both institutions involved in this litigation. The parties agreed that the plaintiffs' experts would work together with the defendants to develop specific plans to come into compliance with the stipulated agreements. In return, the defendants agreed not to increase the population at either facility until they were back within the proper population limits, except in an emergency and after notification of the plaintiffs' attorney.

During the negotiations that followed, the parties compiled a list of 83 repairs that needed to be maid at the two facilities. The prison officials provided a timetable of projected dates for completing the repairs, but insisted that they were tentative and conditions at all times on obtaining needed funding. Over the next year, the prison officials made substantial progress in completing the repairs, finishing 69 of the 83 items by July 31, 1991. On June 7, 1991, the prisoners asked the District Court to convert the timetable into a court order and to fine the prison officials $1000 per day for each day that the improvements were delayed, following a 30-day grace period.

On September 19, 1991, the District Court (Judge William M. Nickerson) issued an order approving the timetable as an official agreement (over the objections of the defendants), but denying the request for automatic penalties. The defendants appealed, and on February 22, 1993, the Fourth Circuit (James Harvie Wilkinson III) reversed the District Court's order and held that the timetable could not be enforced as an agreement between the parties. Johnson v. Robinson 987 F.2d 1043 (4th Cir. 1993).

On October 15, 1996, the defendants asked the District Court to terminate the consent decrees in this case pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"). The plaintiffs objected, arguing that the PLRA was unconstitutional. On February 26, 1997, the District Court (Judge Nickerson) held that the PLRA was constitutional and that it required the immediate termination of the consent decrees and stipulations that had been approved by the Court in this case because the plaintiffs were unable to point to any ongoing constitutional violation.

Kristen Sagar - 10/01/2007

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Crowding / caseload
Pre-PLRA Population Cap
Fire safety
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Recreation / Exercise
Sanitation / living conditions
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Totality of conditions
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Maryland Correctional Institution
Plaintiff Description prisoners of the State of Maryland
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU National (all projects)
ACLU National Prison Project
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Unknown
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1978 - 1997
Filing Year 1977
Case Closing Year 1997
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing PC-MD-0007 : Nelson v. Collins (D. Md.)
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 ]

No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Opinion (450 F.Supp. 648) (D. Md.)
PC-MD-0003-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/17/1978
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (588 F.2d 1378)
PC-MD-0003-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/13/1978
Source: Google Scholar
PC-MD-0003-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/28/1985
Stipulation Agreement
PC-MD-0003-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/05/1987
Supplemental Stipulated Agreement (D. Md.)
PC-MD-0003-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/23/1987
Stipulation of Facts and Agreed Resolution
PC-MD-0003-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/08/1990
Opinion (987 F.2d 1043)
PC-MD-0003-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/22/1993
Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum & Order (D. Md.)
PC-MD-0003-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/26/1997
Judges Butzner, John Decker Jr. (Fourth Circuit, E.D. Va.)
Harvey, Alexander II (D. Md.)
PC-MD-0003-0001 | PC-MD-0003-0002 | PC-MD-0003-0003 | PC-MD-0003-0006
Haynsworth, Clement Furman Jr. (Fourth Circuit)
Luttig, J. Michael (Fourth Circuit)
Nickerson, William M. (D. Md.)
Russell, Donald Stuart (D.S.C., Fourth Circuit)
Widener, Hiram Emory Jr. (Fourth Circuit, W.D. Va.)
Wilkinson, James Harvie III (Fourth Circuit)
Winter, Harrison Lee (D. Md., Fourth Circuit)
Plaintiff's Lawyers Aiyetoro, Adjoa A. (District of Columbia)
PC-MD-0003-0002 | PC-MD-0003-0003 | PC-MD-0003-0004 | PC-MD-0003-0008
Alexander, Elizabeth R. (District of Columbia)
Bekman, Paul D. (Maryland)
PC-MD-0003-0002 | PC-MD-0003-0003 | PC-MD-0003-0004 | PC-MD-0003-0006 | PC-MD-0003-0007
Boteler, Sandra D. (Maryland)
Coe, Ward B. III (Maryland)
Elcano, Mary S. (Maryland)
Fathi, David Cyrus (District of Columbia)
Fishman, Richard G. (Maryland)
North, Richard L. (Maryland)
Pierson, W. Michel (Maryland)
PC-MD-0003-0002 | PC-MD-0003-0003 | PC-MD-0003-0004
Steele, Nevett Jr. (Maryland)
PC-MD-0003-0002 | PC-MD-0003-0003 | PC-MD-0003-0004 | PC-MD-0003-0006 | PC-MD-0003-0007
Defendant's Lawyers Burch, Francis B. (Maryland)
PC-MD-0003-0006 | PC-MD-0003-0007
Caplis, Stephen B. (Maryland)
PC-MD-0003-0006 | PC-MD-0003-0007
Coshnear, Lawrence B. (Maryland)
PC-MD-0003-0001 | PC-MD-0003-0007
Curran, John Joseph Jr. (Maryland)
Dantes, Phillip G. (Maryland)
Finan, W. Timothy (Maryland)
Kastendieck, Richard H. (Maryland)
PC-MD-0003-0002 | PC-MD-0003-0003 | PC-MD-0003-0004 | PC-MD-0003-0008
Nathan, Stuart M. (Maryland)
Nilson, George A. (Maryland)
Plitt, Emory A. Jr. (Maryland)
PC-MD-0003-0001 | PC-MD-0003-0002 | PC-MD-0003-0003 | PC-MD-0003-0004
Sachs, Stephen H. (Maryland)
Sharp, Clarence W. (Maryland)
Shepard, Carmen Mercedes (Maryland)
Other Lawyers Hall, Oliver B. (District of Columbia)

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