This case represents three consolidated class actions challenging conditions and policies at the Maine State Prison (MSP), Maine's only maximum security correctional facility for men. Represented by the ACLU National Prison Project and Pine Tree Legal Assistance with the help of private counsel, inmates of the Maine State Prison brought the initial civil rights suit, No. 78-90 in federal court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 on May 5, 1978. This case was brought on behalf of all MSP inmates who had been or might be confined in administrative segregation. The case was subsequently consolidated with two related class actions filed by inmates at MSP: Maine State Prison et al v. Mental Health & Corr., No. 79-8, brought on behalf of all inmates in protective custody, and Lovell et al v. Corrections et al., No. 79-76, brought on behalf of all inmates in the general population. All three cases also challenged use of so-called ""restraint cells"" - also known as ""the hole"" by inmates - in the prison's segregation unit. Suit was brought against the Governor of Maine, the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections and the Warden at MSP.
In the first case, inmates challenged poor conditions in administrative segregation as well as the process for assigning inmates to administrative segregation, alleging that it not only violated the U.S. Constitution and state law, but also was in violation of a 1973 consent decree in Inmates v. Mullaney (No. 11-187) (D.Me. 1973), PC-ME-003. The other cases challenged conditions in protective custody and in the general population, alleging that they violated the 8th Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Following initial evidentiary hearings, a new warden was appointed to the prison, who made substantial improvements in the prison's programs, and the record was re-opened. However, further negotiations failed to resolve the cases, and comprehensive briefs were filed and oral arguments held in October 1982.
On June 22, 1983, Judge Edward Gignoux issued an opinion and order in the three cases, finding the claims related to administrative segregation meritorious, but rejecting the other challenges. Lovell v. Brennan, 566 F.Supp. 672 (D.Me. 1983), which was affirmed by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. Lovell v. Brennan, 728 F.2d 560 (1st Cir. 1984).
While finding that overall conditions of confinement did not violate inmates' rights, in his ruling, Judge Gignoux concluded that the procedures for assigning inmates to administrative segregation violated the terms of the 1973 consent decree and that the prison's use of restraint cells was ""so inhumane"" that it violated the 8th and 14th Amendments (the small, windowless cells had no internal lighting or heat and were completely barren, except for a hole in the floor which served as a toilet, which could not be flushed from inside the cell). The court issued an order barring further violations in those areas. The Court, dismissing the remaining claims, found that the other conditions of confinement the inmates complained of had improved substantially since the filing of the lawsuit and did not currently violate the constitution or the consent decree. Lovell v. Brennan, 566 F.Supp at 677. The court noted, however, that the prison conditions improved only because of the lawsuit and only to the minimum extent required by law.
Subsequently, the attorneys for the inmates in all three cases sought attorneys fees. The Court, in an opinion by Judge Gignoux, concluded that because the plaintiffs had succeeded on the major claims of their case, that they were considered ""prevailing parties"" and should be awarded attorneys fees. Inmates of the Maine State Prison v. Zitnay, 590 F.Supp. 979 (D.Me. 1984).
The partial docket sheet available on PACER includes only the parties' names.Denise Lieberman - 10/16/2005