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Case Name Heit v. VanOchten PC-MI-0005
Docket / Court 96-CV-800 ( W.D. Mich. )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization ACLU National (all projects)
ACLU National Prison Project
Case Summary
On October 4, 1996, prisoners of the state of Michigan filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Michigan Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. The plaintiffs, represented by the National Prison Project of the American ... read more >
On October 4, 1996, prisoners of the state of Michigan filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Michigan Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. The plaintiffs, represented by the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, asked the court for injunctive relief, alleging that their constitutional rights had been violated by unconstitutional state administrative prisoner disciplinary hearing practices and procedures. Specifically, the complaint alleged that the defendants kept statistical records of its wins and losses before administrative law judges (ALJ's), used disciplinary threats against ALJ's to manipulate the conviction rate, and instructed ALJ's to issue not guilty rulings in no more than 10% of the disciplinary cases. In another case raising the same legal issue, Perry v. McGinnis, 209 F.3d 597 (6th Cir. 2000), the court of appeals found that "overwhelming evidence suggests that there was, at the very least, a strong expectation that the not guilty/dismissal rate should not rise above 10%" and stated that "[i]f hearing officers focus on finding 90% of the defendants before them guilty, as the evidence adduced thus far suggests, they cannot possibly be impartial, as is required by Wolff."

On April 27, 2000, the parties reached a settlement, in which the defendants agreed to discontinue the disciplinary procedures in question. On January 8, 2001, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan (Judge Richard Alan Enslen) approved the agreement as a consent decree and temporarily dismissed the case so long as the parties do not commit a material breach of the decree for one year. Heit v. Van Ochten, 126 F.Supp.2d 487 (W.D.Mich. 2001).

The issue of attorneys fees continued to be litigated up until 2003. Moreover, various plaintiffs filed pleadings to the court, which were initially denied. The plaintiffs appealed this decision, and the motion to appeal was granted on December 17, 2008.

The United States Court of Appeals dismissed the case on March 8, 2009 for want of prosecution. On November 17, 2010 affirmed the district court's order.

Kristen Sagar - 09/08/2006


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
General
Disciplinary procedures
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Michigan Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description prisoners of the state of Michigan
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU National (all projects)
ACLU National Prison Project
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se Yes
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 2001 - n/a
Filed 10/04/1996
Case Ongoing No reason to think so
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
W.D. Mich.
12/09/2010
1:96-cv-00800-RAE
PC-MI-0005-9001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
W.D. Mich.
01/01/1998
Consent Decree, Order & Judgment
PC-MI-0005-0001.pdf | Detail
W.D. Mich.
01/08/2001
Reported Opinion (126 F.Supp.2d 487)
PC-MI-0005-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Google Scholar
W.D. Mich.
01/12/2001
Order (2001 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 532)
PC-MI-0005-0009.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Source: LexisNexis
W.D. Mich.
09/26/2008
Order Vacating Rejection of Pleadings and Order Denying Objection [ECF# 411]
PC-MI-0005-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Mich.
10/22/2008
Notice of Appeal [ECF# 416]
PC-MI-0005-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Mich.
12/17/2008
Order Granting Request to Appeal In Forma Pauperis [ECF# 420]
PC-MI-0005-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
03/04/2009
Order [Dismissing Cause for Want of Prosecution] [Ct. of App. ECF# 422]
PC-MI-0005-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
03/08/2010
Order [Reinstating Case] [Ct. of App. ECF# 423]
PC-MI-0005-0007.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
11/17/2010
Order [Affirming District Court's Order] [Ct. of App. ECF# 425]
PC-MI-0005-0008.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Cole, Ransey Guy Jr. (Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0005-0008
Enslen, Richard Alan (W.D. Mich.) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0005-0001 | PC-MI-0005-0002 | PC-MI-0005-0009 | PC-MI-0005-9001
Keith, Damon Jerome (E.D. Mich., Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0005-0008
Maloney, Paul Lewis (W.D. Mich.) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0005-0003 | PC-MI-0005-0005 | PC-MI-0005-9001
Rowland, Doyle A. (W.D. Mich.) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0005-0001
Siler, Eugene Edward Jr. (E.D. Ky., W.D. Ky., Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0005-0008
Plaintiff's Lawyers Alexander, Elizabeth R. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0005-0001 | PC-MI-0005-0002 | PC-MI-0005-0009 | PC-MI-0005-9001
Streeter, Patricia A. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0005-0001 | PC-MI-0005-0002 | PC-MI-0005-0009 | PC-MI-0005-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Campbell, Christine M. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0005-9001
Friedman, Leo H. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0005-9001
Granholm, Jennifer M. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0005-0002 | PC-MI-0005-0009
Matus, Mark W. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0005-0002 | PC-MI-0005-9001
Olivieri, Linda M. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0005-0009 | PC-MI-0005-9001
Walton, Lamont M. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0005-0001 | PC-MI-0005-9001

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