On June 11, 1984, prisoners filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Michigan Department of Corrections (DOC). The plaintiff class consisted of inmates at the State Prison of Southern Michigan at Jackson, the Marquette Branch Prison, the Michigan Reformatory at Ionia, and the Riverside Correctional Facility. Plaintiffs alleged overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, racial discrimination and segregation, poor health services, lack of access to courts, and other violations. They were represented by the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union and private counsel. On April 26, 1995, the parties entered into a consent decree appointing F. Warren Benton as monitor.
On February 27, 1987, the court (Judge Richard Alan Enslen) denied defendants' motions to dismiss. Knop v. Johnson, 655 F.Supp. 871 (W.D.Mich. 1987). Following a bench trial, on August 10, 1987, Judge Enslen found several conditions to be unconstitutional. Knop v. Johnson, 667 F.Supp. 467 (W.D.Mich. 1987). Unconstitutional conditions included the DOC's mail policy, lack of adequate winter clothing, inadequate toilet facilities, and inadequate law library resources. The court found that defendants did not engage in racial discrimination except with respect to racial harassment. The court directed the defendants to submit proposed plans to remedy these violations. On August 20, 1987, Judge Enslen entered an order denying defendants' motions for summary judgment and granting plaintiffs' motion for sanctions. Knop v. Johnson, 667 F.Supp. 512 (W.D.Mich. 1987). The court granted sanctions because it determined that defendants had filed motions with the intent to harass, delay, or increase the cost of litigation. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dismissed an appeal of that decision on May 20, 1988. Knop v. Johnson, 848 F.2d 191 (6th Cir. 1988).
On March 7, 1988, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals denied defendants' motion to stay the district court's decision pending appeal. Knop v. Johnson, 841 F.2d 1126 (6th Cir. 1988). The district court held a hearing on remedial plans proposed by both parties and entered an order on May 5, 1988. Knop v. Johnson, 685 F.Supp. 636 (W.D.Mich. 1988) (full order is part of opinion). The order addressed the construction of new toilet facilities, mail policies, a grievance procedure regarding complaints of racially derogatory conduct by staff, and access to courts, including required materials in law libraries.
Plaintiffs filed a petition for attorneys' fees for their role as amicus curiae in United States v. Michigan (PC-MI-009). That was denied on December 6, 1988. Knop v. Johnson, 700 F.Supp. 1457 (W.D.Mich. 1988). On April 5, 1989, the matter came before the court again regarding plaintiffs request for attorneys' fees. Judge Enslen held that a reduction in the fee award for partial success on the race-related claims was warranted and that plaintiffs could not recover expert witness fees. Knop v. Johnson, 712 F.Supp. 571 (W.D.Mich. 1989). Judge Enslen held that attorneys' fees were reasonable otherwise and awarded them to plaintiffs.
On appeal, this case was consolidated with Hadix v. Johnson (PC-MI-0019), another class action lawsuit against the Michigan DOC. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed both cases with regard to the findings regarding access to courts. Knop v. Johnson, 977 F.2d 996 (6th Cir. 1992). The court (Judge David A. Nelson) held that the DOC's duty to provide assistance in gaining access to the courts included assisting with prisoners' challenges to their convictions and conditions of confinement. On March 8, 1993, The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari. Knop v. McGinnis, 507 U.S. 973 (1993). On June 4, 1993, Judge Enslen ordered defendants to submit a plan for providing access to the courts consistent with this opinion. On December 22, 1994, Judge Enslen rejected defendants' plan. Litigation continued regarding discovery and attorneys fees. On October 1, 1996, the district court adopted the defendants' proposals in both of the consolidated cases for legal writer programs. Ultimately, the parties reached an agreement on access to the courts, and Judge Enslen, on March 6, 2002, ordered a dismissal of the plaintiffs' access to court claims in accordance with the parties' stipulation. There is no information available regarding the details of the stipulation. On May 2, 2002, Judge Enslen approved a stipulation regarding the DOC's mail policy, but there are no details available regarding this policy.
According to the docket, Judge Enslen dismissed the parties' legal mail claims on September 10, 2002. Although the details are not clear, the dismissal of these claims also entailed the dismissal of this portion of the consolidated case. The related case, Hadix (PC-MI-0019), continues.Kristen Sagar - 12/03/2008