University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Langford v. Racicot AND In Re: Conditions at Montana State Prison v. Montana PC-MT-0001
Docket / Court 6:92-cv-00013-JCL ( D. Mont. )
Additional Docket(s) 6:93-cv-00046  [ 93-46 ]  District of MT (U.S.)
State/Territory Montana
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Prison Conditions
Special Collection Post-PLRA Jail and Prison Private Settlement Agreements
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National Prison Project
Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center
Case Summary
This entry describes the consolidated federal class action lawsuits arising out of complaints about the treatment of prisoners in Montana State Penitentiary.

The Initial Class Action Suit
On January 28, 1992, inmates at the Montana State Penitentiary filed a pro se lawsuit ... read more >
This entry describes the consolidated federal class action lawsuits arising out of complaints about the treatment of prisoners in Montana State Penitentiary.

The Initial Class Action Suit
On January 28, 1992, inmates at the Montana State Penitentiary filed a pro se lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Montana Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana. The plaintiffs alleged that their constitutional rights had been violated by poor medical care, dental care, and mental health care, overcrowding, fire hazards, environmental hazards, and security hazards, programming of prisoners, classification procedures, access to the prison for disabled inmates, and physical abuse by prison guards resulting in injury and death of inmates.

In May 1992, the Defendants twice moved for dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Magistrate Judge Leif Erickson held the Defendants' motion in abeyance until the Plaintiffs could file their amended complaint. On September 4, 1992, attorneys from the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union entered the case to represent the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs filed multiple amended complaints, and the plaintiffs also moved for class certification on October 7, 1992. On July 23, 1993, the plaintiffs were granted certification. Judge Erickson also denied the Defendants' motion to dismiss on August 12.

The Consolidation
On September 10, 1993, Magistrate Judge Leif Erickson consolidated this case with several other suits stemming from poor conditions at Montana State Prison (In re: Conditions at MSP, 6:93-cv-00046. On July 23, 1993, the district court certified the plaintiffs as a class, consisting of the current plaintiffs and other similarly situated inmates in the Maximum Security Unit since July 1, 1988 and in the future. Over the next few years, the court added 63 other lawsuits to the consolidation. The Clearinghouse has a list of the docket numbers for each of those suits, along with the names of the suits and the dates they were filed for most of them.

Settlement Agreement and Early Litigation
On October 28, 1994, the parties entered into a settlement agreement, and the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana (Magistrate Judge Erickson) granted preliminary approval. The agreement covered the areas of medical staffing, tuberculosis screening for inmates, intake medical screening, sick call, access to medication, annual physicals for prisoners, eye care, dental care, mental health care, out of cell recreation, preventive maintenance for prison buildings, compliance with public health and fire codes, objective classification, development of a disciplinary handbook, priority for treatment programs, maximum security procedures, staff supervision and training procedures, a prison-wide intercom system, procedures for use of force, population caps, revision of good time statutes, additional administrative staff, annual review of treatment plans, coordination with the parole board, and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. On November 28, 1994, the U.S. Department of Justice filed notice of objections to the settlement agreement. On November 29, 1994, the district court (Judge Erickson) approved the settlement agreement.

On March 30, 1995, the plaintiffs asked the court to award them attorneys' fees and expenses. On November 9, 1995, the district court (Judge Erickson) ordered the defendants to pay $232,131.44 in attorneys' fees and expenses. Both the plaintiffs and the defendants appealed the award. On April 29, 1996, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed the appeals and affirmed the district court's decision, ordering both parties to pay their own costs on appeal.

Early Efforts Toward Reaching Compliance
On June 25, 1997, the defendants asked the court to dismiss the portions of the complaint dealing with the areas where they had already substantially complied with the settlement agreement. On August 1, 1997, the district court (Judge Erickson) found the defendants partially substantially compliant and granted the defendants' motion to dismiss in the areas of out of cell time, coordination with the parole board, annual review of treatment plans, priority for treatment programs, creation of a disciplinary handbook, use of force, revision of good time statutes, and additional administrative staff.

On October 9, 1998, the plaintiffs asked the court to award them reasonable attorneys' fees and expenses for the litigation period following the first award of attorneys' fees. On September 30, 1999, the district court (Judge Erickson) granted the plaintiffs' second request for attorneys' fees and expenses. The court ordered the plaintiffs to advise the court on how much additional billable time they had spent on the litigation. Langford v. Racicot, 1999 WL 33208662 (D.Mont. Sept. 30, 1999). On February 29, 2000, the parties advised the court that the motion for attorneys' fees had been resolved privately, and that all plaintiff parties had been paid.

Earlier, on January 27, 1999, the district court (Judge Erickson) held that the defendants were substantially compliant in several areas except the tuberculosis screening, and the court dismissed those complaints accordingly. On September 9, 1999, the tuberculosis issue was dismissed as well.

Later Efforts Toward Compliance
Most of what happened in the early 2000's were just fights about attorney's fees. A September 30, 1999 order determined that defendants did have to pay plaintiff's attorney's fees, 1999 WL 33208662, and the precise amount in question was solved privately in early 2000. By June of 2005, however, Judge Erickson ordered the parties to submit a report summarizing the current status of the case and giving a timeline as to when the court could expect resolution. That report was due later that month, but it was not publicly available.

On August 18, 2005, defendants filed a motion to dismiss the rest of the settlement agreement. In October of that year, Judge Erickson granted dismissal of one section, saying that defendants were substantially compliant, but then in January of the following year denied dismissal of the settlement agreement as a whole, instead granting the appointment of an expert to supervise. Unhappy with this result, defendants appealed, and the court stayed all other proceedings in the case until the appeals court ruled. On May 15, 2007, the Ninth Circuit dismissed the defendants' appeal in part and affirmed the lower court's decision in part. Defendants were stuck with the district court's decision after all.

In the meantime, Judge Leif Erickson retired from the bench in June of 2006, and Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch was assigned the case. In December of that year, Judge Lynch was assigned as the referral judge on pretrial matters, while Judge Donald W. Molloy would be the presiding judge.

By May of 2008, attention shifted to the ADA provisions of the case, which represented the final step for Montana to become compliant. The court appointed an ADA expert, Peter Robertson, but he was fired in July of that year, "based upon his utter inability or refusal to complete the assigned tasks." Doc. 1470.

The case then dragged on for several years as defendants continued to submit status reports and make improvements to the prison in an effort to become compliant. On April 11, 2012, the court ordered parties to engage in good faith talks to appoint an expert that would evaluate whether defendants were ADA compliant. On July 12, the court appointed Ralph Frazier and Paul Bishop as experts, ordering the parties to split the costs. They made the inspections in September and were given November 1 as the deadline for their report.

We do not have the report, but plaintiffs' June 24, 2013 motion for specific performance indicates that the experts found that defendants were still not substantially compliant. The court denied this request, however, asking that the parties first try to work it out amongst themselves.

On November 11, 2013, the court granted the parties' stipulated motion to extend the monitoring period. Defendants agreed to begin a tracking system for disabled inmates, and the parties were to submit a final list of remaining issues by March 2014. On February 12, 2016, the court again granted the parties' stipulated motion to extend the monitoring period until August 12, 2016. However, the day before that deadline the court granted one more extension (although warning that it would be the last) until February 12, 2017.

Final Settlement Agreements
The parties jointly moved for class action settlement on March 2, 2017. This Settlement Agreement was intended to resolve the parties' only remaining dispute from the 1994 Settlement Agreement, the integration of disabled prisoners into housing, facilities, programs, and services as required by the ADA. However, for unknown reasons this agreement was never addressed by Judge Lynch.

The parties moved jointly for a separate Settlement Agreement regarding prison conditions on January 19, 2018. The court denied this Settlement Agreement on January 24, 2018. Although the court generally accepted the terms of the agreement, it did not wish to retain jurisdiction over the matter, and requested that the parties revise their motion to include an alternative procedure for dispute resolution, such as binding arbitration. The parties jointly moved for the court to approve their revised Settlement Agreement on February 23, 2018, and the court approved the Settlement Agreement on February 27, 2018. The parties acknowledged that the defendant had moved significantly toward compliance in two major areas: barrier removal and policy change, and reached a resolution toward full compliance in the remaining disputed areas.

On June 19, 2018, the court entered judgment in accordance with the February 23, 2018, Class Action Settlement Agreement, and gave the Agreement final approval. The agreement revised the 2017 settlement to reflect that defendants had made substantial improvements in providing access and had very few issues left to solve. The dispute resolution provision in the new agreement required that any disputes first go through an arbitrator before going back to the court as a forum of last resort. The court left open the possibility of appointing a Special Master if future disagreements arise from the terms of the Settlement Agreement.

In February of the next year, the judge ordered the defendants to pay a sum total of $950,000 in attorney's fees to plaintiffs, pursuant to the 2018 Settlement Agreement.

Kristen Sagar - 08/02/2007
Alex Wharton - 12/02/2014
Elizabeth Heise - 11/01/2018
Jack Hibbard - 07/01/2020


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Freedom of speech/association
Unreasonable search and seizure
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Hire
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Training
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Classification / placement
Disparate Impact
Disparate Treatment
Excessive force
Fire safety
Pattern or Practice
Recreation / Exercise
Sanitation / living conditions
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Medical/Mental Health
Dental care
Medical care, general
Mental health care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Defendant(s) Montana Department of Corrections
Montana State Prison
Plaintiff Description inmates at the Montana State Penitentiary
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National Prison Project
Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center
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 1994 - n/a
Filed 02/13/1992
Case Closing Year 2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Langford v. Bullock
https://www.aclu.org
Date: 03/02/2017
By: American Civil Liberties Union
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
92-13 (D. Mont.)
PC-MT-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/19/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
6:93−cv−00046−JCL (D. Mont.)
PC-MT-0001-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/11/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Fifth Amended Complaint
PC-MT-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/30/1993
Settlement Agreement
PC-MT-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/26/1994
Notice of Settlement
PC-MT-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/29/1994
Order [approving Settlement Agreement]
PC-MT-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/29/1994
Joint Stipulation Regarding Medical Care
PC-MT-0001-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/26/1996
Order (D. Mont.)
PC-MT-0001-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/26/1996
Order to Dismiss Portions of Complaint in Accordance with Parties' Settlement Agreement of October 1994 (D. Mont.)
PC-MT-0001-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/01/1997
Second Joint Stipulation Regarding Medical Care
PC-MT-0001-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/26/1998
Order (1999 WL 33208662) (D. Mont.)
PC-MT-0001-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/30/1999
Joint Motion to Approve Stipulation [ECF# 333]
PC-MT-0001-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/12/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Submission of Revised Settlement Agreement [ECF# 354]
PC-MT-0001-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/23/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 355] (D. Mont.)
PC-MT-0001-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/27/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Judgment [ECF# 371] (D. Mont.)
PC-MT-0001-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/19/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
[In Re Montana Consolidated Case Numbers]
PC-MT-0001-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/06/2020
show all people docs
Judges Erickson, Leif B. (D. Mont.) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-0001 | PC-MT-0001-0002 | PC-MT-0001-0003 | PC-MT-0001-0004 | PC-MT-0001-0005 | PC-MT-0001-0006 | PC-MT-0001-0007 | PC-MT-0001-0008 | PC-MT-0001-0009
Lynch, Jeremiah C Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-0012 | PC-MT-0001-0013 | PC-MT-0001-9000 | PC-MT-0001-9001
Plaintiff's Lawyers Balaban, Eric G. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-0005 | PC-MT-0001-0007 | PC-MT-0001-0010 | PC-MT-0001-0011 | PC-MT-0001-9000 | PC-MT-0001-9001
Brenneman, Beth (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-9000 | PC-MT-0001-9001
Conley, Anna (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-0010 | PC-MT-0001-9001
Ellingson, Jon (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-0011 | PC-MT-0001-9000 | PC-MT-0001-9001
Giuttari, Jennifer (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-9001
Griffing, Elizabeth L (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-9001
Hoovestal, Palmer A (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-9001
Huff, Andrew (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-9001
Kashani, Hamid R. (Indiana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-9000
Koren, Edward I. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-0001 | PC-MT-0001-0005 | PC-MT-0001-9000
Lopez, Mark J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-0001 | PC-MT-0001-0002 | PC-MT-0001-0003 | PC-MT-0001-0005 | PC-MT-0001-9000
Morris, Sarah (Colorado) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-9001
Quereshi, Ajmel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-0010 | PC-MT-0001-9001
Randall, Amy (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-9001
Rate, Alexander H. (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-0011 | PC-MT-0001-9000 | PC-MT-0001-9001
Renz, Jeffrey (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-9001
Robertson, Amy Farr (Colorado) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-0011 | PC-MT-0001-9000 | PC-MT-0001-9001
Sheehy, Edmund F. Jr. (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-0001 | PC-MT-0001-0005 | PC-MT-0001-0007 | PC-MT-0001-9000 | PC-MT-0001-9001
Winter, Margaret (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-0005 | PC-MT-0001-9000 | PC-MT-0001-9001
Wurster, Scott C. (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-0001 | PC-MT-0001-0005 | PC-MT-0001-0007 | PC-MT-0001-9000 | PC-MT-0001-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Abbott, Christopher D (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-9001
Adams, Lois H (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-9001
Ambrose, Colleen E (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-0011 | PC-MT-0001-9000 | PC-MT-0001-9001
Baker, Elizabeth S (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-9001
Brown, Aislinn W (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-9001
French, Rebekah (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-0010 | PC-MT-0001-9001
Keller, P. Keith (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-0001 | PC-MT-0001-0002 | PC-MT-0001-0005 | PC-MT-0001-0007 | PC-MT-0001-0008 | PC-MT-0001-9000 | PC-MT-0001-9001
King, Michael R (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-9001
Koch, Diana (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-9000 | PC-MT-0001-9001
Kradolfer, Kimberly A. (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-9000 | PC-MT-0001-9001
McCarthy, McKenzie V. (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-0010 | PC-MT-0001-9000 | PC-MT-0001-9001
Ohler, David L. (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-0001 | PC-MT-0001-0002 | PC-MT-0001-0003 | PC-MT-0001-0005 | PC-MT-0001-0007 | PC-MT-0001-0008 | PC-MT-0001-9000 | PC-MT-0001-9001
Payne, Timothy R. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-9001
White, Colleen Graham (Montana) show/hide docs
PC-MT-0001-9000 | PC-MT-0001-9001

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -