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Case Name Powell v. Coughlin PC-NY-0012
Docket / Court 74-4628 ( S.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On October 22, 1974, prisoners at New York's two state prisons for women filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the New York Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs, who were represented in part by Bronx Legal ... read more >
On October 22, 1974, prisoners at New York's two state prisons for women filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the New York Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs, who were represented in part by Bronx Legal Services, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief to enjoin the prison officials from enforcing prison disciplinary procedures unless they complied with due process. Specifically, the plaintiffs requested that the defendants be required to provide them with a written statement of charges against them, notice of evidence relied on, reasons for the disciplinary decision, and notice of the prisoner's right to call witnesses.

On April 23, 1975, the District Court (Judge Charles E. Stewart) granted a preliminary injunction to the plaintiffs, finding that the defendants had violated their constitutional rights by putting them in segregation without procedural safeguards, thereby wrongfully depriving them of many basic rights and privileges, which were granted to the general prison population. Powell v. Ward, 392 F.Supp. 628 (S.D.N.Y. 1975). The defendants appealed. On September 17, 1976, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Judge Jon Ormond Newman) affirmed the District Court's decision, modifying it slightly to allow for prisoner disciplinary hearings to be delayed more than seven days if there were unusual or emergency situations. Powell v. Ward, 542 F.2d 102 (2nd Cir. 1976).

In 1979, the plaintiffs asked the District Court to hold the superintendent of the Bedford Hills facility in contempt for failure to comply with the Court's orders. On February 27, 1980, the District Court (Judge Stewart) found that the superintendent had failed to provide the procedural safeguards mandated by the court and granted the request for an injunction, holding the superintendent in civil contempt. The Court also appointed Linda R. Singer to be Special Master, charging her with the duty to monitor the defendants' compliance and submit reports to the Court. Powell v. Ward, 487 F.Supp. 918 (S.D.N.Y. 1980). The superintendent appealed, and on March 4, 1981, the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision. Powell v. Ward, 643 F.2d 924 (2nd Cir. 1981).

On July 6, 1984, the parties entered into a consent judgment, but we have no information on what the judgment included. The Special Master submitted regular reports to the District Court, and pursuant to those reports, on March 20, 1991, the District Court (Judge Stewart) ordered that the outcomes of seven inmate hearings to be reversed for lack of due process. The Court also invalidated the state policy protecting the confidentiality of clinical consultations by mental health personnel concerning prison inmates because the defendants had not sought formal modification of the injunction before enforcing the new policy. Powell v. Ward, 1991, WL 41654 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 20, 1991). The defendants appealed, and on December 27, 1991, the Second Circuit (Judge Newman) reversed the District Court's decision and remanded the case, finding that the procedural errors were harmless and that the defendants did not have to seek formal modification of the injunction. Powell v. Coughlin, 953 F.2d 744 (2nd Cir. 1991).

In February, 1992, the defendants moved for an order, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5), terminating the permanent injunction that had been entered against them. They argued that they were in full compliance with the order, and that further monitoring was unnecessary. The plaintiffs opposed the motion, and on August 25, 1993, the District Court (Judge Stewart) denied the motion to terminate the injunction, but agreed to re-hear it in six months. Powell v. Coughlin, 1993 WL 328837 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 25, 1993). The defendants appealed, and on April 28, 1994, the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision. On May 17, 1995, the District Court (Judge John S. Martin) reconsidered and granted the defendants' motion to dismiss, terminating the jurisdiction of the Court.

Kristen Sagar - 10/02/2007

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Disciplinary procedures
Disciplinary segregation
Medical/Mental Health
Mental health care, unspecified
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) New York Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description prisoners at New York’s two state prisons for women
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1975 - 1995
Filing Year 1974
Case Closing Year 1995
Case Ongoing No
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 ]

74-4628 (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0012-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/08/1995
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Opinion (392 F.Supp. 628) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0012-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/23/1975
Source: Google Scholar
Reported Opinion (542 F.2d 101)
PC-NY-0012-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/17/1976
Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Decision (487 F.Supp. 917) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0012-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/27/1980
Source: Google Scholar
Reported Opinion (643 F.2d 924)
PC-NY-0012-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/04/1981
Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Decision (540 F.Supp. 515) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0012-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/27/1982
Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Decision (562 F.Supp. 274) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0012-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/12/1983
Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Decision (1991 WL 41654 / 1991 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 3208) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0012-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/20/1991
Reported Opinion (953 F.2d 744)
PC-NY-0012-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/27/1991
Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Decision (1993 WL 328837 / 1993 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 11752) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0012-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/25/1993
Judges Bright, John (S.D.N.Y.)
Kaufman, Irving Robert (S.D.N.Y., Second Circuit)
Kearse, Amalya Lyle (Second Circuit)
Martin, John S. Jr. (S.D.N.Y.)
Newman, Jon Ormond (D. Conn., Second Circuit)
PC-NY-0012-0002 | PC-NY-0012-0004
Stewart, Charles E. Jr. (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0012-0001 | PC-NY-0012-0005 | PC-NY-0012-0006 | PC-NY-0012-0007 | PC-NY-0012-0008 | PC-NY-0012-0009
Plaintiff's Lawyers Braude, James S. (New York)
Hampden, Michael D. (New York)
Koob, Elizabeth L. (New York)
PC-NY-0012-0001 | PC-NY-0012-0002 | PC-NY-0012-0003 | PC-NY-0012-0005 | PC-NY-0012-0006 | PC-NY-0012-9000
Latimer, Stephen M. (New Jersey)
PC-NY-0012-0004 | PC-NY-0012-0007
Magoolaghan, Joan (New York)
McDonald, Ann (New York)
Singer, Linda R. (District of Columbia)
PC-NY-0012-0005 | PC-NY-0012-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Abrams, Robert W. (New York)
PC-NY-0012-0001 | PC-NY-0012-0002 | PC-NY-0012-0003
Butler, Barbara B. (New York)
Forte, Robert E. (New York)
Gordon, Judith A. (New York)
PC-NY-0012-0001 | PC-NY-0012-0003
Hirshowitz, Samuel A. (New York)
Kahn, Lawrence S. (New York)
Lefkowitz, Louis J. (New York)
Logue, Toni (New York)
Orenstein, Mary Anne B. (New York)
Reifler, Margery Evans (New York)
Sattler, Mortimer (New York)
Yarborough, Susan (New York)
PC-NY-0012-0005 | PC-NY-0012-0006
Zuckerman, George D. (New York)

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