University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Adams & U.S. v. Mathis JC-AL-0002
Docket / Court 74-70-S ( M.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Case Summary
On November 19, 1974, an inmate of the Houston County Jail in Alabama filed this case, pro se, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, seeking class action status. He proceeded under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against State officials responsible for the jail, challenging ... read more >
On November 19, 1974, an inmate of the Houston County Jail in Alabama filed this case, pro se, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, seeking class action status. He proceeded under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against State officials responsible for the jail, challenging many aspects of conditions--overcrowding, poor sanitation, inadequate nutrition, medical care, and recreational opportunities. The case was assigned to Judge Frank Johnson.

The United States became involved when Judge Johnson appointed the United States Attorney as amicus curiae. According to a later opinion, this order was "entered on the basis of allegations in the complaint concerning interference with the mail to and from the District Court and also on the basis of a contract between the United States and Houston County to house federal prisoners in the Houston County Jail." Adams v. Mathis, 458 F.Supp. 302 (M.D. Ala., 1978) In March 1975, the United States moved to intervene in the action and filed a complaint in intervention. The complaint in intervention alleged constitutional deprivations in the operation of the jail, including the failure to protect the inmates from harm, insufficient staffing and classification, overcrowding, poor sanitation, failure to supply personal hygiene items, inadequate visitation policies, inadequate recreation and inadequate medical care and diet. In March 1975, the Court granted the motion to intervene. As intervenor, the United States sought to expand the suit to include as parties all inmates in all county and municipal jails in the state and all officials--state and local--responsible in their official capacities for the operation of these jails. The Court found this attempt overbroad, and subsequently dismissed all defendants that lacked a connection with the Houston County Jail. The state defendants stayed in, however, since the U.S. alleged they had some responsibility for conditions at that particular jail. (The U.S. then litigated the conditions in Alabama's largest jail, in Jefferson County, in a different case, Thomas v. Gloor, JC-AL-0022 in this Clearinghouse.)

In July 1976, the Court certified a class of plaintiffs consisting of all present and future inmates of the Houston County Jail. Private counsel was appointed to represent the plaintiffs.

On the morning the case was scheduled to go to trial, February 21, 1977, the plaintiffs, the U.S., and the county defendants submitted a partial consent decree to the Court. The state defendants refused to stipulate to the provisions of the decree, so a trial proceeded.

On February 28, 1978, Judge Johnson found for the plaintiffs/U.S., holding: that it was the constitutional duty of the appropriate state officials to supervise agents operating the jail, to stay informed as to the conduct of those agents through regular and thorough inspections, and to enforce established standards and correct the conduct of the agents if necessary. The Court found that the failure of state officials to perform their constitutional duty to correct conditions and to supervise local officials concerning constitutional violations at the jail, including overcrowing, poor sanitation, inadequate diet medical care, justified injunctive relief. The Court also granted attorneys fees, half of which were to be assessed against the defendants who stipulated to the decree and the other half to the defendants represented at trial. The Court required that plaintiffs' counsel monitor compliance with its order. Adams v. Mathis, 458 F.Supp.302 (M.D.Ala. 1978).

On March 17, 1980, the State Fire Marshall, one of the defendants in the lower court trial, appealed the decision. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the decision (per curiam). Adams v. Mathis, 614 F.2d 42 (5th Cir. 1980).

On April 14, 1983, plaintiffs' lawyer filed a motion for award of attorney's fees, requesting payment for about 100 hours spent on this case in monitoring compliance. The district court sharply discounted the fees allowed. Plaintiffs appealed, and in an order dated February 4, 1985, the 11th Circuit vacated and remanded for entry of an appropriate, undiscounted, fee. Adams v. Mathis, 752 F.2d 553 (11th Cir. 1985). (In 1981, the 5th Circuit had split and Alabama had been placed into the new 11th Circuit.)

On July 2, 1997 the defendants field a motion to terminate the Partial Consent Decree pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act and on October 1, 1997 that motion was granted. The case therefore ended.

Rebecca Bloch - 04/05/2006

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Race discrimination
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Law library access
Recreation / Exercise
Sanitation / living conditions
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Houston County Jail
Plaintiff Description inmates of the Houston County Jail in Alabama
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1978 - 1997
Filed 11/19/1974
Case Closing Year 1997
Case Ongoing No
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Partial Consent Decree (M.D. Ala.)
JC-AL-0002-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/21/1977
Order (M.D. Ala.)
JC-AL-0002-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/28/1978
Memorandum Opinion (458 F.Supp. 302) (M.D. Ala.)
JC-AL-0002-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/28/1978
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (614 F.2d 42)
JC-AL-0002-0012.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/17/1980
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (752 F.2d 553)
JC-AL-0002-0013.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/04/1985
Source: Google Scholar
Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion to Terminate Court Orders Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act.
JC-AL-0002-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/04/1997
Memorandum Opinion and Order (M.D. Ala.)
JC-AL-0002-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/01/1997
show all people docs
Judges Ainsworth, Robert Andrew Jr. (E.D. La., Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
Fay, Peter Thorp (S.D. Fla., Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
Hatchett, Joseph Woodrow (Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
Henderson, Albert John (N.D. Ga., Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
Hunter, Edwin Ford Jr. (W.D. La.) show/hide docs
Johnson, Frank Minis Jr. (M.D. Ala., Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
JC-AL-0002-0001 | JC-AL-0002-0004 | JC-AL-0002-0011
Roney, Paul Hitch (FISCR, Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
Varner, Robert Edward (M.D. Ala.) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Barnett, Walter W. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Bell, John C. (Alabama) show/hide docs
Days, Drew S. III (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
DeMent, Ira (Alabama) show/hide docs
JC-AL-0002-0001 | JC-AL-0002-0011
Hartman, Joan F. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Moore, Shawn F. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Nomberg, Joel M. (Alabama) show/hide docs
JC-AL-0002-0001 | JC-AL-0002-0007 | JC-AL-0002-0011 | JC-AL-0002-0012 | JC-AL-0002-0013
Oakley, John B. (Alabama) show/hide docs
Teague, Barry E. (Alabama) show/hide docs
JC-AL-0002-0011 | JC-AL-0002-0012
Vines, Kenneth E. (Alabama) show/hide docs
JC-AL-0002-0012 | JC-AL-0002-0013
Whinston, Stephen A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-AL-0002-0001 | JC-AL-0002-0011
Defendant's Lawyers Allred, David E. (Alabama) show/hide docs
Barnes, William Scears Jr. (Alabama) show/hide docs
JC-AL-0002-0011 | JC-AL-0002-0012
Barnes, Charles H. (Alabama) show/hide docs
Baxley, William J. (Alabama) show/hide docs
Bright, Bob (Alabama) show/hide docs
Lamar, Robert S. (Alabama) show/hide docs
JC-AL-0002-0011 | JC-AL-0002-0012
Locke, Judson C. Jr. (Alabama) show/hide docs
Newman, Larry R. (Alabama) show/hide docs
Pons, James T. (Alabama) show/hide docs
Radney, Tom (Alabama) show/hide docs
Ramsey, Richard H. III (Alabama) show/hide docs
Segrest, Jere C. (Alabama) show/hide docs
JC-AL-0002-0001 | JC-AL-0002-0011

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