On October 12, 1979, inmates at the Washington State Penitentiary brought a class-action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that conditions in the facility amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Plaintiffs were ...
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On October 12, 1979, inmates at the Washington State Penitentiary brought a class-action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that conditions in the facility amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Plaintiffs were represented by Columbia Legal Services in Seattle and private attorneys. (On appeal, the plaintiffs were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington.) The district court (Judge Jack E. Tanner) found that the penitentiary was constitutionally deficient and awarded injunctive relief. The district court opinions are not available for this case.
On appeal, the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit (Judge John C. Wallace) found that the district court erred in holding that overcrowding was a constitutional violation. Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237 (9th Cir. 1982). The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's holding that the medical services provided at the penitentiary violated the Eighth Amendment but held that the court erred in finding constitutional violations in the areas of vocational and educational programs, the physical conditions of the facility, segregation of inmates, and lockdown conditions. In these areas, the district court had taken what the Ninth Circuit found to be an erroneous "totality of conditions" approach and did not consider and provide remedies for individual violations. The Ninth Circuit also found that the district court's decision that inmates lacked access to courts and were retaliated against when seeking access was not based on sufficient findings of fact. The case was remanded.
On remand, the district court (Judge Jack Edward Tanner) again entered judgment finding conditions to be in violation of the Eighth amendment and ordered relief. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit (Judge Benjamin Duniway) held that the district court followed its previous instructions to consider the findings of fact individually. Hoptowit v. Spellman, 753 F.2d 779 (9th Cir. 1985). It upheld the district court's determination that the conditions related to the physical conditions of the facility, fire safety, protective custody, and segregation were unconstitutional but vacated two provisions of the court's order. These provisions required officials to provide inmates with adequate food and clothing. The Ninth Circuit vacated these provisions because there had been no findings of fact related to food or clothing. The case was remanded.
The PACER docket for this case begins in 1996, so there is no information regarding proceedings between 1985 and 1996. In 1996, defendants moved to reopen the case and vacate the permanent injunction. The district court (Judge William Nielson) ordered the parties to brief the applicability of the Prison Litigation Reform Act in this case. The parties negotiated a settlement and the court directed notice to the members of the class on August 14, 1997. The court received comments from plaintiffs. On August 19, 1999, Judge Nielson approved the parties' proposed settlement, which was finalized in a "Memorandum of Understanding" that is unavailable, and dismissed the case, retaining jurisdiction to adjudicate issues concerning attorneys fees. Angela Heverling - 04/05/2006