AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Corrections Law for Jails, Prisons and Detention Facilities
Back to list of subjects Back to Legal Publications Menu
Prison Litigation Reform Act: Injunctions
The federal government
filed a lawsuit against Florida correctional officials, alleging that a
failure to provide kosher meals to all prisoners with a sincere religious
belief in keeping kosher was a substantial burden on those prisoners' religious
freedom rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons
Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc et seq. After the trial court denied the
defendants' motion to dismiss, the state issued a new policy on religious
diets, spelling out the criteria for qualifying for kosher meals. The court
then issued an injunction requiring the providing of the kosher meals program
and prevented the state from enforcing the eligibility requirements. The
injunctive order, however, did not mention the need-narrowness-intrusiveness
criteria for preliminary injunctions mandated by the Prison Litigation
Reform Act. Subsequently, the court did not finalize the injunctive order
within 90 days, as a result of which the preliminary injunction expired
by operation of law in early March of 2014. This rendered the state's appeal
from the order moot, and an exception to mootness for orders capable of
repetition, yet evading review, did not apply because the state of Florida
had not shown a probability that future such injunctive orders on the subject
would evade review. United States v. Sec'y, Florida Dept. of Corrections,
#14-10086, 2015 U.S. App. Lexis 3148 (11th Cir.).
In a class action lawsuit by disabled state prisoners and parolees, the state of California challenged a 2012 order modifying an earlier injunction, ordering the state to take specified actions to make sure that disabled inmates were given needed accommodations. The appeals court rejected arguments that the injunction was issued without giving it adequate notice of opportunity to respond. While a state statute had altered the balance of power between the state and its counties somewhat, it did not absolve the state of all of its disability discrimination obligations as to disabled parolees placed in county jails to serve state-imposed sentences. The modified injunction also did not violate the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3626. Armstrong v. Brown, #12-17103, 732 F.3d 955 (9th Cir. 2014).
A federal appeals court upheld a ruling that South Dakota Native American inmates had met their burden that a prison ban on tobacco use substantially burdened their religious freedom in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc-1(a). The fact that some Native Americans who practice the Lakota religion would accept red willow bark as an alternative to tobacco did not alter the ruling. Even if it were shown that the ban furthered compelling interests in order and security, it was not the least restrictive means of doing so. The trial court's remedial orders, limiting the amount of tobacco used in activities, did not go further than needed to remedy the rights violation, and therefore complied with the Prison Litigation Reform Act under 18 U.S.C.S. § 3626(a)(1)(A). Native American Council v. Weber, #13-2745, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 7766 (8th Cir.).
The federal government entered into a consent decree with the Virgin Islands in 1986 to attempt to improve conditions at the Golden Grove Correctional Facility, including unreasonable fire safety risks, physical violence by staff members and prisoners, inadequate sanitation, and medical care. The trial court later entered a number of additional orders when conditions at the facility failed to improve as planned. Three years ago, in 2011, the Virgin Islands asked the court to terminate prospective relief orders under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. The trial court found that the prospective relief orders entered did not contain the specific findings required by the Act. A hearing was ordered to decide whether “prospective relief remains necessary to correct a current and ongoing violation of a federal right at Golden Grove … and, if so, to ensure that the prospective relief is narrowly tailored to that violation in the manner required by the PLRA." A federal appeals court upheld a ruling denying a prisoner at the facility a request to intervene in the case, finding that the federal government adequately represented the prisoner's interest in the case. United States v. Territory of VI, #12-4305, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 6683 (3rd Cir.).
A trial judge ruled that there was a due process liberty interest in not being transferred to a "supermax" facility because the conditions there constituted an atypical and significant hardship on those incarcerated there. The judge entered an injunctive order mandating specific procedures before a prisoner could be sent there, including those the defendants had adopted for reviewing proposed transfers. The scope and specificity of the injunctive order violated the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3626(a)(1)(A) by going further than required to remedy the constitutional violations found and by failing to use the "least intrusive means" of correcting the violations. The injunction denied prison administrators significant administrative discretion and flexibility, which was improper. Westefer v. Neal, #10–2957, 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 11386 (7th Cir.).
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the order of a special three-judge court ordering that the California state prison system reduce its population from 156,000 prisoners, nearly double capacity, by approximately 46,000 prisoners, or 137.5% of design capacity within two years. Current overcrowding was found to have resulted in inadequate medical care and mental health treatment. The Court found that the injunctive order complied with the stringent requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, and that the court below properly gave "substantial weight" to any potential adverse impact on public safety from the order. Brown v. Plata, #09–1233, 2011 U.S. Lexis 4012.
Federal appeals court upholds injunction requiring the provision of both general educational services and special educational services for school age inmates incarcerated in New York City jails, based on the failure to comply with federal law. Portions of the injunction based on alleged violations of state law, the court held, were beyond the power of the federal trial court. City defendants had previously waived a defense of failure to exhaust available administrative remedies by stating that no such remedies were applicable to the claims made in the class action lawsuit. Handberry v. Thompson, No. 03-0047, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 1062 (2d Cir.). [2006 JB Mar]
Far from showing that court ordered privatization of inmate medical care in Puerto Rico should be ended, correctional official's own evidence showed that consent decree relief was still necessary to remedy ongoing problems. Feliciano v. Serra, 300 F.Supp.2d 321 (D. Puerto Rico 2004). [2004 JB Jun]
Trial court failed to adequately show that an injunction was required to remedy fire safety issues at correctional facility. Hadix v. Johnson, No. 03-1334, 2004 U.S. App. Lexis 8889 (6th Cir. 2004). [2004 JB Jun]
Provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act imposing a 90-day limit for preliminary injunctions, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2626, applied in the absence of detailed findings and the entry of a final order, even if trial court's order enjoining Alabama correctional officials from continuing to operate a facility in an unconstitutionally crowded and unsafe manner did not detail what they were to do. Accordingly, the injunction expired after 90-days and the court no longer could consider plans submitted by the defendant officials to carry out the mandate of the preliminary injunction. The plaintiffs, however, were free to seek another preliminary injunction. Laure v. Campbell, 255 F. Supp. 2d 1301 (M.D. Ala. 2003). [N/R]
Prison was entitled, under the terms of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, to the termination of a 14-year-old injunction that required a prison law clinic to remain open. Preclusion of termination of injunction if needed to correct a "current and ongoing" violation of a federally protected right did not cover possible future violations. Para-Professional Law Clinic at SCI-Graterford v. Beard, No. 02-2788, 334 F.3d 301 (3rd Cir. 2003). [2003 JB Dec]
A provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3626(a)(2) , under which a grant of preliminary injunctive relief automatically expires after 90 days did not bar the renewal of the court's injunction forbidding prison administrators from imposing discipline on Muslim inmates who missed work assignments to attend Friday Sabbath services. The provision does not limit the number of times that a court can renew the preliminary injunctive relief, but simply imposes a burden on the plaintiffs to "continue to prove that preliminary relief is warranted." Mayweathers v. Newland, No. 00-16708, 258 F.3d 930 (9th Cir. 2001). [N/R]
283:99 U.S. Supreme Court upholds federal statute requiring an automatic stay of injunctive orders against correctional facilities when officials ask for termination or modification of such orders and the trial court fails to hold a hearing and make findings that there are currently existing violations within a designated time period. This time limit did not constitute a violation of separation of powers. Miller v. French, #99-224, 120 S. Ct. 2246 (2000).
287:167 Philadelphia federal judge approves settlement in city prison overcrowding case pending for 18 years; further court supervision of city prisons dropped; Prison Litigation Reform Act provisions allowing defendants to move for modification or termination of existing consent decrees, and requiring a finding of current unconstitutional conditions for any prospective relief are cited in judge's order. Harris v. City of Philadelphia, #82-1847, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12579 (E.D. Pa.).
274:153 Trial court upholds settlement of prisoners' claim that chaining all prisoners together on "chain gang" work detail put them in danger of injury; court rules that use of "hitching post" on all prisoners who refuse to work was cruel and unusual punishment; private settlement of class action was not subject to limitations on injunctive relief set forth in Prison Litigation Reform Act. Austin v. Hopper, 15 F.Supp.2d 1210 (M.D. Ala. 1998).
260:125 Federal appeals court overturns trial court's injunctive order requiring prison officials to provide religiously mandated vegetarian, non-dairy diet containing no grape products to prisoner who claimed to be a "Nazarite Disciple" of Jesus Christ Messiah and then asserted that he was a Rastafarian; trial judge improperly failed to allow defendants to respond to prisoner's assertion of Rastafarian faith and failed to make findings required for injunctive relief under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Oluwa v. Gomez, 133 F.3d 1237 (8th Cir. 1998).
238:147 Federal Prison Litigation Reform Act becomes law, makes numerous changes in prison litigation, including scope of injunctive orders, standards for termination of injunctive orders, amount of attorneys' fees, standard for prisoner release orders in overcrowding cases, prisoner payment of filing fees and court costs, barring inmates who repetitively file frivolous suits from further filings, no awards for mental/emotional distress in the absence of physical injury, and revocation of federal prisoner's good time credits if they file malicious lawsuits or testify falsely, among other highlights.
Back to list of subjects Back
to Legal Publications Menu