442 F.2d 304 (8th Cir. 1971), 20348, Holt v. Sarver

Docket Nº:20348.
Citation:442 F.2d 304
Party Name:Lawrence J. HOLT et al., Petitioners-Appellees, v. Robert SARVER, Commissioner of Corrections, et al., Respondents-Appellants.
Case Date:May 05, 1971
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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442 F.2d 304 (8th Cir. 1971)

Lawrence J. HOLT et al., Petitioners-Appellees,


Robert SARVER, Commissioner of Corrections, et al., Respondents-Appellants.

No. 20348.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

May 5, 1971

Name of counsel making argument for appellants is Ray Thornton, Atty. Gen., Mike Wilson, Asst. Atty. Gen., Justice Building, Little Rock, Ark.,

Names of counsel making argument for appellees are Stanley Bass, New York City, Philip E. Kaplan, Walker, Kaplan, Lavey & Mays, and Jack Holt, Jr., Bailey, Trimble & Holt, Little Rock, Ark.

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Before MATTHES, Chief Judge, VAN OOSTERHOUT and LAY, Circuit Judges.

VAN OOSTERHOUT, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal by respondents Robert Sarver, Commissioner of Corrections, et al., from judgment entered in favor of petitioners in eight consolidated class actions brought by Holt, et al., inmates of the Cummins Farm Unit and the Tucker Intermediate Reformatory, parts of the Arkansas prison system, against Commissioner Sarver and the members of the Board of Corrections. The respondents under Arkansas law administer the State penitentiary system.

Petitioners individually filed pro se petitions on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated. The actions were consolidated by the trial court. Competent counsel was appointed to represent petitioners. An amended and substituted complaint was filed in which the alleged grievances are thus summarized:

'The actions of defendants have deprived members of the plaintiff class of rights, privileges and immunities secured to them by the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, including (a) the right not to be imprisoned without meaningful rehabilitative opportunities, (b) the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, (c) the right to be free from arbitrary and capricious denial of rehabilitation opportunities, (d) the right to minimal due process safeguards in decisions determining fundamental liberties, (e) the right to be fed, housed, and clothed so as not to be subjected to loss of health or life, (f) the right to unhampered access to counsel and the courts, (g) the right to be free from the abuses of fellow prisoners in all aspects of daily life, (h) the right to be free from racial segregation, (i) the right to be free from forced labor, and (j) the right to be free from the brutality of being guarded by fellow inmates.'

The prayer is for a declaratory judgment to the effect that the respondents' acts, policies and practices violate petitioners' rights under the Eighth, Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States and for appropriate permanent injunctive relief.

Chief Judge Henley, after an exhaustive evidentiary hearing, filed a memorandum opinion reported at 309 F.Supp. 362, wherein he makes detailed findings of fact and applies the law to such findings. A judgment and decree was entered on February 18, 1970, determining that the confinement of human beings at the Cummins and Tucker prisons under existing conditions fully described in the opinion constitutes cruel and inhuman punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment. The court also determined that the continuation of racial segregation of inmates in the institutions violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The respondents were directed to take the necessary steps to bring the operation of the prisons up to federal constitutional requirements and they were required to make written report to the court by April 1, 1970, setting out what had been done and what they planned to do to meet the constitutional violations found by the court. The court reserved jurisdiction to take such further steps as may be appropriate to implement its determination that confinement in the Arkansas penitentiary system violates constitutional rights of the inmates in event the required reports are not made or prove unsatisfactory.

The respondents have taken this timely appeal from such judgment and decree. Respondents, as required by the court order, filed the April 1, 1970, report setting out the steps taken and contemplated to meet the constitutional violations. On April 15, 1970, the court approved

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such report as an interim report, noting that a reasonable start had been made to eliminate the unconstitutional conditions and that 'the Court is most pleased with the response of the Governor and of the Legislature to the fiscal needs of the Penitentiary and has no reason to believe that the institution will not be adequately funded in the future, taking into consideration, of course, the overall financial condition of the State.'

A report requested by the court giving further information as to disarming prison inmates and measures taken to protect the inmates from attacks by other inmates and the condition of the isolation cells was made on May 8 and was approved and accepted as an interim report by order of May 28, 1970. A required progress report showing prison conditions as of June 30, 1970, was filed by the Commissioners. The record shows no action taken thereon.

Additional facts to the extent necessary will be set out in the discussion of the issues.

It is desirable at this point to observe that some issues decided by the trial court are not before us on this appeal. It appears from the interim reports and the court's action thereon that the racial integration requirement of the court's decree has been fully met. No contrary contention is made in the briefs.

Petitioners on March 18, 1970, filed notice of cross-appeal. No brief in support of the cross-appeal has been filed.

Petitioners in the trial court raised the issue that their Thirteenth Amendment protection against involuntary servitude had been violated by requiring inmates to perform forced labor. The trial court rejected such contention. Petitioners in response to an inquiry in oral argument advised us that they are not here attacking the trial court's determination on the Thirteenth Amendment issue. The cross-appeal was dismissed on motion of appellant on January 8, 1971.

The primary issue before us is whether the trial court erred in holding that confinement of prisoners at Cummins and Tucker under conditions described constitutes cruel and inhuman treatment violative of the Eighth Amendment. Respondents urge that they are entitled to a reversal for the following reasons:

I. The suit is in effect one against the State of Arkansas and as such is barred by the Eleventh Amendment.

II. The court erred in refusing to exclude or strike the testimony of the witness Bennett and the report of Dr. Friel.

III. The court's findings are not supported by substantial evidence.

We reject each of such contentions for the reasons hereinafter stated, and affirm.


The court overruled respondents' motion to dismiss, based on the ground that the suit is in effect a suit against the State and as such is barred by the Eleventh Amendment. It is quite true that the prison units here in controversy are state agencies and that the funds necessary to operate the institutions must come from State appropriations.

The Eleventh Amendment argument here made is completely answered by Judge Matthes in Board of Trustees of Arkansas A & M College v. Davis, 8 Cir., 396 F.2d 730, 732-733. The college in that case, like the prisons in our present case, is a State agency. As pointed our in Davis, the Supreme Court has since the foundation case of Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 28 S.Ct. 441, 52 L.Ed. 714, repeatedly recognized that an act of a state official which violates a federally guaranteed constitutional right may be enjoined upon the basis that the officer is 'stripped of his official or representative character and is subjected in his person to the consequences of his individual conduct. The state has no power to impart to him any immunity from responsibility to the supreme authority of the United States.' 396 F.2d 730, 732, quoting from Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. pp. 159-160, 28 S.Ct. 441, 52 L.Ed. 714. Numerous applications of

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such principle are cited in Davis. We adhere to the legal principles there stated.

In Jackson v. Bishop, 8 Cir., 404 F.2d 571, an action against the superintendent of the two identical prisons here involved, we determined that corporal punishment administered in the prisons constituted cruel and inhuman punishment. We enjoined the administration of corporal punishment. We adhere to the principles stated in Jackson including the admonition that a federal court should be reluctant to interfere with the operation and discipline of a state prison and that intervention is warranted only upon a clear showing of a violation of a federally guaranteed constitutional right. See Burns v. Swenson, 8 Cir., 430 F.2d 771, 775; Sostre v. McGinnis, 2 Cir., 442 F.2d 178 (1971); Wilwording v. Swenson, 8 Cir., 439 F.2d 1331...

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