460 F.2d 126 (2nd Cir. 1972), 95, Wright v. McMann

Docket Nº:95, 96, 35572, 35573.
Citation:460 F.2d 126
Party Name:Lawrence William WRIGHT, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Daniel McMANN, Warden of Clinton Prison, Defendant-Appellant. UNITED STATES of America ex rel. Robert MOSHER, Petitioner-Appellee, v. J. Edwin LaVALLEE, Superintendent of Clinton Correctional Facilitity, Respondent-Appellant.
Case Date:March 16, 1972
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

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460 F.2d 126 (2nd Cir. 1972)

Lawrence William WRIGHT, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Daniel McMANN, Warden of Clinton Prison, Defendant-Appellant.

UNITED STATES of America ex rel. Robert MOSHER, Petitioner-Appellee,


J. Edwin LaVALLEE, Superintendent of Clinton Correctional Facilitity, Respondent-Appellant.

Nos. 95, 96, 35572, 35573.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

March 16, 1972

Argued Oct. 27, 1971.

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Betty D. Friedlander, Waverly, N. Y. (Herman Schwartz, Buffalo, N. Y., and William C. Scott, Jr., Portland, Or., on the brief), for appellee Lawrence William Wright.

William Bennett Turner, San Francisco, Cal. (Jack Greenberg, Stanley A. Bass, New York City, and Alice Daniel, San Francisco, Cal., on the brief), for appellee Robert Mosher.

Hillel Hoffman, Asst. Atty. Gen. (Louis J. Lefkowitz, Atty. Gen. of N. Y., and Samuel A. Hirshowitz, First Asst. Atty. Gen., on the brief), for defendants-appellants.

Before LUMBARD, HAYS and OAKES, Circuit Judges.

LUMBARD, Circuit Judge:

Lawrence William Wright in March 1966 brought suit under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against appellant

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McMann in the Northern District of New York. Wright's pro se complaint alleged that Warden McMann and other prison officials at the Clinton Correctional Facility had deprived him of his constitutional rights during two periods of solitary confinement. The district court dismissed the complaint on the alternate grounds that it was insufficient to show any constitutional violation and that it should have been brought first in the state courts. This court reversed, Wright v. McMann, 387 F.2d 519 (2d Cir. 1967), finding that neither the doctrine of exhaustion of state remedies nor the doctrine of federal abstention was properly invoked. 1 This court also noted that Wright's claims, if true, were sufficient to make out a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Remanded to the district court, Wright's cause came on for trial in October 1968.

Consolidated with Wright's action was the Civil Rights suit of appellee Robert Mosher, commenced in May 1967 against Warden McMann, for whom appellant LaVallee was substituted when the latter became Superintendent of Clinton in January 1968. Mosher's complaint tracked Wright's insofar as constitutional violations stemming from segregated confinement were alleged: unlike Wright, Mosher pursued only injunctive relief and did not claim damages.

Judge Foley, sitting without a jury, heard testimony of appellees, appellants, and their respective witnesses 2 for seven days. He rendered decision on July 31, 1970, reported at 321 F.Supp. 127, and entered two orders, on August 19, 1970 (unreported), granting relief along the following lines:

(a) Appellants were enjoined from all use of segregation until they promulgated rules and regulations ensuring, among other things, that segregation cell facilities were adequate to safeguard the health of occupants, that heat and ventilation were sufficient, that nudity could not be enforced solely as a disciplinary measure, and that provisions be made for "surprise" inspection visits by trained supervisory personnel.

(b) Appellants were further required to promulgate, and submit for the district court's approval, rules and regulations governing procedures of prison disciplinary hearings, and rules and regulations governing the condition of psychiatric observation cells as well as the procedures used to determine whether an inmate should be confined to such a cell.

(c) As to Wright and Mosher specifically, appellants were enjoined from placing either in segregated confinement or otherwise punishing them so as to deprive them of "good time" or their ability to earn "good time" without affording them, inter alia, the following: prior notice of the charge for which segregation might be suitable punishment, the right to "appropriate" representation at a hearing where Wright or Mosher could present his version of the facts giving rise to the charge, and the right to call witnesses and to have made a record of the proceedings. 3

(d) As to Mosher alone, appellants were ordered not to "censor or interfere

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in any way with any correspondence" between him and his attorney. Judge Foley also ordered restoration of 616 days of Mosher's "good time," 440 of which had been revoked in prison disciplinary proceedings during his confinement to segregation and 176 of which he was prevented from earning because of such confinement.

(e) Wright was awarded $1500.00 compensatory damages for his illegal confinement to segregation as against appellant McMann.

(f) Appellants were also enjoined from confining Wright or Mosher in psychiatric observation cells for disciplinary purposes or without psychiatric justification, and from prohibiting inmates to give legal advice or assistance to each other subject to reasonable regulation.

For the reasons set out below, we reverse those portions of the district court's orders requiring trial-type procedures (para. c) or the promulgation of rules and regulations either regarding trial-type procedures in prison disciplinary hearings (para. b) or governing the use and facilities of segregation or psychiatric observation cells (para. a); we modify that portion of the order enjoining appellants from censoring or interfering in any way with any correspondence between Mosher and his attorney (para. d); and we affirm those portions of the orders restoring Mosher's "good time" and awarding damages to Wright (para. d. and e). It should go without saying that, where we have reversed the requirements that appellants promulgate rules and regulations, appellants are under no obligation to make submissions of any kind for the district court's approval. Appellants do not contest, and we find warranted, and affirm, those portions of the orders below prohibiting appellants from confining Wright or Mosher to psychiatric observation cells for disciplinary purposes or without psychiatric justification, and prohibiting appellants from denying inmates the opportunity to render legal advice or assistance to each other subject to reasonable regulation (para. f).

In reversing the original dismissal of Wright's cause of action this court noted that there would be "no hesitation in holding that the debasing conditions to which Wright claims to have been subjected . . . would, if established, constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment." Wright v. McMann, 387 F.2d at 525. Indeed, most of Wright's allegations were subsequently established. Judge Foley found, and appellants do not here contest, that for eleven days in 1965 and 21 days in 1966 Wright was kept, sometimes or always completely naked, 4 in a "strip cell"-that is, a cell barren of all furnishing save a toilet and washbowl. Nudity was enforced to demean and punish the inmate. No bedding of any kind was provided, forcing Wright to sleep on the concrete floor. His eyeglasses were taken from him, and he was provided neither soap, towels, nor toilet paper. Privileges were at a minimum during confinement to the strip cells, inmates so confined were required to jump to attention at the cell door whenever a guard passed, and the temperature during the night was sufficiently cold to cause extreme discomfort to the inmate sleeping naked on the concrete floor without even a blanket. No program existed for cleansing the cell from the time one inmate left until another arrived, and provisions for occupant-in-mates to scour the cell were inadequate. The psychiatric observation cell had neither toilet nor washbowl: occupants were required to coordinate trips to the bathroom with the convenience of the guards. The practice at that time was "to put the rebellious prisoner in the hands of the guards under unsanitary conditions that would make him subservient and break him down," 321 F.Supp. at 143.

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As to Mosher, Judge Foley found that he was confined to segregation for five months in 1967, that two months after his return to general population he was again placed in segregation, where he spent a year, 5 for the same violation which caused him to be sent to segregation the first time, viz., refusal to sign a "safety sheet" detailing safety rules to be observed in prison workshops. Judge Foley found Mosher sincere in his belief that his signature on the sheet would constitute a waiver of prison liability were he to be injured in the shop. Segregation cell conditions were considerably less abhorrent than when Wright was in occupancy.

These findings of the district court are amply supported by the record and are not disputed on appeal. The parties have joined issue primarily with respect to the various forms of relief granted by the district court.

Our disposition is largely controlled by Sostre v. McGinnis, 442 F.2d 178 (2d Cir. 1971), cert. denied sub nom. Oswald v. Sostre, 405 U.S. 978, 92 S.Ct. 1190, 31 L.Ed.2d 254 (1972) decided subsequent to the lower court ruling herein. In Sostre this court sitting in banc considered, inter alia, the delicate balance between the due process rights of state prisoners charged with infractions of prison rules and the necessity for the maintenance of prison order and security. The district court's order that trial-type procedures accompany prison disciplinary hearings was reversed, in the main because the federal courts are inappropriate to the task of weighing the effect of elaborate procedural safeguards on either the outcome of a particular hearing or prison morale in general, id. at 194-199. Sostre thus mandates reversal of Judge Foley's requirement that appellants promulgate and adhere to rules and regulations regarding either trial-type procedures in prison disciplinary hearings or procedures to be used in determining whether an inmate should be confined to a psychiatric observation cell....

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