563 F.2d 741 (5th Cir. 1977), 75-2739, Miller v. Carson

Docket Nº:75-2739.
Citation:563 F.2d 741
Party Name:Richard Franklin MILLER et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. Dale CARSON, Individually and in his capacity as Sheriff of Duval County, Florida, et al., Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:November 23, 1977
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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563 F.2d 741 (5th Cir. 1977)

Richard Franklin MILLER et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,


Dale CARSON, Individually and in his capacity as Sheriff of

Duval County, Florida, et al., Defendants-Appellants.

No. 75-2739.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

November 23, 1977

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William L. Coalson, Harry L. Shorstein, William Lee Allen, Jacksonville, Fla., Donna H. Stinson, Asst. Atty. Gen., Dept. of Legal Affairs, Civil Division, Robert Shevin, Atty. Gen., Tallahassee, Fla., for defendants-appellants.

William J. Sheppard, Jacksonville, Fla. (Court-Appointed), for plaintiffs-appellees.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Before TUTTLE, WISDOM, and COLEMAN, Circuit Judges.

WISDOM, Circuit Judge:

The threshold question here is whether the district court had jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case. In addition, on appeal the appellants challenge the propriety of certain remedies the district court fashioned to rectify uncivilized conditions in a jail for detainees. Appellants also attack the district court's award of attorney's fees to counsel for the plaintiffs-appellees.

On June 11, 1974, detainees held in the Duval County Jail in Jacksonville, Florida, filed a handwritten pro se complaint against Dale Carson, the Sheriff of Duval County, for the purpose of improving conditions in the jail. The district court ruled that the case was properly brought as a class action, and defined the class as all persons "who are presently or in the future will be incarcerated in the Duval County Jail". 1 The district court appointed counsel,

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William J. Sheppard, to represent the pro se plaintiffs. Shortly thereafter, Sheppard filed an amended complaint against Sheriff Carson and other local 2 and state 3 officials responsible for the operation of the jail. That complaint alleged violations of the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth, and fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution, and violations of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986, and of certain Florida statutes. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, damages, and reasonable attorney's fees.

The plaintiffs moved for partial summary judgment as to the local defendants. After three weeks of hearings, the trial court issued a declaratory judgment, supporting findings of fact, and a preliminary injunction. 4 No appeal was ever taken from the judgment, findings, or injunction. On July 17, 1975, the court entered an order substantially incorporating its earlier findings of fact and granting a permanent injunction. 401 F.Supp. 862. The court awarded $45,792 in attorney's fees to Sheppard. 401 F.Supp. 845.

The defendants-appellants have never contested the conclusions of law or findings of fact of the trial court. First, the defendants contend that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to issue the injunction of July 17, 1975. Second, they argue that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering the following remedial measures: contact visitation, daily recreation, a reduction in the prison population to a level below that contemplated in the design and construction of the jail, and the hiring of a permanent ombudsman. Finally, the defendants contend that the court had no power to award attorney's fees and, in the alternative, that the fees awarded were excessive.

We affirm the rulings of the district court with minor modifications: we affirm its holding that an ombudsman be appointed, but conclude that the ombudsman should not hold permanent office at the Duval County Jail; we modify the ruling that the inmates are entitled to outdoor recreation; we find a different basis for a proper award of attorney's fees to counsel for the plaintiffs-appellees.


The Duval County Jail primarily houses persons awaiting trial on criminal charges. A secondary function of the jail is to hold convicted state and federal prisoners awaiting assignment and transfer to other institutions. The jail was built in 1956 as a maximum security facility. It was designed to hold 432 inmates.

At the time this suit was filed, when a person was arrested, brought to the Duval County Jail, and booked, he was first assigned to a "holding cell". The cell's dimensions were eight feet four inches by nine feet nine inches. In that cell he would find a sink and a commode that might or might not be working. He found other

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inmates of the cell all members of his own race sometimes so crowded together that the inmates had to eat their meals while standing because there was not enough room to sit. Although inmates were classified racially, no segregation on any other basis was attempted. First offenders and juveniles were crowded with convicted murderers, drunks, mental cases, homosexuals, and inmates with body lice and contagious diseases. Vomitus, feces, and urine were sometimes on the floor of the cells. At night, inmates slept in their clothes, without bedding of any kind, on benches or on dirty floors. There were no trash cans in the holding cells. Threats and violent attacks by inmates on other inmates were not uncommon in the holding cells, and the plaintiffs' evidence showed that at least one murder and at least one suicide occurred there in 1974.

After a stay of up to eight days in a holding cell, inmates were transferred to larger cells on the upper floors of the jail. There, showers were available, but newly arrived inmates often could not obtain hygienic materials, such as soap, toothbrushes, and shaving gear, for several days. Sanitation in the upstairs cells was poor. The trial court found that all the commodes and sinks in the upstairs cells were filthy. Standing water on the floor of one of the cell blocks caused slips and falls that resulted in serious injuries. Mice and rats were so numerous that inmates passed their idle time trapping these vermin. The ventilation was poor, and lighting was so weak that reading was never possible in some areas. The trial court found that laundry service was inadequate: the inmates themselves washed most of their clothing with hand soap.

Although the jail was designed for 432 inmates, the population sometimes exceeded 600 and was rarely below 100 over the stated maximum. Some inmates slept in cell-block dayrooms on mattresses strewn on the floor because sleeping areas were inadequate. One expert witness described the situation as "almost shoulder-to-shoulder housing". 401 F.Supp. at 873. Overcrowding strained jail personnel and made conditions even more unsanitary.

At the time this suit was filed, the jail did not have rules governing inmate behavior, and punishment was inflicted without a hearing. The district court found that medical facilities were inadequate. A physician was present only one-half day a week, and nurses were available during only one or two of the three daily shifts. The district court found an even greater problem in the procedure to obtain medical help. Inmates had first to obtain the attention of a correctional officer to receive medical help. In the upstairs cells, inmates often signaled by beating trash can lids against the cell walls. Even so, help was not always forthcoming. The district court found that "the inadequacy of the communications system . . . contributed to the deaths of several inmates". 401 F.Supp. at 876.

The food inmates received was cold and nutritionally inadequate. No special diets were available for inmates with special religious or medical requirements; pork was used "in virtually all meals" because prisoners at the County's correctional farm raised hogs. 401 F.Supp. at 885. Inmates were allowed out of the cell blocks for exercise and recreation only two hours a week. The jail's staff was inadequate: at times the only authority present on a floor with 110 inmates was an inmate-trusty. The trial court found that inadequate supervision by guards contributed to "a daily horror show of violence" in the jail, where assaults, attempted suicides, and homosexual rapes were commonplace. 401 F.Supp. at 883. Jail personnel prepared reports on more than 150 occasions of brutality in the first 11 months of 1974. In most of these incidents, the injured inmate received hospitalization or medical care.

The trial court found that visitation of inmates was severely limited:

Visitation privileges at the Duval County Jail were limited to two hours on one day of each week and were confined only to members of an inmate's immediate adult family. Visiting hours still occur

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on Saturdays from 12:30 P.M. to 2:30 P.M. and on Sundays from 12:30 P.M. to 2:30 P.M. Visiting facilities still consist of three small scratched and cloudy visiting windows in each cellblock with malfunctioning speaker boxes below. The construction of the windows and speakers is such that there can be no eye contact at the time of the verbal communication. Visitors and inmates alike are required to shout to be heard and the arrangement prevents any privacy or physical contact whatsoever. There appears to be almost no supervision of visiting by jail personnel, undoubtedly resulting in inequities in obtaining a window due to the overcrowded condition.

401 F.Supp. at 884. Pretrial detainees could not meet with prospective witnesses unless the witnesses were relatives. Jail personnel routinely monitored inmates' telephone calls. Attorneys could not visit inmates during meals or in visiting hours or after 9:00 P.M.

The trial judge, who had handled several cases involving conditions of confinement in the Florida State Prisons, made this finding: "The totality of circumstances present at the Duval County Jail . . . produced conditions significantly inferior to those existing within the Florida state institutions." 401 F.Supp. at 889. The district court found that the conditions were "worse than those to which many sentenced prisoners...

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