933 F.Supp. 1362 (W.D.Mich. 1996), 4 92 CV 110, Hadix v. Johnson
|Docket Nº:||4 92 CV 110|
|Citation:||933 F.Supp. 1362|
|Party Name:||Hadix v. Johnson|
|Case Date:||July 03, 1996|
|Court:||United States District Courts, 6th Circuit, Western District of Michigan|
Michael J. Barnhart, Detroit, MI, for Plaintiffs.
Susan Przekop-Shaw, Asst. Attorney General, Michigan Dept. of Corrections, Lansing, MI, for Defendants.
ENSLEN, Chief Judge.
This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion for immediate termination of the Consent Decree, pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA" or "the Act"), Pub.L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321, amending 18 U.S.C. § 3626, filed June 11, 1996.
Section 802 of the PLRA amends 18 U.S.C. § 3626, regarding appropriate remedies with respect to prison conditions. Section 3626(b) entitles a defendant or intervener in an action involving prison conditions to move for immediate termination of any prospective relief which was "approved or granted in the absence of a finding by the court that the relief is narrowly drawn, extends no further than necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right, and is the least intrusive means necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right," unless the court makes such findings in writing as to the current conditions in the prisons subject to the decree. That section also provides for an automatic stay of any prospective relief that has already been approved or granted, beginning the 30th day after a motion for termination of that relief has been filed. The stay is to remain in effect until the court rules on the motion for termination of the relief.
The complaint in this action was filed on August 12, 1980, and alleged violations of the First, Eighth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. On May 13, 1985, the Honorable John Feikens, of the Eastern District of Michigan, approved a Consent Decree that resolved almost all of the claims. 1 The terms of the Consent Decree involve twelve broad areas, and forty-four specific areas, of prison conditions. The portions of the case involving medical and mental health care and access to the courts were transferred to this Court from the Eastern District of Michigan in 1992 and 1993, respectively.
Over the years, the Court has conducted numerous hearings, and issued numerous orders regarding the rights and duties of the parties under the Consent Decree. Application of the PLRA to the Consent Decree in this case will require the Court to reconsider each provision of the Decree and the associated plans and orders. The Court will have to determine whether, for each aspect of relief the defendants are providing or have been ordered to provide: the relief remains necessary to correct a current or ongoing violation of a Federal right; that any such relief extends no further than necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right; that it is narrowly drawn; and is the least intrusive means to correct the violation.
Such a determination in this case necessarily will involve thorough reviews of the extensive records on the various issues that have been raised, ruled on, and in most cases appealed, over the last eleven years. The parties should be given every opportunity to present their arguments to the Court. A hearing concerning the medical care issues is already scheduled for September 1996, and similar hearings on the remaining issues will also need to be scheduled.
There is no possible way the Court could decide the motion to terminate the Consent Decree by July 10, 1996, when the PLRA provides that an automatic stay of all prospective relief that has been ordered throughout the years pursuant to the Consent Decree, is to take effect. Aside from the complexity of the issues presented, the parties will not even have completed the briefing schedule that is set forth in the Rules by that date.
The automatic stay imposed by the PLRA would suspend many prior rulings in this case which found that the defendants have an obligation under the Consent Decree to provide some form of relief. The imposition of a stay would have a material impact on the status of this case. The scope of that impact, and the automatic process of imposition,
raise constitutional issues that must be considered by this Court. 2
The Court ordered the parties to brief the issue of the constitutionality of the automatic stay provision. However, arguments as to the invalidity of the provision that are nonconstitutional in nature must be considered first, and the constitutional issues should be addressed only if it is necessary to resolve the matter. Jean v. Nelson, 472 U.S. 846, 854, 105 S.Ct. 2992, 2996-97, 86 L.Ed.2d 664 (1985) (" 'Prior to reaching any constitutional questions, federal courts must consider nonconstitutional grounds for decision.' ")
A. Supersession of the Stay Provision
Plaintiffs argue that the automatic stay provision is not yet in force pursuant to the Rules Enabling Act ("REA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2071, et seq. The REA gives the Supreme Court authority to prescribe the rules of practice and procedure to be followed in the federal courts. Section 2072(b) provides that "[a]ll laws in conflict with such rules shall be of no further force or effect after such rules have taken effect." Pursuant to the REA, the Supreme Court adopted what are now known as the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on December 20, 1937.
Plaintiffs argue that the stay provision is in conflict with Rule 60(b), which provides that a motion for relief from judgment should be granted "[o]n motion and upon such terms as are just," and with Rule 62(b), which provides for a stay on a motion for a new trial or for judgment upon an exercise of discretion by the court. They argue that because the stay provision provides for an automatic, mandatory relief from judgment and a stay of the Court's orders, it is in conflict with the rules established by the Supreme Court, and thus pursuant to the supersession clause of the REA the provision does not take effect until and unless the Supreme Court amends the Rules.
The flaw in plaintiffs' arguments is that the stay provision is not in direct conflict with either Rule 60(b) or 62(b). In cases where the supersession clause has been used to prevent the...
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