Cody v. Hillard

Decision Date27 March 1998
Docket NumberNo. 97-2020,97-2020
PartiesWilliam R. CODY, individually and on behalf of all other persons similarly situated, Plaintiff--Appellant, Roger Flittie, individually and on behalf of all other persons similarly situated, Appellants, v. Carole HILLARD, President of the Board of Charities and Corrections; Frank Brost, Vice President; Ted Spaulding, Member; D.A. Gehlhoff, Member; Lyle Swenson, Member; James Smith, Executive Secretary; Herman Solem, Warden of the South Dakota State Penitentiary, individually and in their official capacities, Defendants--Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit

Elizabeth Alexander, Washington, DC, argued (Donna H. Lee, Washington, DC, on the brief), for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Todd Alan Love, Pierre, SD, argued (Mark Barnett, Atty. Gen., Frank E. Geaghan, Pierre, SD, on the brief), for Defendants-Appellees.

Before MURPHY, JOHN R. GIBSON, and MAGILL, Circuit Judges.

JOHN R. GIBSON, Circuit Judge.

William R. Cody and Roger Flittie, individually and as class representatives, appeal from the district court's order dissolving the consent decree in this South Dakota prison reform litigation. Cody and Flittie argue that the district court did not consider the relevant criteria in deciding whether to dissolve the decree and that the court's finding that the defendants had complied with the decree substantially and in good faith was clear error. Cody and Flittie also argue that the district court should have held an evidentiary hearing before resolving the factual issues of defendants' past and present compliance with the decree and their future compliance with the Constitution. We remand for more complete findings and articulation of the basis for the district court's exercise of its discretion.

This case was filed in 1982, challenging conditions and practices of confinement at the South Dakota State Prison and Women's Correctional Facility. On May 31, 1984, after trial, the district court held that conditions at the South Dakota State Penitentiary violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Cody v. Hillard, 599 F.Supp. 1025, 1062 (D.S.D.1984). The court's final order was entered on July 8, 1985, covering the subjects of overcrowding, double-celling, and inadequate quality control and staffing for health services. We reversed in part and affirmed in part. Cody v. Hillard, 830 F.2d 912 (8th Cir.1987) (en banc), cert. denied, 485 U.S. 906, 108 S.Ct. 1078, 99 L.Ed.2d 237 (1988). On July 8, 1985, the court entered a detailed consent decree covering the discrete subjects of environmental conditions, medical and dental care, psychiatric and psychological care, and access to courts. The consent decree is the subject of the present motion. The consent decree did not state the time of its duration, but it did provide that the defendants would provide formal progress reports concerning their compliance with the decree in June, September, and December 1985, and March 1986.

On two occasions, in July 1987 and May 1992, the district court held hearings to determine whether the prison was in compliance with the consent decree. After the July 1987 hearing the district court filed an order "recognizing the earnest steps taken by the Defendants in addressing the issues raised in this action," but requiring the parties to appoint a health and safety panel to agree on specific steps to remedy deficiencies in compliance with the decree. The court also extended the monitoring requirement of the consent decree through 1988. After the 1992 hearing, the court entered an order requiring the defendants to take various actions the court held to be necessary under the consent decree and supplemental orders. For instance, the court ordered the defendants to balance the ventilation system in the prison, to cease storing non-polar solvents in ungrounded containers in the prison shop area, and to install a vacuum-based cleaning system in the carpentry shop and eventually install a central ventilation system in that shop. In particular, the court noted that the prison was not in compliance with fire safety and ventilation requirements of the consent decree and the court's supplemental orders in the prison furniture refinishing shop. The court ordered immediate compliance with fire safety requirements in that shop and compliance with dust removal requirements "forthwith, but in any event by December 31, 1992." The court was quite critical of the defendants' compliance with the fire safety requirements, stating that "fire safety hazards have continued for years after they were ordered to be remedied and defendants still have no plans to abate them."

On April 16, 1996, the defendants filed a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) to dissolve the consent decree and supplemental orders. The defendants filed a memorandum in support of their motion, contending that they had substantially complied with the consent decree and attaching exhibits (such as reports by the plaintiffs' experts) which they argued established that compliance. The plaintiffs opposed vacatur of the consent decree, arguing that the district court had to hold a hearing to determine defendants' past and present compliance with the decree and the outlook for defendants' future compliance with the Constitution.

The district court refused to order a hearing, but ordered the plaintiffs to file supplemental materials setting forth the areas of defendants' non-compliance with the consent decree. The plaintiffs filed the declaration of their expert Robert Powitz, Ph.D., who stated that he had inspected the prison in October 1996 and that he had concluded that "there are a number of conditions that pose serious health or safety risks." Powitz detailed those conditions, but except for one paragraph in a four-page report, he did not specify whether the conditions he pointed out were covered by the consent decree. The plaintiffs filed a supplemental brief linking the conditions noted by Powitz to provisions of the consent decree and supplemental orders.

The district court then entered an order dissolving the consent decree. The findings of fact and conclusions of law consisted entirely of the following two paragraphs:

The Court having considered the motion herein filed does determine that the consent decree has served its purposes and is no longer needed in order to serve the public interest.

Throughout the period of the consent decree, lasting as it has for over ten years, the defendants have conscientiously and in good faith complied substantially with its terms. Notwithstanding defendants' compliance, plaintiff invites the Court to continue its jurisdiction. However, in the absence of ongoing substantial violations, the Court declines the invitation. Board of Educ. of Oklahoma City Public Schools v. Dowell, 498 U.S. 237, 111 S.Ct. 630, 112 L.Ed.2d 715 l. Ed.2d 715 (1991). The Court sees no need for a further evidentiary hearing.

The decision to terminate jurisdiction over a consent decree rests in the...

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  • Little Rock Sch. Dist. v. Pulaski Cty. Spec. Sch.
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    ... ... 3581), it argues that the Court's holding in Cody v. Hillard, 139 F.3d 1197, 1199-1200 (8th Cir.1998), stands for the proposition that "a party to a consent decree substantially complies with the ... ...
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