Cody v. Hillard

Decision Date17 February 2000
Docket NumberNo. Civ. 80-4039.,Civ. 80-4039.
PartiesWilliam R. CODY, individually and on behalf of all other persons similarly situated, Plaintiff, v. Carole HILLARD, President of the Board of Charities and Corrections; Frank Brost, Vice President; Ted Spaulding, Member; D.A. Gellhoff, Member; Lyle Swenson, Member; James Smith, Executive Secretary; Herman Solem, Warden of the South Dakota State Penitentiary; sued individually and in their official capacities, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of South Dakota

Douglas P. Cummings, Jr., East River Legal Services, Sioux Falls, SD, Elizabeth Alexander, Donna Lee, National Prison Project of ACLUF, Inc., Washington, DC, Thomas W. Clayton, Sioux Falls, SD, for plaintiff.

James E. Moore, Woods, Fuller, Shultz & Smith, Sioux Falls, SD, for defendant.


PIERSOL, Chief Judge.

The parties have asked the Court to give its final approval to the Settlement Agreement filed in this case as fair, reasonable, and adequate, and to enter a Final Judgment and Order approving the class settlement and dismissing the class action without prejudice. For the reasons stated below, the Court approves the Settlement Agreement pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e).

Plaintiff filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 challenging the constitutionality of numerous conditions of confinement in the South Dakota State Penitentiary (hereafter "SDSP"). The case was certified as a class action pursuant to a stipulation of the parties dated August 23, 1982. On May 31, 1984, the District Court, the Honorable Donald J. Porter, held that various conditions of confinement in the SDSP violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Cody v. Hillard, 599 F.Supp. 1025, 1062 (D.S.D.1984), aff'd in part and rev'd in part, 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 May 29, 1985, the parties agreed to the Court's proposed final order and a partial Consent Decree was entered by Final Order on July 5, 1985. Defendants agreed to make several changes to the conditions in the SDSP, including fire safety, housing, kitchen and food storage, shops and vocational programs, medical and dental care, psychiatric and psychological care, and legal access.

In order to monitor the progress of improvements at the SDSP, the Consent Decree required defendants to submit formal progress reports to the court. In July 1987, the District Court held an evidentiary hearing on defendants' compliance with the Consent Decree. Following the hearing, the Court found that defendants were not in compliance with various health and safety requirements, and therefore appointed a health and safety panel and extended monitoring requirements. In its Order dated November 4, 1987, the Court recognized "the earnest steps taken by the Defendants in addressing the issues raised in this action." Subsequently, plaintiff's environmental expert, Robert W. Powitz, PhD., prepared a progress report dated December 16, 1987, which stated, in part, "Over all, health and safety conditions have improved significantly over the last inspection."

On April 2, 1992, plaintiffs filed a motion seeking further enforcement of the Consent Decree. After an evidentiary hearing in May 1992, the Court found that defendants were not in compliance with certain environmental condition requirements, but noted in an Order dated November 25, 1992, the "great strides made in the past." Subsequently, Dr. Powitz conducted an evaluation to determine defendants' compliance with the Court Order. His report dated April 29, 1993 revealed that defendants had complied with most of the directives in the Court's November 25, 1992 Order, although Dr. Powitz believed a few deficiencies still existed.

There was no further activity in this case until April 16, 1996 when defendants filed a motion to dissolve the Consent Decree and the supplemental enforcement Orders. Plaintiffs opposed this motion and plaintiffs' experts, Dr. Powitz and Armond Start, M.D., conducted inspections of the SDSP in September and October, 1996. Plaintiffs requested an evidentiary hearing on the compliance issues but the District Court, the Honorable Richard H. Battey, declined to hold an evidentiary hearing. On March 13, 1997, Judge Battey issued an Order dissolving the Consent Decree. Plaintiffs appealed. On March 27, 1998, the Eighth Circuit issued an Order of limited remand, retaining jurisdiction and returning the case to Judge Battey to "apply the factors recited in McDonald and to enter findings of fact and conclusions of law that will enable us to review its decision."

On May 7, 1998, Judge Battey reassigned the case to this Court. After receipt and review of the parties' proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law and after studying the voluminous file, this Court scheduled an evidentiary hearing for March 30, 1999, to resolve the factual disputes that existed between the parties. On March 17, 1999, the parties filed a Motion for Preliminary Approval of Proposed Settlement Agreement and Approval of Notice to Class. Because the Eighth Circuit retained jurisdiction after remanding the case to the District Court for the sole purpose of rendering findings of fact and conclusions of law on the issue whether the Consent Decree of July 8, 1985 should have been dissolved, this Court sought and received permission from the Eighth Circuit to proceed with the settlement process.

After careful review of the parties' submissions regarding the proposed settlement, on June 3, 1999 the Court entered an Order granting preliminary approval of the Settlement Agreement and setting a Fairness Hearing for September 27, 1999. In the same Order, the Court approved the final draft of the Notice of Proposed Settlement of Class Action and directed counsel to post the Notice in the housing units of the SDSP, to give individual notice to inmates in the Special Housing Units or in other segregated confinement, to have the Notice read to inmates classified as illiterate, and to have the notice read by interpreters to non-English speaking inmates. In the Notice, class members were notified of the Settlement Agreement terms and of the requirement that they file any objections to the proposed settlement on or before July 21, 1999. The Order provided that copies of the proposed Settlement Agreement would be available for class members to read. The Court also approved a form for class member objections and ordered that the objection form be made available to the class members.

On August 25, 1999, counsel for the parties notified the Court of a minor problem with the notice. In response, the Court issued a revised Order granting preliminary approval of the Settlement Agreement, requiring the parties to post the Notice for an additional 30 days, extending the time for objections to be filed until October 4, 1999 and rescheduling the Fairness Hearing for November 1, 1999. Prior to the Fairness Hearing, the Court received affidavits from three Department of Corrections employees who work at the SDSP detailing the methodology that was used for giving notice of the proposed Settlement Agreement to the class members.

The Court received 39 objection forms, some signed by more than one prisoner. The Court considered all objections that were filed, timely or untimely. Thirteen objection forms related to the Springfield State Prison and one related to the Redfield facility. Springfield and Redfield are not covered by the 1985 Consent Decree and the problems at those facilities are outside the scope of the proposed Settlement Agreement. Approximately 1,200 inmates are housed at the SDSP and the Court received 26 objection forms addressing conditions there. Those 26 objection forms contained 11 complaints about enforceability of the Agreement, 12 complaints about fire safety, 15 complaints about ventilation, 9 complaints about lighting, 12 complaints about food safety, 7 complaints about shop health and safety, and 18 complaints about medical care. The Court selected four inmates to testify at the Fairness Hearing about the issues raised in their objection forms. Between the four inmates, they had objected to each section of the Settlement Agreement.

The Court conducted the Fairness Hearing on Monday, November 1, 1999. The plaintiff class was represented by Elizabeth Alexander of the ACLU National Prison Project ("NPP"), and local attorney Thomas Clayton. The defendants were represented by James Moore. The Court first heard testimony from the four selected inmates who were called individually to the stand and questioned by counsel and then by the Court. Mr. Jeff Crandall is a 36 year old prisoner in the SDSP who completed school through the ninth grade and obtained his GED in prison. He has been incarcerated in the SDSP for 17 years. At the time he filed his objection to the settlement, and at the time of his testimony, Mr. Crandall was housed in disciplinary segregation in the Jameson Special Housing Unit, otherwise known as the "SHU" or the "hole." Mr. Crandall said the Notice of the settlement was passed around to everyone in the Special Housing Unit and he received a copy of the objection form from his counselor. Mr. Crandall had complaints about fire safety, shop health and safety, and medical care, and he also had concerns about enforceability of the Agreement. Mr. Crandall has worked primarily in the print shop at the SDSP, but he picked up packages from and cleaned in all of the industries shops on a regular basis. He observed that, prior to annual inspections by the State Fire marshal, inmates were directed by staff to clean up their work areas and follow safety procedures. For example, Mr. Crandall said that inmates working in the spray booth in the carpentry shop ordinarily left the spray booth doors open while spraying but, when the fire marshal came, the doors were closed. Mr....

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8 cases
  • Cody v. Hillard, 00-3918.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit
    • September 11, 2002
    ...expressly discussing attorneys' fees. The district court approved the settlement agreement on February 17, 2000. Cody v. Hillard, 88 F.Supp.2d 1049 (D.S.D.2000). Shortly thereafter, the class moved for an award of fees for the work its counsel had done since December 1, 1995. Over the State......
  • In re Adam, 29359-a-PJD
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • September 22, 2021
    ... ... 369 B.R. 405, 408 (B.A.P. 8th Cir. 2007); Maher v. Zapaa ... Corp. , 714 F.2d 436, 454 (5th Cir. 1983); Cody v ... Hillard , 88 F.Supp.2d 1049, 1056-57 (D.S.D. 2000). They ... further note that when considering the reasonableness of a ... ...
  • In re Adam
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • September 22, 2021
    ...& Trust , 369 B.R. 405, 408 (B.A.P. 8th Cir. 2007) ; Maher v. Zapata Corp. , 714 F.2d 436, 454 (5th Cir. 1983) ; Cody v. Hillard , 88 F.Supp.2d 1049, 1056–57 (D.S.D. 2000). They further note that when considering the reasonableness of a settlement, courts should consider "the likely outcome......
  • Abney v. Thompson
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Kentucky
    • July 16, 2011
    ...area contaminated with friable asbestos constituted deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment); Cody v. Hillard, 88 F. Supp. 2d 1049, 1055 (D.S.D. 2000) (acknowledging health risk of requiring inmate workers to scrape lead-based paint).3. Denial of medical treatment The C......
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