Fano v. Meachum, Civ. A. No. 74-5059-S.

Decision Date10 January 1975
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 74-5059-S.
Citation387 F. Supp. 664
PartiesArthur FANO et al., Plaintiffs, v. Larry MEACHUM et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts

Robert Stolzberg, Linda Olmstead, Roxbury Defenders Committee, Roxbury, Mass., for plaintiffs.

Michael C. Donahue, William T. Harrod III, Asst. Attys. Gen., Robert H. Quinn, Atty. Gen., Boston, Mass., for defendants.


SKINNER, District Judge.

This petition is brought under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C., Section 1983, for declaratory, injunctive, and compensatory relief by 17 inmates of the Massachusetts Correctional Institution, Norfolk, a medium security state prison operated by the Massachusetts Department of Correction. They allege, in substance, that they have been reclassified into substantially more adverse conditions of confinement because of specific prior conduct without the due process required by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

The complaint was filed on November 4, 1974. The plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order was denied without hearing on the same day.

On December 12, 1974, six of the plaintiffs, namely Arthur Fano, Richard DeBrosky, Robert Dussault, David Hathaway, Richard McPherson and Charles Royce filed an Amended Verified Complaint on behalf of themselves and "all others similarly situated." There has been no showing which would justify the certification of this action as a class action and the Amended Verified Complaint, therefore, will be considered only with reference to the six named plaintiffs who have filed it. The same six plaintiffs (hereinafter referred to as the plaintiffs) have filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on which a hearing was held on December 20, 1974. The matter was presented on stipulations of fact, stipulated documents, and the testimony of the plaintiff Hathaway. There does not appear to be any material issue of fact.


In the fall of 1974, there was a period of unrest among the inmates of M.C.I., Norfolk. From August 13, 1974 through October 23, 1974, there were nine fires in the institution, thought to have been set, which were serious enough to require the presence of outside fire departments. In addition, there were three less serious fires, one on October 25, 1974, one on October 31, 1974, and one on November 26, 1974.

Plaintiff McPherson was taken from the general population at M.C.I., Norfolk, on or about October 16, 1974, and placed in a cell in the Receiving Building at the institution (hereinafter referred to as the RB). On October 24, the plaintiffs Fano, DeBrosky, Dussault, Hathaway and Royce were taken from the general population and placed in cells in the RB.

The RB at M.C.I., Norfolk, is apparently principally used for the processing of new inmates. In effect, it also serves as an informal Departmental Segregation Unit, though it apparently has not been officially designated as such. The conditions of confinement in the RB are roughly comparable to those in the Departmental Segregation Unit, Cell Block 10, at M.C.I., Walpole, described in the Revised Opinion and Order in Daigle et al. v. Hall et al., CA 74-4783-S, filed January 7, 1975. No notice or hearing was afforded the plaintiffs before their transfer to the RB.

On October 25, 1974, the defendant Meachum filed and presented each plaintiff with a copy of a disciplinary report. The offenses charged against each plaintiff were described in substantially the same terms as appears in the notices of reclassification hearings hereinafter quoted. In each case the offense charged was referred to the local District Attorney for investigation and outside prosecution. Consequently, in accordance with paragraph VII D of Commissioner's Bulletin 72-1, no disciplinary hearing was held.

On November 4, 1974, each of the six plaintiffs received a Notice of Classification Hearing. With reference to the plaintiffs Fano, DeBrosky, and Dussault, the reason for review of the classification status was set forth as follows:

"The department has received information through a reliable source that you were in possession of instruments, or materials, that might be used as weapons and/or ammunition and that you had joined in plans to use these contraband items.
"These items and plans occurred during a period of serious unrest at MCI, Norfolk which included many fires that posed a significant threat to the lives of persons at MCI, Norfolk as well as serious property damage."

With respect to the plaintiffs Hathaway and McPherson, the reason for review of the classification status was stated as follows:

"The department has received information through reliable sources that you were significantly involved in the planning and execution of one or more of the serious fires occurring with MCI Norfolk in the past few weeks. These fires caused considerable property damage and posed a very real threat to personal safety."

With respect to plaintiff Royce, the reason for review of the classification status was as follows:

"The department has received information through a reliable source that you were involved in the trafficking of contraband in MCI Norfolk, (narcotics, barbituates and/or amphetamines.) This occurred during a period of serious unrest at MCI Norfolk which included many fires, that posed a significant threat to the lives of persons at MCI Norfolk as well as serious property damage."

On November 6, 8, 11 and 13, classification hearings were held with respect to each of the six plaintiffs. Each plaintiff was represented by counsel. The evidence with respect to the alleged offenses committed by the plaintiffs, however, was given in closed session outside of the presence of the plaintiffs and their counsel and was apparently, in each case, in the form of recitation by the defendant Meachum of information purportedly furnished to him by a confidential informant. The nature of this information has never been made known to the plaintiffs or to their counsel even in summary form. They have not been informed of even so much as the dates and places of the alleged offenses.

The classification board made a recommendation for a transfer to either Walpole or Bridgewater in the case of each plaintiff except Royce, who was to be held in administrative segregation for thirty days and given a second classification hearing at the end of thirty days. Each plaintiff appealed this classification recommendation to the defendant Hall. The defendant Hall denied the appeals, but modified the recommendations of the classification committee and entered orders transferring all of the plaintiffs, including Royce, to MCI, Walpole, except Hathaway, who was ordered to be transferred to MCI, Bridgewater. At the time of the hearing all of these transfers had been accomplished except that of the plaintiff LeBrosky, who was in the hospital at MCI, Norfolk,...

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3 cases
  • Fano v. Meachum, No. 75-1033
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • June 27, 1975
    ...935 (1974). The district court provides us with a succinct summary of the facts, which the parties accept as accurate. 387 F.Supp. 664, 666-67 (D.Mass.1975). In the fall of 1974 there was a period of unrest at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Norfolk. There were nine fires, tho......
  • Curry-Bey v. Jackson
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • November 5, 1976, and the same hereby is, granted; and it is further ORDERED that this action be, and the same hereby is, dismissed. 1 Fano v. Meachum, 387 F.Supp. 664 (D.Mass. 1975). 2 Fano v. Meachum, 520 F.2d 374 (1st Cir. 3 In Meachum v. Fano, the court of appeals had held that every disadvantageous ......
  • Owen v. Heyne
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Indiana
    • February 27, 1978
    ...transfers. The First Circuit attempted to establish transfer to another institution of higher security status, Meachum v. Fano, 387 F.Supp. 664 (D.Mass.1975), affirmed 520 F.2d 374 (1st Cir. 1975), reversed 427 U.S. 215, 96 S.Ct. 2532, 49 L.Ed.2d 451 (1976), and classification to a more sec......

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