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MAYBERRY v. MARONEY

August 24, 1976

RICHARD J. MAYBERRY, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
JAMES F. MARONEY, Superintendent, State Correctional Institution, Doerr Street and Ohio River, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: TEITELBAUM

 This troublesome civil rights litigation is once again before the Court on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's application for relief from a consent judgment entered into by the parties and approved by this Court some three and one-half years ago.

 The consent judgment presently at issue was the presumed culmination of proceedings which began in July 1966, when plaintiff Richard J. Mayberry, then an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh (Western Penitentiary), filed an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the superintendent of that institution. *fn1" By his action, based on alleged incidents stemming from an abortive prison breach in 1965, Mayberry sought, inter alia, to enjoin the confinement of inmates in the basement area of the Behavior Adjustment Unit (BAU) at Western Penitentiary. The suit subsequently was certified as a class action, encompassing all persons who were or might in the future be subject to such confinement.

 On January 18, 1973, the Court approved the consent judgment which is the focus of the instant proceeding. In accordance with its terms, Mayberry withdrew his claim for damages and the Commonwealth discontinued the use of the subterranean portion of the BAU.

 The events which surrounded and followed entry of the consent judgment are familiar to all concerned and need not be chronicled here except insofar as they are pertinent to the matter now before me. For present purposes, it is sufficient to state that on October 17, 1974, the Commonwealth petitioned the Court for partial relief from the 1973 consent decree, alleging that:

 
"experience has indicated conclusively that no effective substitute for such segregated confinement is available under present circumstances at Western [Penitentiary], and that as much for the sake of the other residents of the BAU as for the preservation of discipline and order, the use of the area in question on an emergency or crisis basis is an absolute necessity." *fn2"

 The Commonwealth's motion for relief was opposed by plaintiff. Briefs on the issue were requested and subsequently filed, and on January 15, 1975, after careful consideration of the parties' contentions, I granted the Commonwealth's motion, amended the consent judgment and permitted the affected portion of the BAU to be reopened under certain restricted conditions. *fn3" Plaintiff appealed.

 On January 19, 1976, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit vacated my order and remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing on the Commonwealth's original motion for relief from the 1973 consent judgment. *fn4" That evidentiary hearing -- a proceeding which included a thorough view by the Court of the premises in question -- has now been completed. In my judgment, it has established adequate support for the "unsupported allegations" contained in the Commonwealth's original motion for relief. Accordingly, the motion will be granted, the consent judgment will be vacated in its entirety and the parties will be restored to the legal positions they occupied prior to January 18, 1973. *fn5"

  I

 Should there be any doubt, we begin by stating plainly that the Court is mindful of the fact that disposition of the Commonwealth's motion for relief is controlled by Rule 60(b)(5) and (6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. However, inasmuch as the instant adjudication effectively operates to maintain or remove the current injunction against use of the basement area of the BAU, I believe it both relevant and appropriate, albeit technically digressive, to observe that any de novo consideration of the propriety vel non of a federal court injunction in this matter would in all probability result in a determination that, in these circumstances, such relief is not warranted under § 1983.

 That hypothetical result would seem to follow from an application of the Supreme Court's recent decision in Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 46 L. Ed. 2d 561, 96 S. Ct. 598 (1976), a § 1983 case that I am inclined to read as a firm instruction to the federal judiciary that intrusion by injunctive decree into the internal affairs of a state agency is impermissible in the absence of a clear violation of constitutional rights or breach of constitutional duties on the part of state officers.

 In the context of the instant case, the lesson gleaned by this Court from Rizzo v. Goode might be stated as follows: Absent a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments, the rationally-based, nondiscriminatory election of state prison authorities to confine an inmate in one place as opposed to another is not properly subject to federal judicial review. Such a decision is managerial in nature, part and parcel of the day-to-day administration of prison affairs, and, as such, should not be interfered with by the district court. In a legal/political sense, federal intervention in such circumstances contravenes important considerations of comity and federalism; pragmatically, it ignores the manifest lack of judicial expertise in the conduct and management of correctional institutions. See Finney v. Arkansas Board of Correction, 505 F.2d 194, 200 (8th Cir. 1974).

 We need not belabor matters relating to the obvious and crucial qualification on the message perceived in Rizzo v. Goode. Suffice it to say that it is now apparent to the Court that, at least under present institutional procedures, the temporary confinement of Western Penitentiary inmates in the basement portion of the BAU in and of itself entails no violation of constitutionally-guaranteed rights. In this regard, it is clear from the Court's own view of the premises that such familiar terms as "dungeon" and "hole" are misleading exaggerations as applied to the BAU basement detention facility. *fn6" Though certainly not a particularly pleasant place of confinement (a description equally applicable to the vast majority of penal facilities in the United States), the area is bright, dry and clean, the individual cells small but reasonably adequate for use on the temporary (48-hour maximum) basis mandated by prison authorities and assumed by the Court herein. In sum, the basement area of the BAU is an austere but acceptably humane emergency detention facility. Standing alone, the temporary confinement of prisoners therein is plainly neither unconscionable nor susceptible to characterization as cruel and unusual punishment.


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