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Harris v. City of Philadelphia

filed: February 15, 1995.

MARTIN HARRIS; JESSE KITHCART; WILLIAM DAVIS; RANDALL CUMMINGS; EVELYN LINGHAM; ESTRUS FOWLER TYRONE HILL AND NATHANIEL CARTER
v.
THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA; JOAN REEVES, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS COMMISSIONER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA; ALBERT F. CAMPBELL; ROSITA SAEZ-ACHILLA; GENECE E. BRINKLEY, ESQ.; REV. PAUL M. WASHINGTON; M. MARK MENDEL; HON. STANLEY KUBACKI; MAMIE FAINES, EACH IN HIS OR HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE PHILADELPHIA PRISON SYSTEM; J. PATRICK GALLAGHER, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SUPERINTENDENT OF THE PHILADELPHIA PRISON SYSTEM; HARRY E. MOORE, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS WARDEN OF HOLMESBURG PRISON; WILHELMINA SPEACH, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS WARDEN OF THE DETENTION CENTER; PRESS GROOMS, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS WARDEN OF THE HOUSE OF CORRECTIONS; RAYMOND E. SHIPMAN, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA; AND MAYOR EDWARD G. RENDELL, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS MAYOR OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA THEODORE LEVINE, ALBERT F. CAMPBELL, ROSITA SAEZ-ACHILLA, GENECE E. BRINKLEY, ESQ., REV. PAUL M. WASHINGTON, M. MARK MENDEL, ESQ., HON. STANLEY KUBACKI, MAMIE FAINES, J. PATRICK GALLAGHER, HARRY E. MOORE, WILHELMINA SPEACH, PRESS GROOMS, RAYMOND E. SHIPMAN, HON. EDWARD G. RENDELL AND THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA APPELLANTS



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (D.C. No. 82-cv-01847).

Before: Sloviter, Chief Judge, Mansmann and Alito, Circuit Judges.

Author: Sloviter

Opinion OF THE COURT

SLOVITER, Chief Judge.

The lawsuit that underlies these appeals arises out of the decade-long efforts of a class of incarcerated prisoners to ameliorate the severe overcrowding and harsh conditions existing in the prisons maintained and supervised by the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (hereafter Philadelphia or City). The Philadelphia defendants have not contested the need for substantial and meaningful improvements. Indeed, they entered into two consent decrees and stipulated revisions thereto in which they agreed to make massive improvements and agreed to have the district court supervise the steps they planned to implement those improvements. It is also not contested that Philadelphia did not meet the deadlines for some of the obligations it undertook in the consent decrees and stipulations. Ultimately, because of Philadelphia's failure to comply, the district court entered the series of orders which are the subject of these appeals.*fn1

Before us in this opinion is the City of Philadelphia's appeal from the order of October 5, 1993 imposing on it stipulated penalties totalling $584,000 (No. 93-1997), the order of October 28, 1993 directing production of the Facilities Audit (No. 93-2116), and the order of November 1, 1993 dismissing the City's Motion to Modify the December 30, 1986 Decree and the March 11, 1991 Decree as a contempt sanction for the City's failure to timely submit the Facilities Audit and Ten-Year Plan by the dates previously stipulated (No. 93-2117).

These appeals were consolidated for argument with three related appeals. The appeal from the injunction entered by the district court governing the occupancy and conditions of confinement of the City's newly constructed prison facility denominated the Alternative and Special Detention Central Unit (No. 93-2034) was remanded to the district court because the issues raised by the City on appeal had not been raised by it in the district court. See Harris v. City of Philadelphia (Harris IV), 35 F.3d 840 (3d Cir. 1994). Still pending and the subject of separate opinions filed today are the appeal from an order adjudicating the City in contempt and imposing fines for noncompliance with an order requiring occupancy of a substance abuse and treatment facility, Harris v. City of Philadelphia, No. 94-1286 (3d Cir. , 1995) (Harris VI), and the appeal from another order adjudicating the City in contempt and imposing on it fines for its modification of procedures for designation of bailable pretrial detainees for release, Harris v. City of Philadelphia, No. 93-1988 (3d Cir. , 1995) (Harris VII).

None of these appeals directly challenges the stipulated maximum allowable population of prisoners to be housed, although that issue remains the raison d'etre of all the orders and decrees that followed. The three appeals that are the subject of this opinion instead concern the comprehensive Prison Planning Process (PPP) agreed to in the 1991 Consent Decree as an orderly planning process for the construction, operation and management of the Philadelphia prison system. Necessarily implicated in this series of appeals is the role of the district court in overseeing the administration of county prison facilities pursuant to a consent decree designed to ameliorate overcrowding, and the use of its contempt power for alleged noncompliance with orders voluntarily undertaken.

I.

BACKGROUND OF THE CASE AND THE CONSENT DECREES

In 1982 a group of inmates suffering from overcrowding at Holmesburg Prison filed a class action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 claiming violations of the First, Eighth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments against the City of Philadelphia and individual city officials who were responsible for administering the Philadelphia prison system. An amended complaint filed April 19, 1983 asserted claims for constitutional deprivation under the Eighth and the Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In 1986, the lawsuit was expanded from its focus on Holmesburg Prison to encompass the Philadelphia prison system as a whole, and the plaintiff class was enlarged to include all past, present and future inmates in the Philadelphia prison system.*fn2 We have been advised by counsel that the inmates are both pretrial detainees (on either nonbailable offenses or who cannot post the required bail) and sentenced prisoners, in approximately equal proportions. Argument Transcript at 6.

In late 1986, the inmates negotiated a settlement with the City in which they gave up their claims for damages in return for, inter alia, the construction of a 440-bed detention facility in downtown Philadelphia by December 31, 1990 and a maximum allowable population for the then-existing facilities of the Philadelphia prison system. App. at 91-92. On December 30, 1986, the district court approved the settlement and the next day entered a Consent Order (the "1986 Consent Decree") consistent with its terms.

By 1989 it became clear that the 440-bed detention facility would not be available by December 31, 1990. In an attempt to alleviate the continued overcrowding, the City and the plaintiff class negotiated an agreement which strengthened population control measures, renewed the City's commitment to new prison construction, and required the City to plan rationally to meet the needs of existing and future inmates. The parties submitted this proposed stipulation to the district court for approval, see Supp. App. at 1535, 1693, which was not forthcoming.*fn3 Consequently, on February 14, 1990, the plaintiff class moved to vacate the 1986 Consent Decree and to reinstate the Second Amended Complaint. See Supp. App. at 1674-1703. The City opposed this motion and urged the court to consider that it had already agreed to devise a comprehensive prison plan dealing with ten-year population projections, prison construction and renovation, management and training, information systems, incarceration alternatives, and state court reforms, and had already spent $250,000 on consultants to help meet its responsibilities. See Supp. App. at 1524-51. On August 31, 1990 the plaintiff class moved the court for emergency relief from the continued overcrowding. In its response, the City concurred in the relief suggested and informed the court that the City had formulated a Prisons Master Plan as well as a Justice Facilities and Systems Improvement Strategy. Supp. App. at 1542-43.

Continued negotiation led the parties to enter into a new Stipulation and Agreement culminating in another Consent Order approved by the district court (the "1991 Consent Decree"), this one considerably more detailed, which contained a series of stipulations and remedial steps aimed at alleviating the overcrowding in the prison system.*fn4 In the 1991 Consent Decree, the parties stipulated that

4. New prison construction is inadvisable without

detailed consideration of the future demands to be made on the Philadelphia prison system in light of: City population trends; trends in the crime rate; the habitability of existing prison facilities and the feasibility of their rehabilitation; the likelihood and effect of changes in the administration of criminal Justice in Philadelphia; and the availability of alternatives to confinement.

5. Once the immediate and longer-range needs of the

Philadelphia Prison System are determined realistically, how best to meet those needs should be addressed in a rational planning process.

App. at 113.

As a long-term solution, the parties agreed to undertake a comprehensive Prison Planning Process, which entailed evaluation of the current facilities and a carefully considered long-range plan in addition to the construction of new facilities and the repair of existing facilities. The parties also agreed to short-term remedies, one relating to a revised admissions moratorium and release mechanism and the other relating to the City's undertaking to provide a substance abuse program.

With respect to the long-term solution, Paragraphs 11-15 of the 1991 Consent Decree oblige the City to implement the Prison Planning Process and the Mayor to appoint a Criminal Justice Project Coordinator responsible for carrying out the activities specified in the Prison Planning Process. App. at 114-15. The Prison Planning Process addresses not only the physical plant of the Philadelphia prison system but also the operational aspects of running the prison system. It includes population projections, a population management plan, promulgation of physical and operational standards, a capital projects management plan, an operational management plan, and a management information service plan. App. at 129-35. The City notes, and we agree, that implementation of these plans necessarily involves numerous state and local agencies. The 1991 Consent Decree explicitly contemplates "the involvement of the Philadelphia judiciary, the office of the District Attorney, and the Defender Association." App. at 113-14.

Of most relevance to this appeal, the City undertook to develop a plan for promulgating physical and operational standards consistent with "constitutional standards" and "correctional industry standards of the American Correctional Association." See note 5 infra. This plan contemplates a three-step process. Paragraph C.1. of the Prison Planning Process requires the City to develop physical plant standards and general design guidelines for renovation and new construction capital projects. App. at 131.*fn5

Paragraph C.2. requires the City to

conduct an analysis of Philadelphia's existing jail and prison facilities using the physical plant standards and design guidelines developed pursuant to [Paragraph C.1.] . . . to determine how each existing facility might best be used, if at all, to house the projected daily prison population; and develop a plan, including implementation schedule, for necessary physical improvements to existing facilities.

App. at 131-32. This required analysis has come to be known as the "Facilities Audit."

Paragraph C.3. provides that the City shall "develop a phased plan, including an implementation schedule, for the development of such new correctional capacity as may be necessary to house the projected prison population." App. at 132. Paragraph C.3. refers, in turn, to Paragraph A.2.b. which obligates the City to develop and periodically update a ten-year projection of the inmate population, taking into account the expected effect of anticipated case management and processing reforms. App. at 128. Hence, the third step in the process came to be known as the "Ten-Year Plan." See also Harris v. Reeves, 761 F. Supp. 382, 391 (E.D. Pa. 1991) (approving 1991 Consent Decree and noting plans to develop and apply physical and operational standards).

The 1991 Consent Decree provides that if a plan is not submitted by its due date or if the plan which is submitted is determined by agreement of the parties or by the court to fall short of substantial compliance or to have been submitted in bad faith, defendants shall forfeit $500 per day for each day that no acceptable plan is submitted, increasing to $1000 per day after thirty days. P 22, App. at 121. The City will also be subject to a penalty of $500 per day for the first thirty days and $1000 per day thereafter for each day of delay in complying with a plan "milestone." P 27, App. at 123. All penalties "shall be used or distributed as determined by the Court on the advice of the parties and the Special Master." P 28, App. at 124. The district court retained jurisdiction to enforce the provisions of the 1991 Consent Decree. P 33, App. at 125.*fn6

II.

FACTS LEADING TO THIS APPEAL

Under the 1991 Consent Decree the City was obligated to develop physical and operational standards for the prisons by September 6, 1991; prepare the Facilities Audit by December 6, 1991; and draft the Ten-Year Plan by July 31, 1992. App. at 138. After the City had difficulty in meeting these dates, the parties negotiated revisions embodied in the January 1992 Stipulation and Agreement Amending Due Dates for Plans Comprising the Prison Planning Process (hereafter "Amended Stipulation") (entered by the court on January 7, 1992) to April 30, 1992, August 31, 1992, and December 31, 1992 respectively. Addenda to City's Brief at A-68 to A-69. Paragraph 8 of the Amended Stipulation provides that the penalties described in the 1991 Consent Decree for late submission "are presently accruing" for those submissions that were late, id. at A-58, but Paragraph 11 established a procedure for modification of the revised deadlines.*fn7 Apparently the City did not follow that procedure, and no revision of the dates in the Amended Stipulation was made.

In return for the revised dates agreed to in the Amended Stipulation, the parties also agreed to added teeth in the procedure for imposition of penalties. If the City failed to comply with the revised dates, the daily penalties from the 1991 Consent Decree "shall immediately accrue." P 13, id. at A-61. Furthermore, the new procedure expressly authorized collection of daily penalties without court action.

Paragraph 16 provides:

16. Any daily penalty that accrues pursuant to this

Stipulation and Agreement, including all accrued amounts, shall be paid into the Court . . . without any further direction from the Court and without any application to the Court by the plaintiffs. All penalties owed by the defendants and the City shall be paid into the Court within thirty (30) days following receipt of the plaintiffs' demand for such payment. Plaintiffs shall not make such demand with respect to any Plan unless and until notified by the Special Master that the Plan was not submitted by its Due Date in the Revised Schedule (subject to any modification of that date pursuant to paragraph 11 hereof).

Id. at A-62 (emphasis added).

Due dates could be extended by the Special Master "upon application by the [City] . . . supported by good cause, provided that the application is filed with the Special Master and served on the plaintiffs at least ten (10) days prior to the Due Date it seeks to extend." P 17, id. at A-62 to A-63. "Good cause" was strictly defined to mean causes "not reasonably foreseeable" which are "entirely" beyond the City's control and without its fault or negligence.

In January 1992, a new mayor for the City of Philadelphia, Edward G. Rendell, was sworn into office. On January 7, 1992, as one of the first acts of the new administration, the City filed a Motion to Modify the December 30, 1986 Decree and the March 11, 1991 Decree. Specifically, the City moved for an order of the court pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4)-(6) to vacate the provisions of the consent decrees concerning population limits and the non-admission or release of pre-trial detainees. The City gave three grounds for the proposed modification: First, the consent decrees were ultra vires acts by the previous administration because the City was obliged under state law to follow state court incarceration orders and it lacked the power to bind future administrations in the administration of police power authority; Second, experience with the qualified admissions moratorium and the release mechanism demonstrated that it was no longer equitable to implement the decrees for reasons of public safety and the orderly administration of Justice; Third, the Supreme ...


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