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Bowers v. City of Philadelphia

December 12, 2008

LEE BOWERS,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Surrick, J.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion in Limine to Preclude Reference to, or Evidence of, any Past Consent Decrees or Orders of Contempt Involving the Philadelphia Prison System (Doc. No. 170). For the following reasons, the Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Lee Bowers ("Plaintiff") alleges that he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the intake unit of the Philadelphia Prison System (the "PPS") as a result of overcrowding from June 23, 2006, through June 26, 2006. (Doc. No. 34 ¶¶ 21-24, 26-28.)*fn1 Plaintiff is not the first to allege unconstitutional conditions in the PPS. As we have noted in past opinions in this case, state and federal courts have grappled with the issue of prison overcrowding in the PPS for more than thirty years. State court litigation began in 1971 with the filing of Jackson v. Hendrick, in which inmates in the City's prison system alleged that their conditions of confinement violated their constitutional and statutory rights. See 764 A.2d 1139, 1141 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2000) (reciting history). In 1972, the trial court held that conditions in the prison amounted to cruel and unusual punishment and ordered the City to take immediate action to rectify the situation. Id. Over the next twenty years, the parties entered into a series of consent decrees that laid out specific measures that the City was obligated to take in order to provide constitutionally adequate conditions. Id. The final consent decree was not approved until 1991. See Jackson v. Hendrick, No. 2437, slip op. at 3 (Phila. Ct. Com. Pl. July 1, 2002). In 1996, the trial court in Jackson noted that Philadelphia's prisons "remain dangerously overcrowded, while conditions remain, in many respects, cruel, disgusting and degrading." 764 A.2d at 1145.

Federal litigation involving conditions in the PPS began in 1982 with the filing of Harris v. City of Philadelphia, No. 82-1847 (E.D. Pa. 1982). The plaintiffs in Harris, inmates at the Holmesburg Prison, filed a class action complaint against the City of Philadelphia and individual Philadelphia officials alleging overcrowded conditions that violated the First, Eighth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. See Harris v. City of Phila., No. 82-1847, 2000 WL 1239948, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 30, 2000). That litigation led to court-approved consent decrees in 1986 and 1991, as well as a Ten-Year Plan approved by the court in 1996. Id. at *1-4. The litigation also resulted in a series of orders beginning in 1994 and ending in 1999 that approved over 250 policies and procedures in the prisons that were a product of negotiations between the City and the plaintiff class. Id. at *4. Throughout the eighteen-year litigation, the consent decrees and orders mandated various reform measures in an effort to address the crisis conditions that existed at the PPS. In 2000, the court approved a final settlement, and federal supervision of the PPS came to an end. Id. at *11.

On July 24, 2006, Plaintiff brought the instant lawsuit alleging that unconstitutional conditions in the intake unit of the PPS caused him to suffer a blood clot in his left leg. (See Doc. No. 1; Doc. No. 34 ¶ 29.) Plaintiff originally brought the Complaint as a class action in which he was a named plaintiff. On January 25, 2007, we entered a Preliminary Injunction in the class action. (See Doc. No. 94.) We made findings of fact based upon evidence and testimony presented at an evidentiary hearing as well as an on-site tour of the prison facilities. (Id. at 3.) In the Order, we stated:

It is DECLARED that the conditions that existed in the intake unit at [the CurranFromhold Correctional Facility ("CFCF")], in the detention unit of the [Philadelphia Police Administration Building ("PAB")], and in the holding cells in the Philadelphia Police Districts during the summer of 2006, violated the constitutional rights of the Plaintiffs and members of the Plaintiff class as provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. (Doc. No. 94.) Furthermore, the Order detailed the unconstitutional conditions that we found:

The unconstitutional conditions included the holding of post-arraignment detainees for days in holding cells at the intake unit of CFCF, in the detention unit of the PAB, and in the holding cells in the Police Districts in numbers that far exceeded the capacity of the cells, and which required detainees to sit and sleep on concrete floors and on top of each other. The conditions also included the failure to provide beds and bedding, the failure to provide materials for personal hygiene including soap, warm water, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and shower facilities, unsanitary and unavailable toilet facilities, the failure to provide for the medical needs of detainees, the failure to timely classify detainees in the intake unit at CFCF, and the lack of fire safety protection at the PAB and in the Police Districts. (Id.) We ordered Defendants to take immediate affirmative steps to redress these conditions. (Id.) Defendants consented to extensions of the preliminary injunction through October 22, 2007. (See Doc. No. 123.)

On August 30, 2007, Plaintiffs and Defendants jointly moved to terminate the preliminary injunction so that the parties could enter into a private settlement agreement that would continue the monitoring of the prisons without federal court supervision. (Doc. No. 148.)

On October 10, 2007, we granted that joint motion, terminated the preliminary injunction, and dismissed the class claims. (Doc. No. 151.) The only claims now remaining in the case are those asserted by Plaintiff in his individual capacity. Plaintiff proceeds only against Defendants City of Philadelphia and King, in his official capacity. (Doc. No. 165 at 1.) Trial in this matter is scheduled to begin on January 5, 2009.

Defendants have filed the instant motion in limine seeking to preclude Plaintiff from making reference to (1) Jackson and Harris, the consent decrees entered in those cases, and the contempt orders issued in those cases; and (2) the extension of the January 25, 2007, preliminary injunction in this case and the private settlement agreement related to Plaintiff's injunctive relief claims. Defendants contend that the evidence is not admissible because it lacks relevance, is unfairly prejudicial, qualifies as hearsay, and constitutes evidence of compromise negotiations.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Relevance

Federal Rule of Evidence 401 provides that evidence is relevant if it has "any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." Fed. R. Evid. 401. Federal Rule of Evidence 402 then provides that "all relevant evidence is admissible." Fed. R. Evid. 402. The Third Circuit has stated that "'Rule 401 does not raise a high standard,'" Hurley v. Atl. City Police Dep't, 174 F.3d 95, 109-10 (3d Cir. 1999) (quoting In re Paoli R.R. Yard PCB Litig., 35 F.3d 717, 782-83 (3d Cir. 1994)), observing that: As noted in the Advisory Committee's Note to Rule 401, "relevancy is not an inherent characteristic of any item of evidence but exists only as a relation between an item of evidence and a matter properly provable in the case." Because the rule makes evidence relevant "if it has any tendency to prove a consequential fact, it follows that ...


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