Brown v. Plata Case Brief

Facts of the Case

A three-judge court convened by the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Northern Districts of California underan order requiring appellant Governor of the State of California to reduce overcrowding in its prisons to remedy the resulting lack of care available for appellee prisoners with serious medical and psychological conditions. The Governor appealed. The three-judge court credited substantial evidence that prison populations could be reduced in a manner that did not increase crime to a significant degree. Witnesses testified that a 130% population limit would allow the State to remedy the constitutionally inadequate provision of medical and mental health care. The Governor appealed.




“No. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of special panel in an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy. “The court-mandated population limit is necessary to remedy the violation of prisoners’ constitutional rights and is authorized by the PLRA,” Kenney wrote for the 5-4 majority. Justice Antonin Scalia filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, in which he admonished the majority for affirming “what is perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our Nation’s history: an order requiring California to release the staggering number of 46,000 convicted criminals.” Justice Samuel Alito filed a separate dissenting opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, in which he wrote that the “Constitution does not give federal judges the authority to run state penal systems.””

Case Information

Citation: 563 US 493 (2011)
Granted: Jun 14, 2010
Argued: Nov 30, 2010
Decided: May 23, 2011
Case Brief: 2011