Kentucky Department of Corrections v. Thompson

PETITIONER: Kentucky Department of Corrections
LOCATION: United States District Court, Western District North Carolina, Charlotte Division

DOCKET NO.: 87-1815
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 490 US 454 (1989)
ARGUED: Jan 18, 1989
DECIDED: May 15, 1989

Barbara Willett Jones - on behalf of the petitioners
Barbara A. Jones - on behalf of the Petitioners
Joseph S. Elder, II - on behalf of the Respondents

Facts of the case


Media for Kentucky Department of Corrections v. Thompson

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 18, 1989 in Kentucky Department of Corrections v. Thompson

I mean, how... why does forced medication once you've been committed to prison affect the nature and duration of the sentence or the confinement?

Joseph S. Elder, II:

Now, if a man's serving 30 years and his wife brings contraband to the institution and the warden says indefinitely, that's where we're at.

Barbara Willett Jones:

Well, there's three... three areas we're suggesting fall within this line: duration, release from confinement, and then the very nature of confinement.

Joseph S. Elder, II:

That could be for the rest of that inmate's time.

Barbara Willett Jones:

And it's... I agree with you that we are... it's--

Joseph S. Elder, II:

And that is an extremely serious matter, indeed.

Why do you go into the very nature of confinement?

Well, but the prison doesn't have to allow any visits.

I mean, there you're just getting a lot of judgment calls, it seems to me.

Joseph S. Elder, II:

Not on a constitutional basis.

You know, forced medication is worse than being denied visitors?

Joseph S. Elder, II:

They... under the Kentucky consent decree, visitation has to be at the same level as when the consent decree was entered.

Who can say?

Joseph S. Elder, II:

If tomorrow they cut off all vision at the consent decree tomorrow afternoon, I'll be back in front of Judge Johnston saying, wait a minute, Judge Johnston, they're in contempt of the consent decree.

Barbara Willett Jones:

--Well, I think forced medication falls very much in line with Vitek where an individual who does not want to receive medication for a physical problem is very much like an individual who does not want to see... received medical treatment for a mental health problem, and that's why we follow those... feel like those fall within those kind of areas.

Well, why did Judge Johnstone enter a decree that wasn't based on the Constitution?

Oh, we understand why you've adopted it.

Joseph S. Elder, II:

Because it concretized existing procedure at the reformatory.

I mean, it very nicely brings all existing cases within your role.

Joseph S. Elder, II:

It says that visitation shall be as at least kept at the level as of entry of the consent decree.

We're just asking whether it's a line that makes any sense.

What provision of the Constitution authorized that?

Barbara Willett Jones:

Well, I think the only alternative, Your Honor, if we don't do that, in order to aid the states, is we would have to take a very restrictive, even more narrow rule unless the state drafts policies that affect substantive rights that have already been recognized as this Court protected by the Constitution itself.

Joseph S. Elder, II:

Your Honor, I don't think any provision of the Constitution authorized that.

Barbara Willett Jones:

To me that's the only other alternative that exists.

Well, then, what was... how did it ever get included in a decree that presumably is based solely on the Constitution?

Well, that would do away with the Roth case and the whole idea of liberty and interests created by state legislation.

Joseph S. Elder, II:

Your Honor, because that's what the parties settled on.

Why not limit yourself to the duration or the confinement?