Rufo v. Inmates of Suffolk County Jail

PETITIONER: Rufo, Sheriff Of Suffolk County, et al.
RESPONDENT: Inmates Of Suffolk County Jail et al.
LOCATION: Suffolk County Jail

DOCKET NO.: 90-954
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

CITATION: 502 US 367 (1992)
ARGUED: Oct 09, 1991
DECIDED: Jan 15, 1992
GRANTED: Feb 19, 1991

ADVOCATES:
Chester A. Janiak - on behalf of the Petitioners Robert C. Rufo, et al
John T. Montgomery - on behalf of the Petitioner Thomas C. Rapone
Max D. Stern - on behalf of the Respondents

Facts of the case

After the district court held that the conditions at the Suffolk County Jail were constitutionally deficient, the Suffolk County officials and the inmates of Suffolk County Jail entered into a consent decree for construction of a new jail. In the decree, the parties agreed single-occupancy cells would be provided for pretrial inmates. During the delay of the construction, the sheriff of Suffolk County moved to modify the decree to allow double bunking in certain cells to raise the jail’s occupancy. The sheriff argued that with the increasing number of pretrial detainees and a recent court decision, there was a change in fact and in law that was required to modify the decree. The district court refused the modification because the sheriff is required to show a grievous wrong by new and unforeseen circumstances to modify the decree and that the increase of pretrial detainees was neither new nor unforeseen. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed.

Question

Does the court require a grievous wrong evoked by new and unforeseen change of facts in order to modify a consented decree?

Media for Rufo v. Inmates of Suffolk County Jail

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 09, 1991 in Rufo v. Inmates of Suffolk County Jail

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 15, 1992 in Rufo v. Inmates of Suffolk County Jail

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 90-954, Rufo against the Inmates of Suffolk County Jail and a companion case will be announced by Justice White.

Byron R. White:

For the reasons stated in an opinion on file with the Clerk, the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in these cases is vacated and remanded for further proceedings.

Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion that Justice Blackmun has joined.

Justice Thomas took no part in the consideration and decision of the case.