OCTOBER TERM, 1991
certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the first circuit
No. 90-954. Argued October 9, 1991—Decided January 15, 1992*
Years after the District Court held that conditions at the Suffolk County, Massachusetts, jail were constitutionally deficient, petitioner officials and respondent inmates entered into a consent decree providing for construction of a new jail that, among other things, would provide single occupancy cells for pretrial detainees. Work on the jail was delayed and, in the interim, the inmate population outpaced projections. While construction was still underway, petitioner sheriff moved to modify the decree to allow double bunking in a certain number of cells, thereby raising the jail's capacity. Relying on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)—which provides, inter alia, that "upon such terms as are just, the court may relieve a party . . . from a . . . judgment . . . for the following reasons: . . . (5) . . . it is no longer equitable that the judgment should have prospective operation"—the sheriff argued that modification was required by a change in law, this Court's postdecree decision in Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U. S. 520, and a change in fact, the increase in pretrial detainees. The District Court denied relief, holding that Rule 60(b)(5) codified the standard of United States v. Swift & Co., 286 U. S. 106, 119—"Nothing less than a clear showing of grievous wrong evoked by new and unforeseen conditions should lead . . . to [a] change [in] what was decreed after years of litigation with the consent of all concerned"— and that a case for modification under this standard had not been made. The court also rejected the argument that Bell required modification of the decree; found that the increased pretrial detainee population was "neither new nor unforeseen"; declared that relief would be inappropriate even under a more flexible modification standard because separate cells for detainees were "perhaps the most important" element of the relief sought; and held that, even if the sheriff's double celling proposal met constitutional standards, allowing modification on that basis would undermine and discourage settlement of institutional cases. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
*Together with No. 90-1004, Rapone, Commissioner of Correction of Massachusetts v. Inmates of Suffolk County Jail et al., also on certiorari to the same court.
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