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EDWARDS v. SARD

February 25, 1966

Clarence R. EDWARDS and Richard James, Plaintiffs,
v.
Thomas R. SARD, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: YOUNGDAHL

 In this case the plaintiffs, two Negro inmates of Lorton Reformatory, *fn1" a correctional institution operated by the Government of the District of Columbia, complain that they have been discriminated against in the dormitory assignments made at the institution. *fn2" They seek injunctive relief against these alleged abuses.

 Plaintiff Clarence R. Edwards is presently incarcerated at Lorton following conviction for forgery. He is assigned to dormitory No. 8, a dormitory which currently houses Negro inmates only. On August 3, 1962, shortly after his arrival at Lorton, he was assigned to dormitory No. 16. On April 23, 1963, he made a request for a transfer from this dormitory to dormitory No. 1. Both dormitories No. 16 and No. 1 then housed, and continue to house, Negro inmates only. On April 23, 1963, Edwards' request for a transfer was denied.

 On July 19, 1965, Edwards was assigned to dormitory No. 8, and on July 21, 1965, he made a request for a transfer from this dormitory to either of dormitories No. 14 or No. 16. On July 22, 1965, this request was denied. At the time Edwards requested this transfer, dormitory No. 14 housed white inmates only and dormitory No. 16 housed Negro inmates only.

 Plaintiff Richard James is incarcerated at Lorton following conviction for robbery and is assigned to dormitory No. 15 which presently houses Negro inmates only. On February 5, 1959, shortly after his arrival at Lorton, plaintiff James was transferred to dormitory No. 16, a dormitory housing Negro inmates only. On January 20, 1964, James requested a transfer from dormitory No. 16 to "any other dormitory" on account of friction that existed between him and other inmates residing there. His request was granted on January 24, 1964, when he was transferred back to dormitory No. 15.

 I.

 Jurisdiction

 This Court has jurisdiction to grant injunctive relief in this case under 919000028001343*001343 28 U.S.C. § 1343(4) (1958) which provides a remedy for the legal right established in 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1958). This latter section reads:

 
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

 The District of Columbia, in its capacity as supervisor of a penal system, is a "State or Territory" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1958), and therefore the section would apply should this Court find an abuse of constitutional power by the District Government. See Sewell v. Pegelow, 291 F.2d 196 (4th Cir. 1961) (Sobeloff, C.J.).

 II.

 Limited Supervisory Power of Courts Over Prisons

 Although this Court has jurisdiction to redress unconstitutional actions on the part of the District of Columbia Government, it clearly does not exist to supervise minutely the operation of the prisons. The responsibility for running the penal system is an executive one. However, that system cannot be operated in violation of law; the law sets the outer limits of executive discretion in administering the correctional system, as well as in other areas of executive activity. See Sewell v. Pegelow, supra; Dixon v. Duncan, 218 F. Supp. 157 (E.D.Va.1963) ...


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