502us2$26Z 01-22-99 08:32:58 PAGES OPINPGT
OCTOBER TERM, 1991
RUFO, SHERIFF OF SUFFOLK COUNTY, et al. v.
INMATES OF SUFFOLK COUNTY JAIL et al.
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.