Settlement Reached in Landmark California Prison Desegregation Case
The settlement comes as the result of the United States Supreme Court's February 2005 decision in favor of Mr. Johnson, who was represented by Proskauer Rose LLP pro bono. As part of the settlement, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) immediately will begin implementing a plan to desegregate its prison reception centers, where prisoners are housed when they initially enter the system, and will formulate a plan to integrate the entire prison system.
“This is a fundamental sea change in the way the Department of Corrections does business and this settlement, which is a direct result of the Supreme Court's decision in February, will have a real and lasting impact on the entire California prison system”
"This is a fundamental sea change in the way the Department of Corrections does business and this settlement, which is a direct result of the Supreme Court's decision in February, will have a real and lasting impact on the entire California prison system," said Bert Deixler, partner at Proskauer Rose, who represented Johnson in the case and argued it before the Supreme Court. "Like the bussing and lunch counter segregation policies of years past, California's practice of separating prisoners by race is a relic of a different era. We're proud to have played a part in bringing this era to a close."
The case began in 1995 when Garrison Johnson filed a complaint in the Central District of California against the CDCR's decades-long segregation policy. Proskauer Rose began representing Mr. Johnson in 2000 and argued the case before the Supreme Court in November 2004. In its February decision, the Court ordered the CDCR to prove that its segregation policy was the only means by which it could achieve prison safety, the reason the CDCR stated for its creation and continued use. Rather than continue to pursue the case, the State of California entered into the settlement agreement with Mr. Johnson.
As a result, the CDCR has already begun implementing a plan to house prisoners in its reception centers by criteria other than race and has begun formulating a plan to integrate the state's entire inmate population. In addition, Mr. Johnson, who is African-American, will be transferred to another prison where he will have a cellmate of a different race.
Proskauer, which has represented Mr. Johnson pro bono and devoted over 2,000 hours to the case thus far, intends to apply to the District Court for an award of attorneys fees. If successful, the firm will use the fees for future pro bono work.
In addition to Mr. Deixler, Mr. Johnson was represented by Lois Thompson and Tanya Forsheit in Proskauer's Los Angeles office, Charles Sims in the firm's New York office, and Lee Crawford in the D.C. office.
About Proskauer Rose
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