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42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq.

Table of Contents
§ 1997. Definitions
§ 1997a. Initiation of civil actions
§ 1997b. Certification requirements;  Attorney General to personally sign certification
§ 1997c. Intervention in actions
§ 1997d. Prohibition of retaliation
§ 1997e. Suits by prisoners
§ 1997f. Report to Congress
§ 1997g. Priorities for use of funds
§ 1997h. Notice to Federal departments
§ 1997i. Disclaimer respecting standards of care
§ 1997j. Disclaimer respecting private litigation

§ 1997. Definitions

 As used in this subchapter--

(1) The term "institution" means any facility or institution-- (A) which is owned, operated, or managed by, or provides services on behalf of any State or political subdivision of a State;  and

(B) which is-- (i) for persons who are mentally ill, disabled, or retarded, or chronically ill or handicapped;

(ii) a jail, prison, or other correctional facility;

(iii) a pretrial detention facility;

(iv) for juveniles-- (I) held awaiting trial;

(II) residing in such facility or institution for purposes of receiving care or treatment;  or

(III) residing for any State purpose in such facility or institution (other than a residential facility providing only elementary or secondary education that is not an institution in which reside juveniles who are adjudicated delinquent, in need of supervision, neglected, placed in State custody, mentally ill or disabled, mentally retarded, or chronically ill or handicapped);  or (v) providing skilled nursing, intermediate or long-term care, or custodial or residential care.


(2) Privately owned and operated facilities shall not be deemed  "institutions" under this subchapter if-- (A) the licensing of such facility by the State constitutes the sole nexus between such facility and such State;

(B) the receipt by such facility, on behalf of persons residing in such facility, of payments under title XVI, XVIII [42 U.S.C.A. §§ 1381 et seq., 1395 et seq.], or under a State plan approved under title XIX [42 U.S.C.A. § 1396 et seq.], of the Social Security Act, constitutes the sole nexus between such facility and such State;  or

(C) the licensing of such facility by the State, and the receipt by such facility, on behalf of persons residing in such facility, of payments under title XVI, XVIII [42 U.S.C.A. §§ 1381 et seq., 1395 et seq.], or under a State plan approved under title XIX [42 U.S.C.A. § 1396 et seq.], of the Social Security Act, constitutes the sole nexus between such facility and such State; (3) The term "person" means an individual, a trust or estate, a partnership, an association, or a corporation;

(4) The term "State" means any of the several States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any of the territories and possessions of the United States;

(5) The term "legislative days" means any calendar day on which either House of Congress is in session.
 

§ 1997a. Initiation of civil actions

(a) Discretionary authority of Attorney General;  preconditions

 Whenever the Attorney General has reasonable cause to believe that any State or political subdivision of a State, official, employee, or agent thereof, or other person acting on behalf of a State or political subdivision of a State is subjecting persons residing in or confined to an institution, as defined in section 1997 of this title, to egregious or flagrant conditions which deprive such persons of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States causing such persons to suffer grievous harm, and that such deprivation is pursuant to a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of such rights, privileges, or immunities, the Attorney General, for or in the name of the United States, may institute a civil action in any appropriate United States district court against such party for such equitable relief as may be appropriate to insure the minimum corrective measures necessary to insure the full enjoyment of such rights, privileges, or immunities, except that such equitable relief shall be available under this subchapter to persons residing in or confined to an institution as defined in section 1997(1)(B)(ii) of this title only insofar as such persons are subjected to conditions which deprive them of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution of the United States.

(b) Discretionary award of attorney fees

 In any action commenced under this section, the court may allow the prevailing party, other than the United States, a reasonable attorney's fee against the United States as part of the costs.

(c) Attorney General to personally sign complaint

 The Attorney General shall personally sign any complaint filed pursuant to this section.
 

§ 1997b. Certification requirements;  Attorney General to personally sign certification

(a) At the time of the commencement of an action under section 1997a of this title the Attorney General shall certify to the court-- (1) that at least 49 calendar days previously the Attorney General has notified in writing the Governor or chief executive officer and attorney general or chief legal officer of the appropriate State or political subdivision and the director of the institution of-- (A) the alleged conditions which deprive rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States and the alleged pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of such  rights, privileges, or immunities;

(B) the supporting facts giving rise to the alleged conditions and the alleged pattern or practice, including the dates or time period during which the alleged conditions and pattern or practice of resistance occurred;  and when feasible, the identity of all persons reasonably suspected of being involved in causing the alleged conditions and pattern or practice at the time of the certification, and the date on which the alleged conditions and pattern or practice were first brought to the attention of the Attorney General;  and

(C) the minimum measures which the Attorney General believes may remedy the alleged conditions and the alleged pattern or practice of resistance; (2) that the Attorney General has notified in writing the Governor or chief executive officer and attorney general or chief legal officer of the appropriate State or political subdivision and the director of the institution of the Attorney General's intention to commence an investigation of such institution, that such notice was delivered at least seven days prior to the commencement of such investigation and that between the time of such notice and the commencement of an action under section 1997a of this title-- (A) the Attorney General has made a reasonable good faith effort to consult with the Governor or chief executive officer and attorney general or chief   legal officer of the appropriate State or political subdivision and the director of the institution, or their designees, regarding financial, technical, or other assistance which may be available from the United States and which the Attorney General believes may assist in the correction of such conditions and pattern or practice of resistance;

(B) the Attorney General has encouraged the appropriate officials to correct the alleged conditions and pattern or practice of resistance through informal methods of conference, conciliation and persuasion, including, to the extent feasible, discussion of the possible costs and fiscal impacts of alternative minimum corrective measures, and it is the Attorney General's opinion that reasonable efforts at voluntary correction have not succeeded;  and

(C) the Attorney General is satisfied that the appropriate officials have had a reasonable time to take appropriate action to correct such conditions and pattern or practice, taking into consideration the time required to remodel or make necessary changes in physical facilities or relocate residents, reasonable legal or procedural requirements, the urgency of the need to correct such conditions, and other circumstances involved in correcting such conditions;  and (3) that the Attorney General believes that such an action by the United States is of general public importance and will materially further the  vindication of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. (b) The Attorney General shall personally sign any certification made pursuant to this section.
 

§ 1997c. Intervention in actions

(a) Discretionary authority of Attorney General;  preconditions;  time period (1) Whenever an action has been commenced in any court of the United States seeking relief from egregious or flagrant conditions which deprive persons residing in institutions of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States causing them to suffer grievous harm and the Attorney General has reasonable cause to believe that such deprivation is pursuant to a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of such rights, privileges, or immunities, the Attorney General, for or in the name of the United States, may intervene in such action upon motion by the Attorney General.

(2) The Attorney General shall not file a motion to intervene under paragraph  (1) before 90 days after the commencement of the action, except that if the court determines it would be in the interests of justice, the court may shorten or waive the time period. (b) Certification requirements by Attorney General (1) The Attorney General shall certify to the court in the motion to intervene filed under subsection (a) of this section-- (A) that the Attorney General has notified in writing, at least fifteen days previously, the Governor or chief executive officer, attorney general or chief legal officer of the appropriate State or political subdivision, and the director of the institution of- - (i) the alleged conditions which deprive rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States and the alleged pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of such rights, privileges, or immunities;

 (ii) the supporting facts giving rise to the alleged conditions, including   the dates and time period during which the alleged conditions and pattern or practice of resistance occurred;  and

(iii) to the extent feasible and consistent with the interests of other plaintiffs, the minimum measures which the Attorney General believes may remedy the alleged conditions and the alleged pattern or practice of resistance; and (B) that the Attorney General believes that such intervention by the United States is of general public importance and will materially further the vindication of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. (2) The Attorney General shall personally sign any certification made pursuant to this section. (c) Attorney General to personally sign motion to intervene

The Attorney General shall personally sign any motion to intervene made pursuant to this section.

(d) Discretionary award of attorney fees;  other award provisions unaffected

 In any action in which the United States joins as an intervenor under this section, the court may allow the prevailing party, other than the United States, a reasonable attorney's fee against the United States as part of the costs.  Nothing in this subsection precludes the award of attorney's fees available under any other provisions of the United States Code.
 

§ 1997d. Prohibition of retaliation

No person reporting conditions which may constitute a violation under this subchapter shall be subjected to retaliation in any manner for so reporting.

§ 1997e. Suits by prisoners

(a) Applicability of administrative remedies

No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.

(b) Failure of State to adopt or adhere to administrative grievance procedure

The failure of a State to adopt or adhere to an administrative grievance procedure shall not constitute the basis for an action under section 1997a or 1997c of this title.

(c) Dismissal (1) The court shall on its own motion or on the motion of a party dismiss any action brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility if the court is satisfied that the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

(2) In the event that a claim is, on its face, frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief, the court may dismiss the underlying claim without first requiring the exhaustion of administrative remedies.


(d) Attorney's fees (1) In any action brought by a prisoner who is confined to any jail, prison, or other correctional facility, in which attorney's fees are authorized under section 1988 [FN1] of this title, such fees shall not be awarded, except to the extent that-- (A) the fee was directly and reasonably incurred in proving an actual violation of the plaintiff's rights protected by a statute pursuant to which a fee may be awarded under section 1988 [FN1] of this title;  and

(B)(i) the amount of the fee is proportionately related to the court ordered relief for the violation;  or (ii) the fee was directly and reasonably incurred in enforcing the relief ordered for the violation. (2) Whenever a monetary judgment is awarded in an action described in paragraph (1), a portion of the judgment (not to exceed 25 percent) shall be applied to satisfy the amount of attorney's fees awarded against the defendant.  If the award of attorney's fees is not greater than 150 percent of the judgment, the excess shall be paid by the defendant.

(3) No award of attorney's fees in an action described in paragraph (1) shall be based on an hourly rate greater than 150 percent of the hourly rate established under section 3006A of Title 18, for payment of court-appointed counsel.

(4) Nothing in this subsection shall prohibit a prisoner from entering into an agreement to pay an attorney's fee in an amount greater than the amount authorized under this subsection, if the fee is paid by the individual rather than by the defendant pursuant to section 1988 [FN1] of this title.


(e) Limitation on recovery

 No Federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner confined in a jail, prison, or other correctional facility, for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury.

(f) Hearings (1) To the extent practicable, in any action brought with respect to prison conditions in Federal court pursuant to section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility, pretrial proceedings in which the prisoner's participation is required or permitted shall be conducted by telephone, video conference, or other telecommunications technology without removing the prisoner from the facility in which the prisoner is confined.

(2) Subject to the agreement of the official of the Federal, State, or local unit of government with custody over the prisoner, hearings may be conducted at the facility in which the prisoner is confined.  To the extent practicable, the court shall allow counsel to participate by telephone, video conference, or other communications technology in any hearing held at the facility. (g) Waiver of reply (1) Any defendant may waive the right to reply to any action brought by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility under section 1983 of this title or any other Federal law.  Notwithstanding any other law or rule of procedure, such waiver shall not constitute an admission of the allegations contained in the complaint.  No relief shall be granted to the plaintiff unless a reply has been filed.

(2) The court may require any defendant to reply to a complaint brought under this section if it finds that the plaintiff has a reasonable opportunity to prevail on the merits. (h) Definition

 As used in this section, the term "prisoner" means any person incarcerated or detained in any facility who is accused of, convicted of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms and conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program.

§ 1997f. Report to Congress

 The Attorney General shall include in the report to Congress on the business of the Department of Justice prepared pursuant to section 522 of Title 28-- (1) a statement of the number, variety, and outcome of all actions instituted pursuant to this subchapter including the history of, precise reasons for, and procedures followed in initiation or intervention in each case in which action was commenced;

(2) a detailed explanation of the procedures by which the Department has received, reviewed and evaluated petitions or complaints regarding conditions in institutions;

(3) an analysis of the impact of actions instituted pursuant to this  subchapter, including, when feasible, an estimate of the costs incurred by States and other political subdivisions;

(4) a statement of the financial, technical, or other assistance which has been made available from the United States to the State in order to assist in the correction of the conditions which are alleged to have deprived a person of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States;  and

(5) the progress made in each Federal institution toward meeting existing promulgated standards for such institutions or constitutionally guaranteed minima.


§ 1997g. Priorities for use of funds

 It is the intent of Congress that deplorable conditions in institutions covered by this subchapter amounting to deprivations of rights protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States be corrected, not only by litigation as contemplated in this subchapter, but also by the voluntary good faith efforts of agencies of Federal, State, and local governments.  It is the further intention of Congress that where Federal funds are available for use in improving such institutions, priority should be given to the correction or elimination of such unconstitutional or illegal conditions which may exist.  It is not the intent of this provision to require the redirection of funds from one program to another or from one State to another.

§ 1997h. Notice to Federal departments

 At the time of notification of the commencement of an investigation of an institution under section 1997a of this title or of the notification of an intention to file a motion to intervene under section 1997c of this title, and if the relevant institution receives Federal financial assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services or the Department of Education, the Attorney General shall notify the appropriate Secretary of the action and the reasons for such action and shall consult with such officials.  Following such consultation, the Attorney General may proceed with an action under this subchapter if the Attorney General is satisfied that such action is consistent with the policies and goals of the executive branch.

§ 1997i. Disclaimer respecting standards of care

 Provisions of this subchapter shall not authorize promulgation of regulations defining standards of care.

§ 1997j. Disclaimer respecting private litigation

 The provisions of this subchapter shall in no way expand or restrict the authority of parties other than the United States to enforce the legal rights which they may have pursuant to existing law with regard to institutionalized persons.  In this regard, the fact that the Attorney General may be conducting an investigation or contemplating litigation pursuant to this subchapter shall not be grounds for delay of or prejudice to any litigation on behalf of parties other than the United States.

General Information Special Litigation Section
 
Leadership
Jonathan M. Smith
Chief
Contact
Special Litigation Section
(202) 514-6255
toll-free at (877) 218-5228

FAX - (202) 514-0212
Alt. FAX - (202) 514-6273
Email - Special.Litigation@usdoj.gov
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