On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. No. 82-cv-01847) Argued January 30, 1998
Before: Mansmann, Cowen and Alito, Circuit Judges
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cowen, Circuit Judge.
This appeal concerns whether the district court appropriately construed the terms of a consent decree entered into by the City of Philadelphia and various related officials (collectively, the "City") and the plaintiff-appellee class (the "Plaintiffs") consisting of all present and future inmates in the Philadelphia Prison System. The decree resolved the Plaintiffs' civil rights action alleging unconstitutional overcrowding in the prison system. The City agreed, inter alia, to develop a management information services (MIS) plan for tracking the inmate population and to fulfill specified aspects of the plan by certain deadlines. Subsequently, on January 6, 1997, the district court issued an amended order (the "Amended Order") requiring the City to undertake and achieve certain performance goals relating to the MIS plan by various deadlines or face the imposition of fines. The City contends that the parties never agreed to these additional terms and that the Amended Order modifies and expands the decree beyond what the parties agreed to in the consent decree. We agree with the City and will vacate the Amended Order.
A group of inmates filed a class action suit in 1982 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 claiming violations of the First, Eighth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments because of alleged overcrowding at Holmesburg Prison. An amended complaint filed in 1983 asserted claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged constitutional deprivation under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The plaintiff class later grew to include all present and future inmates in the Philadelphia Prison System, and the suit expanded to encompass the entire prison system. In 1986, after extensive negotiation, the City and the Plaintiffs entered into a settlement in which the Plaintiffs relinquished their claims for damages in return for various undertakings by the City. For example, the agreement required the City to construct a 440-bed detention facility in downtown Philadelphia by December 31, 1990, and to release inmates according to certain procedures if the inmate population exceeded a maximum allowable figure. The district court approved the settlement and entered a consent order on December 30, 1986 (the "1986 Consent Decree").
By 1989, it became evident that the 440-bed facility would not be available by the agreed upon date. In response, the City and the Plaintiffs negotiated an agreement designed to alleviate overcrowding in the interim but did not secure the district court's approval of this agreement. Consequently, the Plaintiffs filed a motion in February of 1990 to vacate the 1986 Consent Decree and reinstate their amended complaint. The City opposed the motion. In August of 1990, the Plaintiffs moved for emergency relief from the continued overcrowding, and, in its response, the City expressed approval of the relief requested. Further negotiation led the parties to enter into a new and more detailed agreement in 1991 culminating in another consent order (the "1991 Consent Decree"). Among other items, the 1991 Consent Decree requires the City to engage in a Prison Planning Process addressing the physical plant of the prison system as well as its operation. This process entails development of population projections, a population management plan, physical and operational standards, a capital projects management plan, an operational management plan, and a management information services plan.
This appeal chiefly concerns the MIS plan. The relevant section of the 1991 Consent Decree provides:
F. Management Information Services Plan. The defendants shall develop a plan to provide management information systems (both manual and electronic as necessary) to support and perform all actions called for in paragraphs "A" through "E," above. To this end, the defendants shall develop a strategic systems plan that identifies what information is needed and how it will be managed to support and perform the requirements of this Agreement.
The defendants shall achieve compliance with paragraphs "A" through "F " by performing the activities set forth on the attached Exhibit "A", consisting of three (3) numbered pages and seven (7) unnumbered pages, by each of the dates specified therein. Exhibit "A" is incorporated herein by reference as part of this Appendix and also as a part of the agreement of the parties.
App. at 262. Exhibit "A" lists the following activities pertinent to the MIS plan and their corresponding deadlines:
F Management Information Services Plan F1 Develop a MIS to support all activities Write scope of services for MIS development contract Establish Criminal Justice Management Information System Manager Establish Criminal Justice System Information Board Hire MIS Consultant Develop Board Policies Develop Data System Definitions Identify Application and Equipment Needs Identify and Implement Short-term Needs Draft Criminal Justice MIS Plan Develop Implementation Schedule App. at 272.
During a status conference concerning the MIS plan on November 6, 1996, the district court proposed entry of an order imposing deadlines for the implementation of the MIS plan and requiring various other performances by the City under penalty of fines. The City objected to such an order. At another conference on November 20, 1996, the district court again suggested the appropriateness of such an order, and the City again objected. Despite the objection, the district court sua sponte entered the Amended Order on January 6, 1997.1 It requires the City to (i) meet deadlines for implementation of the MIS plan under penalty offines, (ii) complete a "clean-up" of the computer database used to track ...