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William Wayne Justice Papers

Prison Reform: Ruiz v. Estelle (continued)

In spite of the final judgment agreed to by the parties in 1992, Judge Justice continued to receive complaints from prisoners regarding prison conditions.

In March 1996, the Texas Department of Corrections filed a motion to vacate the final judgment.

T.D.C. Huntsville Unit
Hunstville Unit Texas Department of Corrections

Although Judge Justice took senior status in 1998, he directed the clerk of court that he would continue to handle the Ruiz litigation. At the time, plaintiffs were complying with a discovery order.

A hearing on the motion to vacate the consent decree was held in late January 1999. Although he noted that the prison system had made substantial improvements since the litigation began, Judge Justice found that inmates’ constitutional rights were still being violated in regard to conditions of deprivation in administrative segregation units, a lack of reasonable safety for inmates, and excessive use of force by TDC officials.

The state appealed Judge Justice’s ruling. Finding the Prison Litigation Reform Act constitutional, the 5th Circuit remanded the case to the district court.

Judge Justice maintained oversight of the state prison system until 2002.

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