Spring 2001 | Fall 2000

A Message from the Dean

Our Sesquicentennial Celebration
Election 2000 in Retrospect
Like Father, Like Daughter: Rebecca Lieberman L’97
A Case Study in Pro Bono Public Service
A Legal Thriller:
Lisa Scottoline L '81

The Master Builder Retires: Professor Elizabeth S. Kelly

The Board of Overseers
Philanthropy
Symposium
Faculty Notes
Alumni Briefs
In Memoriam

End Page

Penn Law

In 1982, Martin Harris and nine other inmates of Philadelphia’s Holmesburg Prison filed suit in federal court challenging the conditions of their confinement. The crux of their complaint was that, despite a 1972 adjudication in the state court case of Jackson v. Hendrick holding conditions in Holmesburg to be unconstitutionally oppressive, ten years later prison conditions were either unchanged or had worsened. The original holding of unconstitutionality in the Jackson case was detailed in a landmark opinion of Judge Edmund B. Spaeth, Jr., a former Penn Law faculty member. In addition, the Jackson plaintiffs were (and continue to be) represented by David Rudovsky, a Senior Fellow at Penn Law School.

The Harris suit was assigned to the Honorable Norma L. Shapiro L’51, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Pennsylvania, who appointed Richman to represent the Holmesburg inmates in their federal court suit. Through the ensuing years, Richman and Rudovsky coordinated their efforts in the prison reform suits and eventually negotiated parallel consent decrees with the City of Philadelphia. The original Harris decree, entered in 1986, established measures for restricting the size of the inmate population, thereby alleviating chronic overcrowding. A contemporaneous Jackson decree prescribed detailed requirements for health care, inmate education and vocational training, social services, and sanitation, among other pressing issues.

Over the next 14 years, Richman and his colleagues maintained and expanded the relief obtained in the original Harris consent decree while fighting off a series of political and courtroom attacks over the seemliness of federal judicial intervention – even with the City’s consent – into the operation of the local criminal justice system.

"The work that David Richman and his colleagues at Pepper did over the past 18 years has been instrumental in achieving important reforms in a system that is highly resistant to change and to outside intervention," comments David Rudovsky. "Thousands of persons confined in the City’s prisons, many of whom were innocent of the charges against them, benefited from David’s vigorous and sustained advocacy."

Richman praises the work of the City’s many lawyers involved in the Harris suit over the years: "Without their understanding that housing three inmates in cells designed for one is inhumane, and that depriving inmates of adequate health care is a prescription for the spread of communicable disease to the larger community, the case would not have produced the constructive outcomes for the City that it did, or the outcomes would have been even slower in coming and achieved at greater cost." Continued . . .

 

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