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Time Limits in PLRA Modification Motions Applied

A maximum population limit is a prisoner release order However, a request to modify a pre-PLRA order may not be based on the prisoner release provision because the statute says "no court shall enter " (836)

The court enjoined the automatic stay in response to defendants' initial motion and then did nothing After a year defendants filed another termination motion and sought mandamus The court then terminated all relief without reasons or findings

Section 3626(b)(1)(A)(iii) does not itself require or authorize termination; it just authorizes entertaining termination motions, and also sets a period within which litigants cannot ask for termination of a decree without mutual consent It "mak[es] the status quo incontestable for a specified period Otherwise district courts could be peppered with endless motions, all of which would activate the special rules of subsection (3), and stability would be impossible" (838)

Section 3626(b)(2) provides the authority for termination At 839: " [A]ppellate courts across the country have sustained subsection (b)(2) against all manner of constitutional challenges Subsection (b)(2) reinforces the requirement, which exists independently of the PLRA, that courts permit state and local governments to regain control of their institutions once the injunction has achieved its purpose of correcting violations of federal law"

The statute calls for "prompt" rather than "instant" decision By letting more than a year pass without action, and then terminating the decree without making findings under (b)(2) or (b)(3), the court erred "Resolution of the issues posed by these provisions is a precondition to exercise of the termination power under subsection (b)(2)" (839)

The plaintiffs could ask to have the decree reinstated, the new bunks removed, and their occupants released pending decision, but all they ask for is a prompt decision on their contention that relief continues to be appropriate They are entitled to this much--and within 30 days (citing Benjamin on restarting the clock from date of appellate mandate) (839).

A hearing may not be needed A monitor was appointed and perhaps information already in hand will resolve the motion (840)
If the district judge can't resolve the matter within 30 days, he should inform the chief judge of the district court so the case can be transferred The court requires the "utmost expedition in light of the unjustified delay that has already occurred" (840) See: Berwanger v. Cottey, 178 F.3d 834 (7th Cir. 1999).

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Related legal case

Berwanger v. Cottey