BOP Agrees to Pay Attorney's Fees in Failed Attempt to Stop Construction of Private Prison in Pennsylvania
by Christopher Zoukis
The federal Bureau of Prisons agreed via stipulation to pay the attorney's fees and costs of the plaintiff who sued to stop construction of a private prison in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.
The suit, filed in May 1999 by Citizens Advisory Committee on Private Prisons (CACPP), alleged that the Bureau of Prisons violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-4327, by failing to properly consider the environmental consequences of building a private prison in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania. More specifically, CACPP alleged that the Bureau of Prisons did not prepare an environmental assessment prior to agreeing to a contract on the proposed new facility, as is required by federal law.
The contract in question, between the Bureau of Prisons and Cornell Corrections Inc., called for construction of a prison to hold 1,000 inmates on a 197 acre site consisting of previously stripped mine land. The contract had a $342,699,498.00 price tag.
As a result of the lawsuit, the Bureau of Prisons temporarily halted all work on the facility and prepared an environmental assessment. Not surprisingly, the Bureau concluded that the construction of the new prison would not have a significant effect on the local environment.
Despite the Plaintiff's arguments to the contrary, federal District Court Judge D. Brooks Smith found for the Bureau of Prisons and allowed the construction to go forward. The judge found that while the Bureau of Prisons did violate federal law by failing to properly study the environmental impact of the project, this failure was ameliorated by the Bureau's subsequent preparation of an environmental assessment.
But because the judge did find an initial violation of NEPA by the Bureau of Prisons, he left the question of prevailing party attorney's fees for another hearing. The parties ultimately settled the issue, with the BOP agreeing on July 22, 2002 to pay $40,000 in full satisfaction of CACPP's attorney's fees.
The Plaintiff was represented by Scranton, Pennsylvania attorney William T. Jones of the firm Levy & Preate.
The complaint and stipulation on attorney's fees from this case were obtained by Prison Legal News after prevailing in a twelve-year-long court battle with the Bureau of Prisons over a Freedom of Information Act records request.
See: Citizens Advisory Committee on Private Prisons, Inc. v. United States Department of Justice, United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Civil Case No. 99-112J.
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Related legal case
Citizens Advisory Committee on Private Prisons, Inc. v. United States Department of Justice
|Cite||United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Civil Case No. 99-112J.|