52 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 39: 1 2019]
months long and that many youth were locked down even longer. In some cases, the youth were
locked down for longer than eight months. 67
The report found that more than a third of the youth in 23-and- 1 did not even receive the
promised one hour per day of large muscle exercise or were forced to experience it in wire cages. 68
Almost the same percentage were deprived of telephone calls and few youth received visits from
religious counselors or members of their treatment team. 69 Youth were held in cells found to be in
disrepair, with graffiti on the walls, inadequate lighting, dirty and clogged vents, and poor
temperature control—exacerbated by the fact that youth were dressed only in underwear and
socks. 70 A significant number of rooms lacked writing materials and basic hygiene items, such as
soap and toothpaste. 71
The Inspector General proposed a series of changes and time limits to remediate these
D. Prison Law Office and the Farrell Litigation
None of this escaped the attention of the Prison Law Office, an experienced civil rights
litigation firm with a resume that included several decades of successful challenges to conditions
in California’s adult correctional system. 73 Lawyers Donald Specter and Sara Norman, with the
assistance of several law firms, filed a federal class action case against Youth Authority in 2002.74
However, after an initial ruling in the case, the plaintiffs decided to change course strategically
and obtained a dismissal of the case. 75
In January 2003, the Prison Law Office and the same co-counsel filed a taxpayer action in
state court that became widely referred to as “The Farrell Litigation” (Farrell). 76 At the beginning
of the litigation, it appeared that Youth Authority would fight the case. The Attorney General asked
for millions of dollars for discovery. 77 However, when it became clear that conditions in the system
were as abhorrent as reported, the state decided to forego years of fighting. 78 The case’s resolution
67 Id. at 4–5.
68 Id. at 5.
69 White, supra note 64, at 5.
70 Id. at 5-7.
71 Id. at 7.
73 See PRISON LAW OFFICE, http://prisonlaw.com/major-cases.
74 Stevens v. Harper, No. CIV–S–01–0675 DFL PAN (E.D. Cal., 2002),
75 Memorandum of Opinion and Order, Stevens v. Harper, No. CIV–S–01–0675 DFL PAN P, 213 F.R.D. 358, at 384
(E.D. Cal. 2002), https://www.clearinghouse.net/chDocs/public/JI-CA-0012-0001.pdf.
76 Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief, Farrell v. Allen (because of successive Directors, the case name
was successively Farrell v. Harper, Farrell v. Allen, Farrell v. Hickman, Farrell v. Tilton, and Farrell v. Cate), Case
No. RG 03079344 (Cal. Sup. Ct. 2003), https://www.clearinghouse.net/chDocs/public/JI-CA-0013-0027.pdf. Co-counsel in the case included Disability Rights Advocates, and the law firms of Latham & Watkins and Pillsbury
Winthrop; see also Farrell Lawsuit Timeline,
77 SUE BURRELL, CALIFORNIA JUVENILE JUSTICE REFORM IN THE 21S T CENTUR Y (SO FAR), CPDA JUV. DEF. SEMINAR,
MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA, 2 (Jan. 2006), available at http://www.ylc.org/wp/wp-
78 Dean E. Murphy, California Settles Lawsuit on Juvenile Prisons, N.Y. TIMES (Nov. 17, 2004;
https://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/17/us/california-settles-lawsuit-on-juvenile-prisons.html; Mark Martin, Youth