The Need for an Independent Federal Judiciary: Prison Reform Litigation Spurs Structural Change – The California Penal Crisis


This Article examines Madrid V. Gomez, 889 F.Supp. 1146, the last case before the passage of the PLRA in which a federal court broadly intervened in a state prison system through structural reform litigation. Part II outlines the historical and jurisprudential foundations that legitimate federal judicial intervention in state prisons. Part III examines the California prison system through the lens of the Madrid litigation and the ongoing social and political problems caused by the prison crisis. Part IV concludes that judicial intervention remains the only viable tool to remedy constitutional deficiencies in state prisons when majoritarian political processes fail to produce serious reform. Therefore, it is essential that the power and independence of the federal judiciary be preserved to ensure the rights of the politically powerless and mitigate Constitutional harms.



Date of this Version

May 2005