Harris v. Angelina County, Tex. ( 1994 )


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  •                     United States Court of Appeals,
    
                                   Fifth Circuit.
    
                                    No. 93-4967.
    
                Bobby HARRIS, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,
    
                                             v.
    
    ANGELINA COUNTY, TEXAS and Angelina County Sheriff Mike Lawrence,
    Defendants-Third Party Plaintiffs-Appellants, Cross-Appellees,
    
      The TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, et al., Third Party
    Defendants-Appellees, Cross-Appellants.
    
                                  Sept. 13, 1994.
    
    Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern
    District of Texas.
    
    Before REAVLEY, GARWOOD and EMILIO M. GARZA, Circuit Judges.
    
         REAVLEY, Circuit Judge:
    
         In this prisoner class action suit, the district court found
    
    unconstitutional       conditions   at       the   Angelina    County   jail,     and
    
    granted injunctive relief in the form of a population cap on the
    
    number of inmates.         We find no error in the district court's
    
    findings   of   fact    and   conclusions          of   law   in   support   of   the
    
    injunctive relief granted.          We also conclude that the district
    
    court did not err in dismissing a third-party claim against state
    
    prison officials.
    
                                     BACKGROUND
    
         Plaintiffs Bobby Harris and Terry Weekly, former prisoners at
    
    the Angelina County Jail, brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit
    
    seeking relief from allegedly unconstitutional conditions at the
    
    jail.   The suit was brought against Angelina County and the county
    
    sheriff in his official capacity.             These defendants (collectively
    
                                             1
    the   County)      brought    a    third-party     action    against    the    Texas
    
    Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), individual members of the
    
    Department, and individual members of the Board overseeing the
    
    Department     (collectively        the    State   defendants).        All    of   the
    
    individual third-party defendants were sued in their official
    
    capacities.        After a bench trial the district court dismissed the
    
    State     defendants    and       issued   an   injunction    capping    the       jail
    
    population at 111.
    
                                         DISCUSSION
    
    A. The Injunction
    
              We review the district court's findings of fact for clear
    
    error and its legal conclusions de novo.1                Fiberlok, Inc. v. LMS
    
    Enterprises, Inc., 
    976 F.2d 958
    , 962 (5th Cir.1992).                         Deciding
    
    whether     jail     conditions      are   unconstitutional       involves     mixed
    
    questions of law and fact.            The district court employed a correct
    
    legal analysis of the issues before it.
    
              The jail houses pretrial detainees and convicted felons.
    
    Pretrial detainees are protected by the due process clause of the
    
    Fourteenth Amendment. See Valencia v. Wiggins, 
    981 F.2d 1440
    , 1445
    
    (5th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 
    113 S. Ct. 2998
    , 
    125 L. Ed. 2d 691
        (1993).         Conditions      of   detention      constitute
    
          1
          The injunction was interlocutory in the sense that it was
    entered not as part of a final judgment and "pending further
    order of the Court." However, it represented the court's final
    disposition of the claims concerning jail conditions as they
    existed up to the time of trial, and was not a preliminary
    injunction under FED.R.CIV.P. 65(a) contemplating a later
    disposition after trial. Accordingly, the district court and
    appellate standards appropriate to the granting or denying of a
    preliminary injunction are inapplicable here.
    
                                               2
    deprivations of liberty without due process if they amount to
    
    punishment of the detainee.            Id.   Of course, confinement of a
    
    pretrial    detainee   necessarily      involves   some   loss    of   liberty.
    
    Deciding whether a condition of confinement amounts to "punishment"
    
    under a due process analysis turns on whether "the disability is
    
    imposed for the purpose of punishment or whether it is but an
    
    incident of some other legitimate governmental purpose."                 Bell v.
    
    Wolfish, 
    441 U.S. 520
    , 538, 
    99 S. Ct. 1861
    , 1873, 
    60 L. Ed. 2d 447
    
    (1979).     Without delving further into the subtleties of this
    
    doctrine, we think it sufficient to note that jail conditions which
    
    amount to "cruel and unusual punishment" under the Eighth Amendment
    
    surely amount to "punishment" under the Fourteenth Amendment.
    
    Evidence presented to the district court indicated that pretrial
    
    detainees were treated the same as convicted felons.              For example,
    
    all inmates are segregated on the basis of prior criminal history;
    
    pretrial detainees with criminal records are placed in the general
    
    population with other previously convicted felons.
    
            As to convicted felons, a violation of the Eighth Amendment's
    
    prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment occurs if two
    
    requirements—one objective and one subjective—are met.                 Farmer v.
    
    Brennan, --- U.S. ----, ----, 
    114 S. Ct. 1970
    , 1977, 
    128 L. Ed. 2d 811
    
    (1994).    Under the objective requirement, the deprivation must be
    
    so serious as to "deprive prisoners of the minimal civilized
    
    measure of life's necessities," as when it denies the prisoner some
    
    basic human need.      Wilson v. Seiter, 
    501 U.S. 294
    , 304, 
    111 S. Ct. 2321
    ,    2327,   
    115 L. Ed. 2d 271
        (1991).     Under   the    subjective
    
    
                                            3
    requirement, the court looks to the state of mind of the defendant;
    
    deliberate indifference on the part of prison officials will
    
    suffice to meet this requirement.            Id.
    
           The district court found that constitutional violations had
    
    occurred due to overcrowding, and that housing more that 111
    
    inmates in the current facility violates the Eighth Amendment
    
    rights of the convicted inmates and the Fourteenth Amendment rights
    
    of    the   pretrial    detainees.     It    considered    the   objective     and
    
    subjective elements of Eighth Amendment analysis.                The County and
    
    the    State   defendants    argue    that   the   court    erred     in   finding
    
    unconstitutional conditions.           We cannot say that the district
    
    court, having employed the correct rules of law to this case,
    
    clearly erred in finding unconstitutional conditions as a result of
    
    overcrowding.     Viewing the record as a whole, we are not "left with
    
    a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed."
    
    Graham v. Milky Way Barge, Inc., 
    824 F.2d 376
    , 388 (5th Cir.1987).
    
             As to the objective element of Eighth Amendment analysis,
    
    evidence supports the district court's conclusion that, given the
    
    jail's      current    management,   staffing,     and     physical    plant,    a
    
    population exceeding 111 leads to a denial of the inmates' basic
    
    human needs.          The design capacity of the current jail is 111,
    
    meaning that the current facility has 111 bunks.                    The district
    
    court correctly noted that design capacity is not always equivalent
    
    to constitutional capacity, but that design capacity is relevant to
    
    the constitutional inquiry.          Compare Alberti v. Sheriff of Harris
    
    County, 
    937 F.2d 984
    , 1000-01 (5th Cir.1991) (holding district
    
    
                                           4
    court's finding of unconstitutional jail overcrowding not clearly
    
    erroneous, where district court considered design capacity in
    
    conjunction with the "totality of the conditions."), cert. denied,
    
    --- U.S. ----, 
    112 S. Ct. 1994
    , 
    118 L. Ed. 2d 590
     (1992).                  Prior to
    
    the   district   court's    ruling,       The    Texas     Commission    on   Jail
    
    Standards, which periodically reviews conditions at the jails
    
    around the     state,   issued   a   remedial      order    limiting    the   jail
    
    population to 111.      Again, we agree with the district court that
    
    this order, while not dispositive, is instructive.
    
          Additional evidence supports the district court's finding that
    
    overcrowding had resulted in a denial of basic human needs of the
    
    jail population.    The court noted that in the recent months prior
    
    to its ruling the jail had an average daily count of 135 inmates.
    
    The population has gone as high at 159 inmates.                     Plaintiffs'
    
    expert, who was well qualified, testified that with proper staffing
    
    the facility could properly accommodate 111 inmates, and that to
    
    ensure proper classification, the population should probably not
    
    exceed   105   inmates.     Evidence       was    presented     that    staffing,
    
    supervision, management and classification of prisoners are all
    
    important to maintaining basic human needs in the jail, and that
    
    all are affected adversely by overcrowding.                  The design of the
    
    facility is such that when the jail population exceeds 111 some
    
    prisoners must sleep on the floors in "day rooms" which are not
    
    designed as sleeping quarters.        Compare Alberti, 937 F.2d at 1000-
    
    01 (concluding that district court did not clearly err in finding
    
    unconstitutional jail conditions where court considered, inter
    
    
                                          5
    alia, design capacity, the physical design of the cellblocks, and
    
    "the fact that thousands of inmates were sleeping on the floors").
    
    Even       the   State   defendants'     expert        conceded:       "[I]f    you   go
    
    significantly above that [111] number without any improvement in
    
    the operation of the jail, you are going to hit that constitutional
    
    wall fairly quickly, in my opinion."2
    
           Jail officials and former and present prisoners testified to
    
    numerous specific incidents that the district court could have
    
    found were the result of, or at least were exacerbated by, the
    
    overcrowding at the jail.              These incidents included abuse and
    
    intimidation        by   stronger   or   more     hardened     inmates     of   weaker
    
    inmates, inadequate care for inmates with special needs, improper
    
    sexual relations between inmates or between inmates and guards, the
    
    operation of a homemade still, illegal drug use, and fighting among
    
    inmates.           Evidence     indicated       that     the   reported    incidents
    
    represented only the "tip of the iceberg" of the total incidents.
    
    The    evidence       also    showed     that,     unlike      state    penitentiary
    
    facilities, the jail houses a highly heterogenous mix of inmates:
    
    men and women, inmates still under the influence of drugs or
    
           2
          The same expert earlier responded to an inquiry from the
    court as follows:
    
                THE COURT: Let's assume that Angelina County is not
           willing to add five security additional employees, intake
           person, a classification person, doctor full or part-time or
           contract or however, Angelina County is not willing to put
           twelve new bunks in each dorm and double cell for the four
           and the six, and is—prefers to leave staffing levels and the
           facilities as they are. Now, assuming that is true, I
           gather then you are hard-pressed to disagree with the 111?
    
                     THE WITNESS:    You gather correctly.
    
                                                6
    alcohol after arrest, inmates with prior convictions for serious
    
    felonies and those with no criminal records and under arrest for
    
    minor offenses, etc.    In such a jail the proper segregation and
    
    classification of inmates is of paramount importance. Evidence was
    
    presented that the physical layout and size of the facility was
    
    such that overcrowding in excess of design capacity would adversely
    
    affect the   ability   of   jail   officials   to   safely   and   properly
    
    segregate inmates.     Evidence that overcrowding had an impact on
    
    security, recreation and the delivery of medical care was presented
    
    as well.
    
          We also conclude that the district court did not clearly err
    
    in finding that the subjective element of Eighth Amendment analysis
    
    was established   against    the   County.     Reports   from   the   Texas
    
    Commission on Jail Standards to the County, various incident
    
    reports, evidence brought to the attention of the County through
    
    this ongoing litigation itself, and testimony from the County's
    
    sheriff and jail administrators all support the conclusion that the
    
    County was well aware of the overcrowding at the jail and the
    
    resulting conditions.       We also agree with the district court's
    
    analysis of this issue.     It found that:
    
         the County Defendants make deliberate decisions whether or not
         to pick up prisoners, to release them or to detain them.
         County Defendants also make decisions concerning staffing
         levels, classification of inmates and configuration of the
         facility. The exercise of this decision making authority,
         which   has    resulted   in    inmates   being   housed    in
         unconstitutionally overcrowded jail facilities, meets the
         criteria of deliberate indifference required by the Eighth
         Amendment.
    
         The County argues that the subjective element was not met
    
    
                                        7
    because, in response to the overcrowding, "the county officials did
    
    everything in their power—from building a dormitory to transferring
    
    inmates to providing alternatives to incarceration—in order to
    
    relieve overcrowding."      It argues that the overcrowding is beyond
    
    its control because the state has refused to take paper-ready
    
    felons who belong in state prison facilities,3 and that the County
    
    has "continuously spent over budget for the expenses of the jail
    
    and anticipated going over budget in 1992, even with declining
    
    revenue from sales taxes, fines and fees due to a slow economy."
    
    Despite this evidence, we cannot say that the district court
    
    clearly erred in finding that the subjective element was met.
    
    Evidence was presented that the County could, and in fact had,
    
    simply   delayed   acting    on   arrest   warrants   in   response   to
    
    overcrowding concerns, and had addressed overcrowding through other
    
    means as well, including the use of probation, other facilities and
    
    electronic monitoring. While such approaches may not be ideal from
    
    a public policy standpoint, they demonstrate that alternatives were
    
    available to address the unconstitutional conditions at the jail.
    
         As to a purported lack of funding, the Supreme Court has left
    
    open the question of whether a cost defense is available under
    
    Eighth Amendment analysis. Wilson v. Seiter, 
    501 U.S. 294
    , 301-03,
    
    
         3
          "Paper-ready" or "state-ready" felons consist of convicted
    felons sentenced to the state prison system and awaiting transfer
    from county facilities. Due to its own overcrowding problems,
    the state has engaged in a policy of deliberately leaving
    paper-ready felons in county facilities, and accepting transfers
    of such felons from county jails under an allocation formula.
    See TEX.GOV.CODE § 499.071 (West Supp.1994); Alberti, 937 F.2d at
    987-89.
    
                                        8
    
    111 S. Ct. 2321
    , 2326, 
    115 L. Ed. 2d 271
     (1991).               Prior to Seiter,
    
    this court rejected the defense.          See Alberti, 937 F.2d at 999 and
    
    cases cited therein.      Even if a cost defense were recognized, we
    
    would find    it    inapplicable   here,     since   the   evidence    did   not
    
    establish    that    additional    funding    was    unavailable      from   the
    
    taxpayers to address the overcrowding.               On the contrary, the
    
    sheriff testified:
    
         The budget hasn't been a problem: I overspend my budget every
         year, but the paper hasn't raised cane about it, the
         Commissioners haven't raised cane about it, the citizens
         haven't. They know the problem is something that we can't
         handle as far as—or can't control as far as the amount of
         people coming in. So.... they've always paid whatever we've
         run over, and—and we've pretty well accepted that, that we
         will.
    
             While a population cap may be an appropriate remedy to
    
    relieve overcrowding,4 the district court correctly recognized that
    
    a constitutional review of jail conditions should not consider
    
    inmate population in a vacuum.            It stated in its order that it
    
    "will entertain any motion by the County Defendants to raise the
    
    population cap upon notification that the County has made changes
    
    in the configuration of the physical plant, increased staffing and
    
    upgraded its classification system such that an inmate population
    
    in excess of 111 can be housed in the jail without violating the
    
    Constitutional rights of the Plaintiff Class."             We agree with this
    
    approach and urge the district court to freely and fully revisit
    
         4
          Alberti v. Sheriff of Harris County, 
    978 F.2d 893
    , 896 (5th
    Cir.1992) ("A numerical cap on the number of prisoners is not an
    overly intrusive remedy. It gives the county maximum flexibility
    in determining on its own how to meet the population goals."),
    cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 
    113 S. Ct. 2996
    , 
    125 L. Ed. 2d 690
    (1993).
    
                                          9
    the need for the injunction should the County bring any relevant
    
    change in circumstances to its attention.5
    
    B. The Third-Party Claims Against the State Defendants
    
         The    County      complains    that    the   district    court     erred    in
    
    dismissing its third-party action against the State defendants. In
    
    its third-party complaint the County sought monetary and injunctive
    
    relief against the State defendants in the event the County was
    
    found    liable    to     plaintiffs,       as   well   as    attorney's       fees.
    
    Overcrowding      at    the   jail   results     from   the   presence    of   both
    
    traditional county inmates and paper-ready felons awaiting transfer
    
    to state facilities.
    
         The district court dismissed the State defendants with the
    
    following reasoning:
    
         The County Defendants, as Third-Party Plaintiffs did not
         establish that the State Defendants had a legal duty to pick
         up paper-ready felons within a certain length of time.
         Further, the State Defendants have reimbursed Angelina County
         for the expenses of housing paper ready felons in accordance
         with the statutory formula set out in [TEX.GOV'T CODE ANN. §§
         499.123-499.124 (Vernon Supp.1994) ].
    
    While we cannot agree with this analysis, we nevertheless hold that
    
    the State defendants were properly dismissed.
    
             The County alleged in its third-party complaint that the
    
    state's refusal to accept paper-ready felons was the cause of
    
    plaintiffs' damages, and sought to have the state enjoined to
    
    timely accept those felons.          Whether the state is making payments
    
         5
          We note that there in no apparent procedural barrier to
    reopening the case, since so far as we can tell from the record,
    the County is correct in contending that no final judgment has
    been entered in this case. Our appellate jurisdiction rests on
    28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1).
    
                                            10
    to the County for housing state felons, under the state statutory
    
    scheme, cannot by itself resolve the question of the state's
    
    constitutional obligations under the Eighth Amendment.         To hold
    
    otherwise would mean that a state could abdicate its constitutional
    
    responsibility to its own felons by paying a third party to house
    
    them.
    
         We addressed the issue of state liability for unconstitutional
    
    conditions at a county jail in Alberti.          We recognized that
    
    liability under § 1983 depends on which state actor is responsible
    
    for the civil rights violation, and that this question "turns
    
    exclusively on state law."    Alberti, 937 F.2d at 994 (emphasis in
    
    original).   We agreed with the district court that, under Texas
    
    law, both the state and county are responsible for the conditions
    
    at county jails, and both are therefore liable for constitutional
    
    violations at such jails.    Id. at 996-97.   In particular, we noted
    
    that by statute the state places primary responsibility for the
    
    confinement of felons on a state agency, the TDCJ.       Id.    In our
    
    case, the State defendants can point to no significant changes in
    
    state law that would alter the careful analysis and conclusion of
    
    the district court and this court in Alberti.6    The state's current
    
         6
          Under the current statutory scheme, the TDCJ remains the
    state agency "with primary responsibility for [ ] the
    confinement, supervision, and rehabilitation of felons...."
    TEX.GOV'T CODE § 493.001 (Vernon Supp.1994). The Board of the
    TDCJ is required to adopt and enforce an allocation formula for
    accepting inmates from county facilities. Id. § 499.071. The
    director of the TDCJ's institutional division must "adopt rules
    to provide for the safe transfer of inmates from the counties in
    which inmates are sentenced to the institutional division." Id.
    § 500.006(a). Further, a provision effective after the Alberti
    decision now provides:
    
                                     11
    statutory       obligation   to   make        payments   to   counties   holding
    
    paper-ready felons does not divest the state of its constitutional
    
    responsibility for assuring that state felons—felons convicted in
    
    state courts of state crimes and sentenced to the state prison
    
    system—are not subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.
    
               However, our case differs from Alberti, since the plaintiffs
    
    in that case brought direct claims against the state defendants to
    
    avoid the very problem we face here.               Alberti, 937 F.2d at 988,
    
    990.       We note that if some of the claims the County asserted
    
    against the State defendants (including claims for contribution and
    
    other relief under state law) had been brought by a private
    
    citizen, they would have been properly dismissed under the Eleventh
    
    Amendment.7       That Amendment however would not appear to bar all
    
    
                   If a state or federal court determines that conditions
                   in a county jail are unconstitutional, and if on or
                   after October 1, 1991, the percentage of inmates in the
                   jail awaiting transfer to the institutional division is
                   20 percent or more of the total number of inmates in
                   the jail, the commission shall transfer inmates from
                   the jail to an appropriate jail, detention center, work
                   camp, or correctional facility, but only to the extent
                   necessary to bring the county into compliance with
                   court orders or to reduce the percentage of inmates in
                   the jail awaiting transfer to the institutional
                   division to less that 20 percent of the total number of
                   inmates in the jail.
    
           Id. § 499.125.
           7
          Decades of Supreme Court jurisprudence have defined the
    contours of Eleventh Amendment immunity, and we do not attempt a
    comprehensive analysis here. Under the current state of the law,
    the TDCJ is deemed an instrumentality of the state operating as
    its alter ego in carrying out a public function of the state, and
    is immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. Ruiz v.
    Estelle, 
    679 F.2d 1115
    , 1136-37 & n. 75 (5th Cir.1982)
    (dismissing claims against board of Texas Department of
    Corrections (TDC), predecessor of TDCJ, since board was "merely
    
                                             12
    such claims.     Under the authority of Ex Parte Young, 
    209 U.S. 123
    ,
    
    
    28 S. Ct. 441
    , 
    52 L. Ed. 714
     (1908) and later authority, a § 1983
    
    action seeking prospective injunctive relief based on federal
    
    constitutional violations may be brought against state officials in
    
    their official capacities. Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police,
    
    
    491 U.S. 58
    , 71 n. 10, 
    109 S. Ct. 2304
    , 2312 n. 10, 
    105 L. Ed. 2d 45
    
    (1989);     Kentucky v. Graham, 
    473 U.S. 159
    , 167 n. 14, 
    105 S. Ct. 3099
    , 3106 n. 14, 
    87 L. Ed. 2d 114
     (1985) ("official-capacity actions
    
    for prospective relief are not treated as actions against the
    
    State.").8
    
             Our analysis leads us to two questions.       The first is whether
    
    contribution     is   generally   available   to   a   defendant    sued   for
    
    violation of a plaintiff's civil rights under § 1983.              The second
    
    
    
    an agency of the state"), cert. denied, 
    460 U.S. 1042
    , 
    103 S. Ct. 1438
    , 
    75 L. Ed. 2d 795
     (1983); Loya v. Texas Dep't of Corrections,
    
    878 F.2d 860
    , 861 (5th Cir.1989) (holding TDC immune from suit
    under Eleventh Amendment). In contrast, counties generally are
    not immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. Mount Healthy
    City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 
    429 U.S. 274
    , 278-80, 
    97 S. Ct. 568
    , 572, 
    50 L. Ed. 2d 471
     (1977). State law claims against
    the State defendants, such as the claim for contribution under
    state law asserted in the third-party complaint, are also barred
    by the Eleventh Amendment. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v.
    Halderman, 
    465 U.S. 89
    , 102-03, 124-26, 
    104 S. Ct. 900
    , 909, 921,
    
    79 L. Ed. 2d 67
     (1984).
         8
          In appropriate circumstances, attorney's fees ancillary to
    the award of prospective injunctive relief may also be awarded,
    even where the fees are ultimately to be paid from state coffers.
    Hutto v. Finney, 
    437 U.S. 678
    , 687-98, 
    98 S. Ct. 2565
    , 2572-78, 
    57 L. Ed. 2d 522
     (1978); Maher v. Gagne, 
    448 U.S. 122
    , 129-34, 
    100 S. Ct. 2570
    , 2575-77, 
    65 L. Ed. 2d 653
     (1980); Wyatt v. Cole, 
    928 F.2d 718
    , 722 (5th Cir.1991) ("Congress intended to authorize
    awards of attorneys fees under § 1988 to prevailing parties in
    official-capacity actions even when the state is immune from
    damages under § 1983."), rev'd on other grounds, --- U.S. ----,
    
    112 S. Ct. 1827
    , 
    118 L. Ed. 2d 504
     (1992).
    
                                         13
    is whether, assuming there is such a general right to contribution,
    
    a federal court has authority to grant relief in favor of a
    
    political subdivision of a state and against the state itself.   We
    
    need not answer the first question here, although we note that
    
    other courts have struggled with it and have reached different
    
    conclusions.9
    
         9
          Miller v. Apartments and Homes of New Jersey, Inc., 
    646 F.2d 101
     (3d Cir.1981), addressed contribution under § 1982, and
    held that damages recoverable by a plaintiff had to be reduced by
    the amount of settlements received from other defendants. Id. at
    110. It states that there is "a fair uniformity in favor of
    allowing contribution among the few courts which have considered
    the general question of contribution under the civil rights
    acts." Id. at 106. Miller recognized that questions regarding
    the effect of settlements and questions of contribution are
    closely related. Id. at 105 n. 5 ("However, the two problems
    [settlement and contribution] are so intertwined that they cannot
    sensibly be treated in isolation."). In Dobson v. Camden, 
    705 F.2d 759
     (5th Cir.1983), on rehearing en banc, 
    725 F.2d 1003
     (5th
    Cir.1984), this court addressed what effect to give a settlement
    in a § 1983 action. We initially held that a nonsettling
    defendant is entitled to a credit for a settlement by a joint
    tortfeasor in proportion to the amount of damages caused by the
    joint tortfeasor. 705 F.2d at 760. We treated the issue as a
    contribution issue of sorts. Id. at 762 ("It is impractical to
    consider the effect of a settlement without also considering the
    problem of contribution and, indeed, the very nature of joint
    liability."). However, when the case went en banc, we affirmed
    the district court on grounds that injuries caused by the
    settling defendant and the other defendants were separate, and
    there could be no joint liability requiring application of a rule
    of contribution or credit. 725 F.2d at 1005-6. Our case is
    somewhat different from Dobson and Miller, which addressed the
    effect of a settlement rather that a direct right of action by
    one defendant against another tortfeasor. These cases do
    suggest, however, that there are at least some notions of
    contribution applied to § 1983.
    
              Miller is of questionable precedential value because in
         1981 the Supreme Court decided two important contribution
         cases. In Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Transport Workers
         Union, 
    451 U.S. 77
    , 
    101 S. Ct. 1571
    , 
    67 L. Ed. 2d 750
     (1981),
         the Court held that there was no right to contribution under
         Title VII and the Equal Pay Act. In Texas Industries, Inc.
         v. Radcliff Materials, Inc., 
    451 U.S. 630
    , 
    101 S. Ct. 2061
    ,
    
                                    14
         Assuming there is a right to contribution generally under §
    
    1983, no party argues that relief from unconstitutional jail
    
    conditions is impossible without enjoining the state. The district
    
    court    plainly   did   not    believe   so   either,   since   it    found
    
    unconstitutional conditions and entered an injunction to relieve
    
    those conditions, but nevertheless dismissed the State defendants.
    
    The issue therefore boils down to whether a federal district court
    
    in such circumstances, exercising its power to remedy civil rights
    
    violations   under   a   federal     statute   passed    pursuant     to   the
    
    Fourteenth Amendment, can grant a county contribution against its
    
    state.
    
         We have previously held that state subdivisions, such as
    
    counties and municipalities, cannot assert constitutional claims in
    
    federal court against their creator, the state itself, or other
    
    state political subdivisions.       E.g. Town of Ball v. Rapides Parish
    
    Police Jury, 
    746 F.2d 1049
    , 1051 n. 1 (5th Cir.1984);                 Appling
    
    County v. Municipal Elec. Authority of Georgia, 
    621 F.2d 1301
    ,
    
    1307-08 (5th Cir.1980), cert. denied, 
    449 U.S. 1015
    , 
    101 S. Ct. 574
    ,
    
    
    66 L. Ed. 2d 474
     (1980);         City of Safety Harbor v. Birchfield, 529
    
    
         
    68 L. Ed. 2d 500
     (1981), the Court held that there is no
         contribution under the federal antitrust laws. Subsequent
         district court cases have looked to these Supreme Court
         cases in deciding whether there can be contribution under §
         1983 or other civil rights statutes. Most find no right of
         contribution. See, e.g., Gray v. City of Kansas City, 
    603 F. Supp. 872
    , 875 (D.Kan.1985); Wright v. Reynolds, 
    703 F. Supp. 583
    , 592 (N.D.Tex.1988); Banks v. City of
         Emeryville, 
    109 F.R.D. 535
    , 539 (N.D.Cal.1985). But see
         Hoffman v. McNamara, 
    688 F. Supp. 830
    , 834 (D.Conn.1988)
         (allowing setoff for settlement in § 1983 action); Fishman
         v. De Meo, 
    604 F. Supp. 873
    , 877 (E.D.Pa.1985) (holding that
         contribution is available in § 1983 cases).
    
                                         
    15 F.2d 1251
    , 1253-56 (5th Cir.1976).        One rationale for these cases
    
    is that political subdivisions lack Fourteenth Amendment or other
    
    constitutional rights against the creating state.10            These cases
    
    arguably   are   distinguishable     because   here   the   County   is    not
    
    necessarily claiming a constitutional right against the state;
    
    instead,   it    is   seeking   contribution   from   the   state    for   the
    
    violation of plaintiffs' constitutional rights.
    
          Nevertheless, we conclude that the County should not be able
    
    to seek relief against the State defendants.          A fundamental limit
    
    on federal jurisdiction is implicated here.            As a general rule
    
    states cannot be made parties to a federal court suit.                "[T]he
    
    principle of sovereign immunity is a constitutional limitation on
    
    the federal judicial power established in Art. III:          "That a State
    
    may not be sued without its consent is a fundamental rule of
    
    jurisprudence ... of which the [Eleventh] amendment is but an
    
    exemplification.' " Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 
    465 U.S. 89
    , 98-99, 
    104 S. Ct. 900
    , 907, 
    79 L. Ed. 2d 67
     (1984) (quoting
    
    Ex Parte State of New York, 
    256 U.S. 490
    , 497, 
    41 S. Ct. 588
    , 589,
    
         10
          See City of Trenton v. New Jersey, 
    262 U.S. 182
    , 188, 
    43 S. Ct. 534
    , 537, 
    67 L. Ed. 937
     (1923) ("In none of [our prior]
    cases was any power, right, or property of a city or other
    political subdivision held to be protected by the Contract Clause
    or the Fourteenth Amendment. This court has never held that
    these subdivisions may invoke such restraints upon the power of
    the state."); Birchfield, 529 F.2d at 1254 ("Ever since the
    Supreme Court's landmark decision in Dartmouth College v.
    Woodward, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 518, 
    4 L. Ed. 629
     (1819), it has been
    apparent that public entities which are political subdivisions of
    states do not possess constitutional rights ... in the same sense
    as private corporations or individuals. Such entities are
    creatures of the state, and possess no rights, privileges or
    immunities independent of those expressly conferred upon them by
    the state.") (citation omitted).
    
                                         16
    
    65 L. Ed. 1057
     (1921)).         Young represents a necessary exception to
    
    this general       rule    which   "has      not   been    provided   an   expansive
    
    interpretation," id. 465 U.S. at 102, 104 S.Ct. at 909, and we are
    
    not   inclined     to     extend   it   to     cover   the    County's     claim   for
    
    contribution here.           The Supreme Court has concluded "that in
    
    enacting     §     1983,     Congress        did    not     intend    to    override
    
    well-established immunities or defenses under the common law."
    
    Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 
    491 U.S. 58
    , 67, 
    109 S. Ct. 2304
    , 2310, 
    105 L. Ed. 2d 45
     (1989).
    
          In construing the Eleventh Amendment, the Court has recognized
    
    that Congress has the power under the Fourteenth Amendment to
    
    abrogate Eleventh Amendment immunity for the states, but that
    
    congressional intent to negate such immunity must be unequivocally
    
    expressed.       Id. at 64-66, 109 S.Ct. at 2309;              Pennhurst, 465 U.S.
    
    at 98-100, 104 S.Ct. at 907.            We are unable to find an unequivocal
    
    expression of congressional intent to subject states to claims for
    
    contribution from their own political subdivisions.                   In Pennhurst,
    
    the court recognized that in applying the Young doctrine, "the need
    
    to promote the supremacy of federal law must be accommodated to the
    
    constitutional immunity of the States."                   Id. 465 U.S. at 105, 104
    
    S.Ct. at 910.           In striking this balance, the Court found it
    
    "difficult to think of a greater intrusion on state sovereignty
    
    than when a federal court instructs state officials on how to
    
    conform their conduct to state law."               Id. at 106, 104 S.Ct. at 911.
    
    Employing like reasoning, we can think of few greater intrusions on
    
    state sovereignty than requiring a state to respond, in federal
    
    
                                              17
    court, to a claim for contribution brought by one of its own
    
    counties.   Cf. Kelley v. Metropolitan County Bd. of Educ. of
    
    Nashville and Davidson County, 
    836 F.2d 986
    , 988 (6th Cir.1987)
    
    ("if a state cannot be sued by its own citizens, a fortiori it
    
    cannot be   sued   by   its   own   political   subdivisions,   which   are
    
    creatures of the state and exist only at the state's sufferance."),
    
    cert. denied, 
    487 U.S. 1206
    , 
    108 S. Ct. 2848
    , 
    101 L. Ed. 2d 885
    
    (1988).
    
                                    CONCLUSION
    
         The district court's order is AFFIRMED.
    
    
    
    
                                         18