35-Year Litigation: Indiana’s Longest Court Case Concludes Favorably For Client

Client: Marion County Sheriff’s Department
Open date: 1972
Close date: 2007
Case citation: 72-0424-C-B/S

Marion County Jail Inmates v. Sheriff Frank Anderson

In 1972, Plaintiffs initiated litigation over the unconstitutional conditions of the Marion County (Indianapolis) Jail.  At the heart of the litigation was overcrowding.  The facility at times held inmates that numbered 600 above the jail’s capacity of 1,035.  Other constitutional issues ranged from jail medical, food, and general living conditions.  The administrations of six Sheriffs fought the litigation, and deplorable jail conditions continued.  Simply put, the elected leadership of Marion County tossed the jail’s issues like a political football.

In November of 2002, Sheriff Frank Anderson was elected Marion County Sheriff.  The former two-time U.S. Marshal campaigned on the issue of resolving the jail litigation.  A neophyte to the electoral process, Anderson’s campaign was managed by Kevin Murray.  After winning the November election with nearly 70% of the vote, Sheriff Anderson selected Murray as his counsel and directed him and his partners to tackle the long standing litigation.

Shortly thereafter, Judge Sarah Evans Barker held Sheriff Anderson in contempt and encouraged the entire local government to solve the “jail problem” once and for all.  Anderson and Murray developed a strategy of bringing elected officials together from both political parties, and from all three branches of government.  There was no looking back, and no blame gaming. Together, they led the way to systematic reforms that ended jail overcrowding, as well as early jail releases.


In June 2007, Judge Sarah Evans Barker dismissed the litigation of 35 years standing with the following quotation:

“The final word from the Court, before I grant the motion, which I intend to do, is to compliment you lawyers for your shepherding of this case through these long years and sometimes dark night and turbulent waters. It takes really good lawyering to stick with a case . . . You’ve really worked not only at the peak of your professional skills and abilities, and therefore stand as good examples of very good lawyering, but you’ve helped the community and you have helped people who were greatly in need of your lawyering. So you became sort of the personification of the community’s interest and responsibility . . . you became the hands and the feet. And better than that, the judgment to figure it all out.”

In July of 2010, the Marion County Jail became accredited as the only municipally owned and operated jail in Indiana to achieve such recognition by the American Correctional Association. Frost Brown Todd is currently defending a jail overcrowding case in Lake County, Indiana, the state’s second largest population center.



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