On December 1, 2005, a group of California prisoners with mental illness filed this suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The prisoners filed against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act. The prisoners, represented by the Legal Aid Society, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and private counsel, asked the court for both declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the prison system's policies regarding prisoners with mental disabilities violated the ADA. Specifically, the prisoners challenged the prison system's policies of 1) adding four classification points to any prisoner with mental illness; 2) preventing prisoners with mental illness from attending programming; 3) requiring that any prisoners taking specific medications be kept inside during yard when the temperature increased over 90 degrees; and 4) preventing prisoners with mental illness from taking jobs inside prison, among other allegations. The case was assigned to Judge Lawrence Karlton.
(The procedural history comes from Docket 124-3.) Following the defendants' motion to dismiss, the relationship between this case and Coleman v. Brown came into issue. Coleman, PC-CA-0002
in this Clearinghouse, was a class-action lawsuit filed by mentally ill California inmates under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against CDC alleging that mental health care provided at most California penal institutions violated their constitutional rights. Coleman was also in front of Judge Karlton. In this case, instead of ruling on the motion to dismiss (and before the prisoners were able to file a motion to certify the class,) on March 15, 2007, Judge Karlton referred the case to the special master of the Coleman case to make "a report and recommendation as to whether the claims raised [in Hecker] can be resolved within the remedial phase of [Coleman]." The case was stayed pending that report. 2007 WL 836806.
On June 12, 2007, the Coleman special master and the deputy special master gave their report and recommendation. The report concluded that the parties' were not able to "negotiate[e] an agreement to consolidation or merger of the Hecker claims into the Coleman case at this time." On December 14, 2007, the prisoners filed a motion to lift the stay. The Court did not rule on the motion. In the meantime, intense litigation proceeded in Coleman.
The prisoners filed a renewed motion to lift the stay on September 19, 2012. On October 19, 2012, the Court denied the prisoners' motion without prejudice to its renewal, as appropriate, not later than March 1, 2013, and the parties were directed to meet and confer with the Coleman Special Master to determine whether any Hecker issues could be resolved in the Coleman remedial process. In the midst of that meet and confer process in January 2013 the state moved to terminate the Coleman case. Therefore, the parties were not able to agree to resolve Hecker issues within the Coleman remedial process. (In the end, the Coleman termination motion was not granted.)
On March 1, 2013, the Hecker plaintiffs filed a renewed motion to lift the stay. On April 12, 2013, Magistrate Judge Dale A. Drozd denied the prisoners' motion "without prejudice to its renewal, as appropriate, not later than September 5, 2013." He ordered the parties to continue to meet and confer with the Coleman Special Master, and directed that any renewed prisoners' motion to lift the stay be "accompanied by a joint report by the parties and approved by the Coleman special master."
In July 2014, the parties reached a settlement. Judge Karlton granted preliminary approval of the settlement on August 7, 2014, before retiring later that month. The case was assigned to Judge Kimberly Mueller, who approved the settlement agreement on March 2, 2015. The CDC agreed to implement revised policies to ensure that prisoners with psychiatric disabilities would not be unlawfully excluded from prison programs and services or be discriminated against because of their disabilities. The Settlement Agreement also provided that the implementation of these revised policies would be monitored by the Special Master appointed by the Court in Coleman. The Court in Coleman would also retain jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement. The parties also agreed that the CDC would pay attorneys' fees and costs through the periodic fees process in Coleman.
The settlement agreement stated that termination of the Coleman litigation would
terminate the issues that had been or were being resolved under the agreement. As of February 23, 2016, monitoring and implementation of the settlement agreements in both cases is ongoing. Jonathan Forman - 08/04/2013
Jessica Kincaid - 02/23/2016