On June 2010, the Advocacy Center OF Louisiana (the federally funded Protection & Advocacy organization serving people with disabilities in Louisiana) and a patient detainee incarcerated by the State of Louisiana filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on behalf of Louisiana inmates who had been deemed incompetent to stand trial. The plaintiffs sued the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs, represented by the Advocacy Center itself, the ACLU, and the law firm of Kirkland and Ellis sought preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, a declaratory judgment, attorney’s fees and costs. According to the plaintiffs, many of these severely mentally ill individuals were being kept in jails and prisons for long periods of time without the benefit of appropriate mental health treatment. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that certain provisions of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure and Louisiana Revised Statute Section 28:25.1 were unconstitutional as applied.
According to Louisiana law, if a criminal defendant lacked the mental capacity to stand trial as a result of a mental disease or defect, his or her mental capacity was unlikely to be restored by outpatient care within 90 days, had been charged with a felony and was deemed likely to commit a crime a violence, that person had to be committed to Feliciana Forensic Facility. However, the Revised Statute required Feliciana, the only facility in Louisiana equipped to administer inpatient restorative treatment, to refuse to admit patient detainees if it would cause overcrowding or if it would be unable to provide appropriate care or treatment. The problem, the plaintiffs claimed, was that Feliciana was full, and therefore these patient detainees were turned away, dooming them to spend months or sometimes years in Louisiana Parish prisons awaiting admittance without proper care or treatment.
On May 27, 2010, the State filed a motion to dismiss the case, while the plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction. On June 16, 2010 the defendants filed a motion to strike the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction. Subsequently, on August 9, 2010, Chief Judge Sarah S. Vance denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case as well as denying their motion to strike. 731 F. Supp 2d. 583; 731 F. Supp 2d. 603. Judge Vance also granted in part and denied in part the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction. Judge Vance ordered the state to provide restorative treatment to all such prisoners, requiring them to be transferred to Feliciana Forensic Hospital, where they would receive mental health treatment, within 21 days of their detention. Defendants appealed.
On August 30, 2010, the case was reassigned to Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Wilkerson, Jr. from Magistrate Judge Daniel E. Knowles, III.
On April 13, 2011, LDHH and ACED entered into a Consent Decree ensuring that the patients committed to Feliciana were admitted in a timely manner, setting different deadlines for admission to the hospital based on the urgency of detainees’ needs for mental health care. The Consent Decree provides that individuals who met either of two criteria (based on their score on a behavioral assessment or the determination of doctor) should be admitted to the Feliciana Forensic Facility within two working days of having a Behavioral Health Assessment. The state agreed to submit monthly reports about all detainees detailing if the patients were committed properly, assuring that the wait time for each patient was no more than 30 days following the Order for Inpatient Treatment and that the patients had access to needed emergency mental health care. The state also agreed to voluntarily dismiss their appeal and pay the plaintiffs $260,000 in attorney’s fees. The Consent Decree provided that the matter should be dismissed three years after July 10, 2011, if the defendants had substantially complied during the term of the decree.
According to reports provided to the Court by the Department of Health and Hospitals, the state had repeatedly failed to comply with the decree. Indeed, of the 37 people included in the defendants’ reports, at least six were not admitted within the deadlines provided in the Consent Decree. Most importantly, the inmates who were being admitted late were those people who had the most serious emergency mental health needs. LDHH indicated that they planned to continue to ignore the criteria as written and delay placement for these individuals with the most severe mental health needs.
In light of this failure, on September 7, 2011, the Advocacy Center filed a motion for contempt. On September 19, the state filed a motion to change the Consent Decree’s criteria for emergency admissions. Subsequently, on November 9, 2011, the parties filed a consent motion to modify the Consent Decree.
Judge Vance accordingly modified the Consent Decree on November 15, 2011. The Amended Consent Decree changed the definition of Behavioral Health Assessment, Incompetent Detainee with Emergency Mental Health Needs, and Incompetent Detainee with Major Mental Health Needs as well as adding a provision concerning the classifications as an Incompetent Detainee with Emergency Mental Health Needs and as an Incompetent Detainee with Major Mental Health Needs. It also expanded the reporting provision, also requiring all certifications by the FAC Medical Director and the number of Incompetent Detainees by gender and facility to which admitted.
On August 8, 2014, the defendants filed a motion for termination of the Consent Decree and dismissal of the matter with prejudice, stating that they complied with the provisions of the Consent Decree and Amended Consent Decree, even going beyond the decrees' requirements by continuing to send monthly reports after the expiration date of the mandatory reporting period. The plaintiffs agreed to termination. On December 8, 2014, Judge Vance terminated the Consent Decree and Amended Consent Decree and dismissed the case with prejudice.Matt Ramirez - 06/01/2016