This lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon on March 19, 2002, by the Oregon Advocacy Center (“OAC”), representing criminal patients unable to stand trial due to mental illness; the Metropolitan Public Defender Services, Inc. (“MPD”); and a criminal patient who waited 23 days after being found unfit to stand trial before admittance to a proper mental health treatment facility. The plaintiffs sued the Oregon Department of Human Services (“DHS”) under the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (“PAIMI”) Act, 42 U.S.C. § 10805. The plaintiffs were represented by Disabilities Rights Oregon, the Protection & Advocacy organization for the state of Oregon. The complaint for this case is not available in electronic form, but according to the Findings of Fact & Conclusion of Law by District Court Judge Owen M. Panner, the plaintiffs sought declaratory and permanent injunctive relief along with attorneys’ fees and costs. 2002 WL 35578910 (D. Or. 2002).
The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants violated Oregon criminal patients’ Due Process constitutional rights by failing to promptly transfer these individuals to an appropriate state mental health hospital, leaving them in various country jails without proper treatment. On March 25, 2002, Oregon State Hospital (“OSH”) had a list of 11 criminal patients unable to stand trial, who were awaiting transport to a facility. Plaintiffs claim that the county jails in which these criminal patients were residing while awaiting transfer were unequipped to handle these types of patients. They claimed that these jails were “rudimentary”, “lack[ed] people who [were] trained to care for mentally ill people”, while one in particular was described as having “virtually no mental health treatment” at all. According to the plaintiffs, the wait time for these individuals was unacceptable, and the criminal patient population had a high suicide risk and that psychosis can be an emergency requiring immediate treatment; therefore, prompt transfer to a proper mental health facility that can help deal with these situations would be critical. 2002 WL 35578910 (D. Or. 2002).
On March 19, 2002, the plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. This motion was denied by Judge Panner on March 25, 2002. On March 29, 2002, the defendants filed a motion for protective order, but it was denied by Judge Panner on the same day.
On May 10, 2002, Judge Panner entered a Findings of Fact & Conclusion of Law. 2002 WL 35578910 (D. Or. 2002). The district court found all individuals have a right to be free from incarceration, absent a criminal conviction. Specifically, the court found that it was the state’s interest to assist restoring competency to criminal patients, not to punish them. The court stated that while Oregon county jails did not have the capacity to provide adequate mental health treatment tailored to rehabilitate or restore competency, OSH does. The court recognized that persons found unable to stand trial, yet remain incarcerated, were entitled to prompt treatment in a rehabilitative facility, as even short periods of incarceration could cause extreme harm. The court held that the defendants violated the due process rights of the criminal patients unfit to stand trial. Accordingly, the court ordered that all admissions of these individuals to a state hospital be done in a reasonably timely manner no more than seven days after an order determining a criminal defendant to be unable to stand trial due to mental incapacities. 2002 WL 35578910 (D. Or. 2002).
On May 14, 2002, the defendants filed a notice of appeal from the Findings of Fact & Conclusion of Law and filed a motion to stay judgment pending appeal. The next day Judge Panner entered a judgment for the plaintiffs, while also retaining jurisdiction to enforce the injunction. 2002 WL 35578888 (D. Or. 2002). On May 27, 2002, Judge Panner denied the defendants’ May 14 motion to stay, concluding that the defendants failed to show a strong showing that their appeal was likely to succeed. Judge Panner was eventually proven correct on this conclusion, as on March 6, 2003, Ninth Circuit of The United States Court of Appeals affirmed District Court Judge Panner’s judgment in an opinion by Circuit Judge Raymond C. Fisher. 322 F.3d 1101 (9th Cir. 2003). The Court of Appeals concluded that OAC had standing to bring the suit, and upheld the district court’s injunction.
The plaintiffs filed a motion for attorneys’ fees on May 15, 2002, which Judge Panner granted on May 29 of that same year. The plaintiffs were awarded $53,062.50 in attorneys’ fees and $600.86 in costs. On July 30, 2003, the 9th Circuit Court awarded plaintiffs $31, 252.50 in attorneys’ fees. This case is now closed.Matt Ramirez - 06/16/2016