On March 11, 1987, mentally ill patients at G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital (GPW), filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State of Florida in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division. The plaintiffs, represented by Florida Rural Legal Services, Advocacy Center, Southern Legal Counsel, the School Board of Manatee County, the Center for Public Representation, a public defender and private counsel, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the State was violating their constitutional rights by providing substandard care and housing at GPW, and by failing to release them when they were "discharge ready." Specifically, the plaintiffs contended that the State: (1) violated their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to discharge them into less restrictive settings; (2) denied them procedural due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment by arbitrarily revoking privileges without formal standards and with no opportunity for challenge; (3) abridged their First, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by arbitrarily restricting visitation privileges; (4) infringed their right to counsel in violation of the First, Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments by failing to provide legal assistance or an adequate law library, and (5) violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights by providing inadequate medical staffing, recreation, vocational training, security and nutrition.
On March 16, 1989, the District Court (Judge Paul Game, Jr.) certified a class consisting of "all persons who are now or will in the future be committed" to GPW, and a subclass of present and future patients "who have been determined by their treatment team to be 'discharge ready' for a period of 15 days or longer, but who have not been discharged." Significantly, the court later expanded the class to include "former patients at GPW even after they are discharged into community treatment facilities."
In June 1989, the parties partially settled the case by entering into a consent decree under which the State of Florida agreed to make various changes in the hospital's operations. The consent decree provided for specific community living arrangements well beyond federal law standards. And, on September 13, 1989, the District Court (Judge Game) appointed David Ferleger, Linda Glenn, and Dorothy Rowe as monitors as provided by the consent decree.
Following substantial litigation respecting the monitors' recommendations, on November 17, 1989, the District Court (Judge Game) adopted the monitors' workplan and budget.
On December 5, 1989, the District Court (Judge Game) denied the defendants' motion for partial summary judgment. The defendants appealed.
On March 26, 1990, the District Court (Judge Game) denied the defendants' motion to remove the monitors. The defendants appealed.
On March 27, 1990, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted the defendants' motion to expedite the appeal from the District Court's denial of partial summary judgment.
On December 12, 1990, the District Court (Judge Hodges) redefined the plaintiff class to include only those persons confined at GPW into a community treatment facility, reserved ruling on the length of the defendants' obligations to the class as well as to whether the defendants had achieved substantial compliance with the consent decree, and denied the monitors' request for access to a central abuse registry.
There followed substantial litigation concerning payment of the monitors and attorneys' fees. On December 30, 1991, the case was reassigned to Judge Anne C. Conway. On February 4, 1992, the District Court (Judge Conway) approved the parties' joint stipulation to reduce the number of monitors, and also created a protocol to pay the monitors including a system of reconciliations. Numerous stipulations relating to payment followed.
The parties apparently worked out a settlement agreement and, on June 2, 1993, the District Court (Judge Conway) granted in part and denied in part the plaintiffs' motion for a fairness hearing on the settlement agreement. The Court also granted a number of motions for attorney fees for the plaintiffs, throughout the course of litigation.
On January 3, 1994, the case was reassigned to Judge Susan C. Bucklew. Litigation continued concerning reconciliation payments for monitoring and attorneys' fees and, during this time, the defendants began moving to vacate the consent decree in whole and in part, as well as to recuse the monitors. On November 29, 1994, the District Court (Judge Bucklew) ordered the monitors to show cause why they had not yet met with the defendants to discuss a new budget. And, on April 25, 1995, the Court referred a number of motions to Magistrate Judge Thomas B McCoun III, who recommended that the motions be denied. On January 3 and July 11, 1995, the Court awarded the plaintiffs interim attorneys' fees. The defendants filed interlocutory appeals for reconsideration or to amend the Court's awards. The plaintiffs cross-appealed.
On November 13, 1995, the District Court (Judge Bucklew) referred the case to mediation and appointed Martha Cook as mediator to resolve the issues of quarterly reconciliations, payment applications, the monitors' budget and the monitors' recusal. A settlement followed, approved by the Court on March 7, 1996. The Court then referred to the mediator, Martha Cook, issues respecting exit criteria and legal access.
On May 15, 1996, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the defendants' appeal of the District Court's July 11, 1995, order. On January 27, 1997, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the defendants' appeal of the District Court's January 3, 1995, order.
Previously, on May 17, 1995, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a letter to the Governor of Florida indicating an intent to investigate conditions at Landmark Learning Center and GPW pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997. After the State of Florida repeatedly denied DOJ access to the facilities, on November 9, 1995, the DOJ sent a findings letter to the Governor basing its information on public documents. On July 10, 1996, the United States submitted a motion to intervene in this case as a plaintiff.
On March 23, 1998, the District Court (Judge Becklew) adopted Magistrate Judge McCoun's recommendations, denying the defendants' motion to vacate, and granting the United States' motion to intervene.
On November 18, 1998, the Magistrate Court (Judge McCoun) ordered the defendants to comply with the monitors' request for access to class members as well as to mortality and budget information.
Significant litigation followed regarding attorneys' fees, substitution of attorneys, discovery, mediation, scheduling and continuance of a trial and compliance with the consent decree, during which time several emergency motions for protective orders were granted.
After a bench trial in August and September 2000, on June 28, 2001, the District Court (Judge Bucklew) entered judgment for the defendants and closed the case. Johnson v. Murphy, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24013 (D. Fla. June 28, 2001). The Court held that "[i]n this trial, the burden of proof was on the plaintiffs to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendants are violating the statutory and constitutional right of current and former GPW patients" and that "they have not done so," holding instead that "[w]hile the plaintiffs have offered evidence that mistakes have been made and that conditions and programs could be different or in some cases better, they have failed to prove that the patients at GPW are inadequately supervised; inadequately treated for self-injurious behavior; inadequately protected from environmental hazards; or that adverse incidents are inadequately investigated and/or responded to."
After one of the monitors apparently resigned, there was substantial litigation respecting the appointment of a replacement and the removal of the interim monitor.
In February 2002, GPW was closed.
On June 3, 2002, the District Court (Judge Bucklew) granted in part and denied in part the defendants' supplemental motion to terminate the consent decree and to dismiss the case with prejudice. The Court specifically denied the defendants' motion to terminate paragraphs of the consent decree pertaining to the monitoring of the defendants' community obligations and the Community Compliance Exit Criteria. A number of defendants filed separate appeals.
On October 29, 2003, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge R. Lanier Anderson III) affirmed the District Court's June 3, 2002, refusal to lift all conditions of the consent decree. Johnson v. Florida, 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 22282 (11th Cir. Oct. 29, 2003). The Court held that the district court did not err by refusing to vacate the consent decree under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(5) because the state acknowledged that approximately 90 patients were still in the state's physical custody because they could not be released when the hospital closed. Moreover, it found that the district court's findings in the Justice Department's case that the hospital's conditions met substantive due process standards were not conclusive as to the consent decree, as the issues were not identical. It found that the district court did not err by denying the state attorneys' fees from the Justice Department under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1997c(d) because the DOJ case was not frivolous.
On March 19, 2004, the Magistrate Court (Judge McCoun) entered an order resolving the two remaining exit criteria issues. Over the next few years, the monitors submitted several budget plans for the defendants to follow, and the Court granted all of them.
On September 30, 2009, the Court held that people moving out of the area were no longer considered part of the class. Consequently, the Court found that two of the defendants sufficiently complied with the consent decree, and granted defendants' motion to exit the consent decree as to those two defendants. The following year, the Court granted defendants' motion to exit for the remaining two defendants, and the consent decree was dissolved. Josh Altman - 07/07/2006
Maurice Youkanna - 07/09/2014