On October 18, 2001, pretrial detainees represented by attorney Barry Litt initiated a class action suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, challenging the conditions of confinement at the Orange County Jail. Plaintiffs alleged that they were detained for unreasonable periods of time following the order for their release (“over detention”), denied rights under Stewart v. Gates (e.g., holding cell seats, outdoor exercise, dayroom and phone access) [See JC-CA-0054] and denied accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Court (Judge Taylor) certified two classes, one for equitable and one for injunctive relief, on October 15, 2003; the injunctive relief class was later decertified. In response to various motions to dismiss, Plaintiffs filed several amended complaints, culminating in the final operative pleading, the Fifth Amended Complaint. The claims that survived dismissal involved meals, overcrowded holding cells, outdoor exercise, dayroom access, religious services, and disability access.
On March 10, 2004, the Court (Judge Gary L. Taylor) sua sponte consolidated this action with Stewart v. Gates, 450 F.Supp. 583 (C.D.Cal. 1978), for the December 2004 trial. The Stewart case involved an injunction against the O.C. Jail that had been in effect since the mid-70s. [See JC-CA-0054].
The one plaintiff's personal injury claim was bifurcated from the main case and settled in December 2005. On April 27, 2005, Judge Taylor entered judgment for the defendants on all claims. Plaintiffs appealed.
On March 24, 2008, the Ninth Circuit affirmed much of the district court's decision, modifying and terminating portions of prior injunctive decrees and reversing the district court 's decision regarding the plaintiffs' right-to-worship, cruel and unusual punishment, and ADA claims. The appellate ruling stated that the religious services portion of the Stewart injunction was both narrowly drawn and needed to protect the freedom of these pretrial detainees to worship, so it should not have been modified by the district court. The Ninth Circuit also said that providing only ninety minutes per week (about thirteen minutes per day, on average) of out-of-cell exercise for pretrial prisoners in administrative segregation did not meet constitutional standards. Likewise, failure to provide accommodations for mobility-impaired and dexterity-impaired pretrial prisoners did not comply with ADA requirements. The defendants' failure to remove certain physical barriers or make accommodations for disabled prisoners to navigate these barriers, as well as the facility's inadequate accommodations of disabled prisoners' educational, recreational, and vocational programming needs, constituted ADA non-compliance. The Ninth Circuit also restored one disabled plaintiff's claims for damages based upon alleged mental and emotional harms. These harms allegedly resulted from the ADA violations and should not have been dismissed by the district court. Pierce v. County of Orange, 519 F.3d 985 (9th Cir. 2008) (Circuit Judge Betty B. Fletcher). This order was amended on May 15, 2008 as part of the denial of rehearing en banc. Pierce v. County of Orange, 526 F.3d 1190 (9th Cir. 2008).
The case was remanded to the district court for further fact-finding on the state of physical barriers to adequate access to bathrooms, showers, exercise areas, dayrooms, dining rooms, cells and all other areas to which disabled persons should have access, and to order remedial remedies as required.
On January 7, 2011, after another six-day bench trial, the Court (Judge Audrey B. Collins) confrmed the ADA sub-class as pretrial detainees with either a "mobility" or "dexterity" impairment, and made detailed findings of fact as to the conditions in the various facilities.
On February 18, 2011, Defendants submitted a Proposed Plan for addressing the issues presented in the January 7 ruling. After Plaintiffs submitted their reply on March 11, 2011, the Proposed Plan was amended
On June 28, 2011, the Court entered judgment for the plaintiffs and accepted the defendant's final proposed plan for addressing the physical barriers identified in the factual findings and ensuring that disabled detainees are provided with equal access to programs, services, and activities as discussed therein.
Over the next year, the parties fought over attorneys' fees and issues regarding O.C. Jail's compliance with the judgment. At the time of this writing, this case was ongoing.Timothy Shoffner - 06/29/2012