In 1980, a civil complaint relying upon 42 U.S.C. § 1983 was filed by private counsel in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho on behalf of four emotionally and mentally handicapped, institutionalized children, and the parties eventually, on September 7, 1982, stipulated to class certification. The complaint alleged that the defendants, state officials, had violated the class members' rights under the U.S. Constitution's Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, the Idaho Constitution, and federal and state statutes. The federal statutes included the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §§ 701-796i (1982), the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-1461 (1982), and the developmental Disability Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 6000-6081 (1982). Among other things, the complaint alleged that some of the plaintiffs had been hospitalized in facilities along with adults, some of whom were known sexual predators and child molesters. The complaint sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as an award of attorneys' fees and costs.
The defendants filed their answer setting forth multiple defenses to the plaintiffs' action, including Eleventh Amendment immunity. They also alleged that the plaintiffs had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. In 1981, the parties settled a number of claims relating to the provision of educational services. Other claims remained, however, and the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court dismissed several of the plaintiffs' federal statutory claims, but found that there were disputed issues of material fact as to the plaintiffs' claims under the U.S. Constitution and under Idaho law.
In 1983, pursuant to negotiations, the parties resolved a number of claims relating to alleged constitutional violations in the provision of mental health care to the class members. In a settlement agreement, the defendants agreed to end the practice of placing children in adult facilities and to provide a range of community-based services for children who would not need in-patient care. The agreement offered virtually all of the injunctive relief that the plaintiffs sought. It specifically required the defendants, among other things, to prepare an assessment of children's mental health programs and to provide the class members with facilities and staff for community-based mental health programs and services. The agreement also provided for continuing jurisdiction by the district court for five years or until the district court was satisfied by stipulation or otherwise that the claims for relief were adequately addressed. The settlement also conditioned the grant of injunctive relief on plaintiffs' waiver of any claim for attorneys' fees. The agreement was entered as a consent decree by District Judge Marion D. Callister in April 1983. Plaintiff's counsel appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court for the Ninth Circuit from the portion of the district court's ruling that denied him an award of attorneys' fees and, initially, prevailed. Jeff D. v. Evans, 743 F.2d 648 (9th Cir.1984) (Circuit Judge Mary Murphy Schroeder). The Supreme Court, however, reinstated the decree as entered by the district court, finding that it had the discretion to accept a waiver of attorney fees, at least where the record showed no vindictive effort by the opposing counsel or party to deter civil rights attorneys from representing plaintiffs in future lawsuits. Evans v. Jeff D., 475 U.S. 717 (1986) (John Paul Stevens, Justice).
A dispute emerged between the parties as to the scope of the plaintiff class, resulting in further appeals to the Ninth Circuit appellate court. See Jeff D. v. Andrus, 899 F.2d 753 (9th Cir.1989 and, as amended, 1990) (Circuit Judge Melvin T. Brunetti) (clarifying membership categories of plaintiff class entitled to settlement's benefits, and allowing attorneys' fees for successful post-judgment monitoring of compliance); see also Jeff D. v. Andrus, 861 F.2d 591 (9th Cir.1988).
By the late 1980s, serious concerns about the state's compliance with the consent decree prompted the plaintiffs to file a motion to enforce it. The parties again negotiated a settlement and eventually stipulated to a supplemental agreement in December 1990. The agreement reiterated the defendants' obligation to prevent hospitalization of the class members in adult facilities, and expanded the defendants' agreement in 1983 to ensure ''an available, accessible continuum of alternative community-based treatment facilities and residential programs providing mental health services to [the] plaintiffs.'' The 1990 agreement also required the defendants to prepare legislative budget requests to fund the programs that were agreed upon. As contemplated by the parties, the district court entered the agreement as a consent decree.
This decree did not end the difficulties, however. In 1993, the plaintiffs filed a motion with the district court requesting that the defendants be ordered to comply with the decrees. The matter was referred to a magistrate judge. The defendants did not contest that they were failing to comply with the agreements regarding the provision of community-based services and, with the plaintiffs, submitted a joint proposed report and recommendation that was adopted by the magistrate judge. The district court adopted the recommendation of the magistrate judge and entered an additional order requiring the defendants immediately to allocate a minimum level of resources--as recommended by the defendants themselves--to each of seven regions within the state for the provision of the agreed-upon community services. Because the plaintiffs continued to contend that the defendants had not complied with the decrees, the defendants agreed in 1995 to conduct independent evaluations of the state's mental health system for children and of the defendants' compliance with the decrees.
Beginning in 1997, the defendants hired outside experts to conduct a thorough evaluation of the state's compliance. Based on the results of this compliance review (''the 1998 Compliance Review''), the plaintiffs moved for a finding of contempt against the defendants in March 1998. The defendants, however, negotiated yet another compliance agreement that provided for an additional independent needs assessment and the creation of a compliance action plan. The defendants also agreed to submit ''requests for funding to the Joint Finance and Appropriation Committee of the Idaho State Legislature,'' and agreed in principle with the findings and recommendations made in the 1998 Compliance Review.
The district court approved the compliance agreement in December 1998, as a third consent decree, and one which resolved the plaintiffs' motion for contempt. As required by the 1998 agreement, the defendants' independent experts completed their needs assessment in June 1999. A large portion of the report's recommendations focused on community-based outpatient care. The defendants, accordingly, developed a compliance plan for the needs assessment's recommendations. However, the plaintiffs objected to the defendants' proposed plan and, by 2000, the plaintiffs again moved for a finding of contempt and for the district court formally to adopt the needs assessment itself as the defendants' compliance plan. Instead of negotiating this time, the defendants objected and filed a brief response. The defendants also filed a motion to dismiss the case and to vacate the consent decrees. The defendants argued that the district court no longer had subject matter jurisdiction over the consent decrees because the decrees did not redress continuing violations of federal law and, thus, jurisdiction was improper under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The defendants also claimed that the continued enforcement of the consent decrees was barred by the Eleventh Amendment. The district court held a hearing on the parties' motions on August 29, 2000. The court indicated that it planned to deny the defendants' motions to dismiss the case or vacate the consent decrees; it noted that it had continuing jurisdiction to enforce the decrees under Rufo v. Inmates of the Suffolk County Jail, 502 U.S. 367 (1992). The district court also found that no showing had been made to justify modifying or vacating the consent decrees that had been previously entered. The court took the plaintiffs' motion for contempt under consideration.
On September 28, 2000, District Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued a memorandum decision denying plaintiffs' motion for contempt. Although ''growing weary'' with the state's failure to comply with the consent decrees, the judge gave additional time for the defendants to ''comply with the Court's orders and to fulfill the promises embodied by the Consent Decrees.'' On September 29, 2000, Judge Winmill entered an order formally denying the defendants' motions to dismiss the suit and to vacate the consent decrees. The defendants filed yet another appeal to the Ninth Circuit, but that court rejected their claims. Circuit Judge Betty B. Fletcher wrote that the district court appropriately continued to exercise jurisdiction over the case, in that federal judicial power existed to enforce consent decrees that required more relief than the Constitution required and without a showing of continuing violations of the Constitution, given the federal interest in ensuring that judgments of federal courts are meaningful and enforceable. Neither did the Eleventh Amendment bar enforcement of the consent decree against state officials, who had agreed to its' terms and had failed to make a showing of changed circumstances that might make relief from those terms equitable. The appellate court also found that plaintiffs were entitled to attorneys' fees, having prevailed in the appeal. Jeff D. v. Kempthorne, 365 F.3d 844 (9th Cir. 2004).
January and February 2006, filings in the district court by plaintiffs' counsel reflect ongoing dissatisfaction based upon the state's failure to commit funds, resources, and staff needed to fully comply with the consent decrees, as well as upon failure of state agencies to collaborate to achieve compliance. The plaintiffs' documents reflect that discovery review and negotiation by the parties regarding compliance issues occurred during 2004 and 2005. The plaintiffs' 2006 filings were prompted by the state's efforts to have Judge Winmill vacate the consent decrees. Idaho argued that it had achieved substantial compliance with the decrees and the multi-point implementation plan.
In a pair of unpublished orders, on February 7 and November 2, 2007, the district court reviewed the state's efforts at compliance, point-by-point, concluding in the November order that the state had finally made significant efforts to substantially comply with their promises in the consent decrees. Accordingly, the judge granted the state relief from the consent decrees. In the November order, Judge Winmill ruled that plaintiffs' counsel would be awarded attorneys' fees associated with monitoring the case from 2004 through 2007, and noted that during the case the parties had previously agreed on reasonable amounts for payment of these fees. Here, however, the state had objected to the amounts requested and, upon review, the court agreed with the state that much of plaintiffs' counsels' recent work seemed unnecessary or excessive. Thus, while approving fee payment at the hourly rate requested, the court reduced the award from the fee request by 90%. The resultant total fees and costs award was $330,332.29.
We have no information reflecting further activity in this case.Mike Fagan - 05/23/2008