This case sprang from Riggs v. Rodriguez (docket #: 1:09-cv-00010-EJL), which Riggs filed pro se seeking compensatory and punitive damages for the Correction Corporation of America's alleged failure to prevent his assault and provide medical treatment. Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) agreed to take his case and filed an amended complaint that added a class action lawsuit seeking only injunctive relief with several new plaintiffs as the named plaintiffs. At the end of a series of disputes about whether the class action and Riggs' case should proceed together, the plaintiffs in that case moved to sever the class action from the monetary claims. The court (Judge Edward J. Lodge) granted the motion on April 27, 2011, and allowed the plaintiffs to file an amended complaint (filed the same day), which serves as the basis for this lawsuit.
Eight inmates at Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) brought the class action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho, on behalf of all those who were or would be imprisoned at ICC. Claiming their 8th and 14th Amendment rights to be protected against assault from other prisoners had been violated in pursuit of profit, the plaintiffs sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which creates a cause of action for state violations of Constitutional or federal statutory rights. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that Correction Corporation of America created substantial and unnecessary risk of assault and failed to protect inmates against assault because of the following practices: running the prison near or above full capacity, hiring inadequate numbers of staff to supervise and protect so many inmates, employing poor training, failing to investigate and provide a report for each incident, threatening to and intentionally placing inmates near particularly violent/predatory prisoners (often to force the inmate to be an informant), ignoring inmates' requests to be moved, failing to discipline or refer for prosecution prisoners who assault other inmates, failing to investigate and discipline staff whose actions cause or contribute to assaults, and concealing institutional problems with violence by issuing disciplinary citations to victims of assault and refusing to take x-rays or perform other medical tests that would reveal the extent of inmates' injuries.
The parties came to a settlement agreement on September 16, 2011. The agreement was filed with the court and entered on September 20, 2011, along with a voluntary dismissal of all claims with prejudice. The agreement provided for a variety of reporting, investigating, training, and staffing requirements. Several of the provisions required CCA to meet the terms of its contract and follow Idaho Department of Corrections Standard Operating Procedures, though some required CCA to exceed them. The terms also required CCA to make housing assignments based on all relevant safety considerations, to place inmates who claim to be at risk of assault into appropriate housing, and refer all cases that appear to be serious enough to qualify as aggravated battery to the county sheriff. Attorneys' fees and costs were confidential under the agreement, which was to last for 2 years. The court retained jurisdiction under the agreement as a last resort to resolve disputes under the agreement.
Between December 2012 and January 2013, CCA and IDOC received reports that staffing records at ICC had been falsified during the post-settlement period. IDOC initiated an audit of ICC’s staffing records, and CCA hired an investigator. On April 11, 2013, IDOC issued a press release, stating that CCA’s employees had falsified staffing records to represent that correctional officers were staffing mandatory security posts when, in fact, those posts had been vacant for a total of nearly 4,800 hours during a seven-month period in 2012. That same day, CCA issued its own press release stating there were “some inaccuracies” in its staffing records.
On February 21, 2013, the parties amended the stipulation; the court adopted the amendment on March 1, 2013. The amendment provided for the appointment of an independent investigator and shifted reviewing duties to the investigator. The amendment also required the investigator to reinvestigate at least 30% of the monthly reports and report on whether they were complete or deficient in some way.
In June 2013, the plaintiffs moved in the district court for an order to show cause as to why CCA should not be held in contempt for violating the court’s dismissal order. The district court referred the motion to Judge David Carter, sitting by special designation in the District of Idaho. CCA opposed the motion, partly on the ground that the district court did not have jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement. The district court held it had jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement and issued the requested order.
Then, on September 16, 2013, Judge Carter held the defendants in contempt for violating the settlement agreement and extended the settlement by two years. The defendants appealed.
On February 20, 2014, the court approved the plaintiffs' motion for attorney fees. The plaintiffs were awarded $349,018.52 in fees and costs. The defendants appealed this ruling, as well.
On May 23, 2016, the Court of Appeals (Ninth Circuit) affirmed both the contempt finding and the attorneys’ fees in a unanimous opinion by Judge William Fletcher (joined by Judges Fisher and Wilken). 822 F.3d 1085. The court reasoned that the contempt finding was warranted because CCA did not take all reasonable steps to comply with the order, as is required by well established law, and because the contempt finding was civil in nature and, as such, did not require procedural safeguards applicable in criminal proceedings. The court deemed the extension of the settlement agreement within the district court’s power. The court further concluded that the attorneys’ fees award did not violate the PLRA.
The defendants petitioned for a rehearing en banc. On July 7, 2016, the Court of Appeals denied the petition.
On August 25, 2016, appellee’s motion for attorneys’ fees was referred to Appellate Commissioner Peter L. Shaw. Appellants did not dispute appellee’s eligibility for fees, but did dispute the reasonableness of the requested hours and fees amount. On August 29, the motion for fees was referred to the Circuit Mediator. On October 24, 2016, the court issued an order stating that the parties had informed the court that they had resolved the motion for attorneys’ fees. The order did not contain information about the fees amount.Kenneth Gray - 07/10/2013
Katherine Reineck - 02/14/2016
Julie Singer - 03/06/2017