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Case Name Gray v. County of Riverside JC-CA-0105
Docket / Court 5:13-cv-00444 ( C.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection California's Prisoners' Rights Bar article
COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Post-WalMart decisions on class certification
Attorney Organization Prison Law Office
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This class action about medical care in the Riverside County jails settled in 2015. On April 4, 2020, plaintiffs brought a motion to enforce the consent decree, seeking implementation of expert-endorsed coronavirus-related protocols including social distancing. On April 16, the ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This class action about medical care in the Riverside County jails settled in 2015. On April 4, 2020, plaintiffs brought a motion to enforce the consent decree, seeking implementation of expert-endorsed coronavirus-related protocols including social distancing. On April 16, the Court agreed, requiring planning and potentially prisoner transfers. A mediation was held on April 17, during which the parties agreed on many issues; more meetings are to be held.
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On May 8, 2013, three prisoners in Riverside county jails filed this class-action lawsuit in the US District Court for the Central District of California. The plaintiffs sued the County of Riverside (California) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs alleged that the access to both physical and mental healthcare was so deficient that it violated the Eighth Amendment proscription of cruel and unusual punishment, violated prisoners' Fourteenth Amendment rights, and constituted deliberate indifference to prisoners' health needs. The class was divided into two subclasses, termed the Medical Subclass and the Mental Health Subclass, though the classes were not mutually exclusive. Represented by the Prison Law Office, the plaintiffs sought attorneys' fees, declaratory relief, and an injunction requiring the county to develop a plan to address the deficiencies of its jails' healthcare system and to provide at least minimally adequate health care.

According to the plaintiffs, some prisoners were told that doctors would only see those with court orders and that Sheriffs' deputies sometimes refused to provide forms. Prisoners had no other way to acquire or file forms. The plaintiffs alleged that in order to get access to healthcare they frequently needed to get court orders, file grievances, and file Health Need Requests (which cost $3), all of which they said were frequently ignored.

By California state law a grand jury evaluates county jails every year. The June 14, 2012, Riverside County Grand Jury Report stated "In July, 2011, DMH was advised. . . .that the medical/mental health staffing levels in county jails needed to be restored to 2007 levels, in order to be in compliance with [state law]. As of this writing, the Grand Jury learned through sworn testimony that during the eight months following the 2010-2011 Grand Jury report, DMH staffing levels were allowed to decrease even further." As of May 31, 2012, only two of the five full-time physician positions in the jails were filled, and the county had multiple vacancies for nurses and nurse supervisors; only 65 of 101 total Detention Health Services positions were filled. Because of these vacancies, the plaintiffs alleged, medication distribution was erratic and doses were often supplied at irregular times or missed entirely. The plaintiffs also alleged that many prisoners received psychotropic drugs when their medical records were illegible or contained no treatment plan, monitoring, or other indications the treatment with the drugs was necessary, and sometimes with no record of informed consent.

On April 30, 2013, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint adding a fourth named plaintiff. On August 20, 2014 the plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint adding factual allegations and plaintiffs. 2014 WL 5304915 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 2, 2014).

On September 2, 2014, Judge Virginia Phillips granted the plaintiffs' motion for class certification and denied the defendants' motion to dismiss. The defendants wanted to appeal the class certification, but Judge Phillips denied the petition for permission to appeal the order granting class action certification.

After settlement negotiations, the parties agreed to resolve the litigation without trial. The parties agreed that certain closely related claims relating to disability
discrimination were also appropriate for resolution in this case and the plaintiffs field an amended complaint on November 24, 2015.

On December 22, 2015, Judge Phillips granted the parties' motion for preliminary approval of their proposed class action settlement agreement. On April 28, 2016, Judge Phillips granted final approval of the agreement. The Consent Decree included a Remedial Plan designed to meet the minimum level of health care necessary to comply with the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as to ensure non-discrimination against inmates with disabilities as required by the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. For example, the defendants agreed to provide, among other things: (1) confidential screening for health care concerns for all new inmates; (2) readily available health care request forms; (3) daily collection and triage of health care request forms, with urgent concerns seen the same day and routine concerns seen within 72 hours; (4) confidential settings in which medical and mental health care encounters can take place; (5) pill call twice a day at regular times; (6) maintenance of medical and mental health information in a single electronic record; (7) sufficient medical and mental health staff available to ensure compliance with the Remedial Plan; (8) timely and appropriate care for chronic care patients and those in need of specialty services; and (9) a full range of structured mental health treatment options, including thorough assessments, group and individual therapy, psychotropic medications, and designated housing with specialized programming.

The defendants also agreed to submit a status report to plaintiffs' counsel every six months detailing their compliance with the Consent Decree and their implementation of the Remedial Plan. The parties also agreed to have two court-appointed experts complete two comprehensive reviews and reports during the first year of the Consent Decree and subsequent reports as needed or requested.

The duration of the Consent Decree was set at four years from the date of its entry, with the option to extend any provision with which the defendants are not in substantial compliance. The defendants agreed to pay the plaintiffs $1,250,000 in attorneys' fees and expenses. Additionally, the parties agreed that the plaintiffs would be compensated for their reasonable time and reasonable expenses relating to monitoring and enforcing the Consent Decree (not to exceed $150,000).

The first monitoring/implementation activity in the docket is dated April 6, 2020, after the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. In response to the pandemic, plaintiffs sought to enforce the consent decree's mandate to “meet the minimum level of health care necessary to fulfill Defendant’s obligations under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.” Court-appointed experts made recommendations for physical distancing recommendations, but the County was not following them. The plaintiffs suggested that the County could follow the recommendations in several ways, including by transferring prisoners to a new, currently empty, jail, relocating particularly vulnerable prisoners; and even releasing people to allow for physical distancing.

The Court agreed with the motion, noting:
At the hearing, Defendant did not have information regarding conditions in the existing county jail facilities, insisted that moving prisoners to a newly completed, empty jail in Indio was not feasible, and admitted that it had not researched alternative housing options such as recreation centers, halfway houses, and hotels. Rather than having created a plan to safeguard those most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, Defendant conceded that it has not conducted an analysis of its own records to identify particularly vulnerable prisoners. It also has not conducted an analysis of its jail population to determine whether there are any low-level offenders who might be eligible for early release.
The Court found, "Should the County be unable to implement adequate social distancing within its existing jail facilities and take other necessary steps to decrease risk of infection, this Court has the authority to order the transfer of prisoners to different facilities." It therefore granted plaintiffs' request that the County be required “to submit a plan to the Court to implement the Governor’s order for physical distancing for all Californians housed in the jails."

Specific requirements were outlined in the written order dated April 16, 2020:
1. An evaluation of current jail capacity to house people safely consistent with physical distancing to reduce transmission of COVID-19
2. A plan to safely house and care for people incarcerated in the jails who are at high risk for severe complications from COVID-19 based on guidance from the CDC and the Court experts.
3. Adequate hygiene and cleaning measures, including education of the people incarcerated in the jails, consistent with the CDC’s guidelines.
4. Measures to address the mental health needs of people held in quarantine or isolation

The court also ordered mediation to resolve any disputes over the adequacy of the plan and the production of underlying data. A status report was provided on April 24, detailing that during the mediation the Defendants provided information that satisfied a significant number of the issues posed by Plaintiffs, and that the Defendant is in process of preparing a written plan to provide to Plaintiffs pursuant to the court’s order on April 14. Furthermore, the Defendant agreed to provide the Plaintiffs’ counsel relevant COVID-19 statistics every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the duration of the State of Emergency.

The case is ongoing.

Kenneth Gray - 06/26/2013
Jessica Kincaid - 10/15/2015
Eva Richardson - 01/03/2019
Averyn Lee - 05/05/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Hire
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Corrections
Jurisdiction-wide
Disability
disability, unspecified
General
Conditions of confinement
Informed consent/involuntary medication
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Medical/Mental Health
COVID-19 Mitigation Granted
COVID-19 Mitigation Requested
Dental care
Medical care, general
Medication, administration of
Suicide prevention
Untreated pain
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) Riverside County
Plaintiff Description Four current or former prisoners of Riverside county jails affected by the jails' inadequate access to healthcare filing on behalf of all similarly situated individuals. The class is divided into two subclasses: the Medical Subclass and the Mental Health Subclass.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Prison Law Office
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2016 - 2020
Filed 05/08/2013
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing JC-CA-0129 : Murray v. Santa Barbara (C.D. Cal.)
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  People Incarcerated in Riverside County Jails Seek Federal Court Action to Address COVID-19
Prison Law Office
Date: April 16, 2020
By: Prison Law Office
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Gray v. County of Riverside
Prison Law Office
Date: Not available
By: Prison Law Office
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
5:13−cv−00444 (C.D. Cal.)
JC-CA-0105-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/06/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief
JC-CA-0105-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/08/2013
Riverside Prisoners Sue over Dangerous Jail Conditions
JC-CA-0105-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/18/2013
First Amended Class action Complaint for Injunctive and Declarative Relief [ECF# 8] (2013 WL 2455092)
JC-CA-0105-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/30/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Class Action Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief [ECF# 129]
JC-CA-0105-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/20/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification; Denying Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 131] (2014 WL 5304915) (C.D. Cal.)
JC-CA-0105-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/02/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Third Amended Complaint [ECF# 150]
JC-CA-0105-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/24/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Decree [ECF# 173]
JC-CA-0105-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/24/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Emergency Motion to Enforce or, In the Alternative, Modify Consent Decree [ECF# 177]
JC-CA-0105-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/06/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Declaration of Sara Norman in Support of Plaintiffs' Emergency Motion to Enforce or Modify the Consent Decree (Part 1) [ECF# 178 to 178-1 (Part 1)]
JC-CA-0105-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/06/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Declaration of Sara Norman in Support of Plaintiffs' Emergency Motion to Enforce or Modify the Consent Decree (Part 2) [ECF# 178-1 (Part 1) to 178-2]
JC-CA-0105-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/06/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
County of Riverside's Opposition to Plaintiffs' Emergency Motion to Enforce, or in the Alternative Modify, Consent Decree [ECF# 183]
JC-CA-0105-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/10/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Reply in Support of Emergency Motion to Enforce Consent Decree [ECF# 185, 186 & 186-1]
JC-CA-0105-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/13/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Minute Order Granting "Emergency Motion to Enforce Consent Decree" [ECF# 191] (C.D. Cal.)
JC-CA-0105-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/14/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Plaintiffs' Emergency Motion to Enforce Consent Decree [ECF# 193] (C.D. Cal.)
JC-CA-0105-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/16/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Status Report Re Mediation Efforts and Ongoing Discussions Between Counsel [ECF# 196]
JC-CA-0105-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/24/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Parada, Oswald (C.D. Cal.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
JC-CA-0105-9000
Phillips, Virginia A. (C.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0105-0005 | JC-CA-0105-0007 | JC-CA-0105-0013 | JC-CA-0105-0014 | JC-CA-0105-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Appleby-Bhattacharjee, Saurish (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0105-9000
Bhattacharjee, Saurish (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0105-0004
Crockett, Danielle (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0105-0004
Freedman, Anya J. (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0105-0001 | JC-CA-0105-9000
George, Warren E. Jr. (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0105-0004
Ginty, Danielle C. (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0105-0006 | JC-CA-0105-9000
Gregory, Nicholas (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0105-0004 | JC-CA-0105-0006
Hanson, Shawn A. (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0105-0001 | JC-CA-0105-0002 | JC-CA-0105-0003 | JC-CA-0105-0004 | JC-CA-0105-0006 | JC-CA-0105-9000
Kurlekar, Amit (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0105-0001 | JC-CA-0105-0002 | JC-CA-0105-9000
Morris, Kelsey (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0105-0004 | JC-CA-0105-9000
Norman, Sara Linda (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0105-0001 | JC-CA-0105-0002 | JC-CA-0105-0004 | JC-CA-0105-0006 | JC-CA-0105-0007 | JC-CA-0105-0008 | JC-CA-0105-0009 | JC-CA-0105-0010 | JC-CA-0105-0012 | JC-CA-0105-0015 | JC-CA-0105-9000
Specter, Donald H. (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0105-0001 | JC-CA-0105-0002 | JC-CA-0105-0003 | JC-CA-0105-0004 | JC-CA-0105-0006 | JC-CA-0105-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Brown, James E. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0105-0011 | JC-CA-0105-9000
Cunningham, Arthur Kenneth (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0105-0007 | JC-CA-0105-0015 | JC-CA-0105-9000
Lockwood, Christopher D (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0105-9000
Moran, Kelly Anne (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0105-9000
Tanada, Stephanie Joy M (California) show/hide docs
JC-CA-0105-9000

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