On August 4, 2014, advocates for A.B. and other legally incompetent criminal defendants in county jails in Washington State filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The plaintiffs sued the Washington Department of Social and Health Services under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C §§ 12111 et seq.; and the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201. They sought both injunctive and declaratory relief.
The plaintiffs alleged that the rights of A.B. and similarly situated persons were violated by the delay between being deemed legally incompetent and being transferred to a mental health facility. In response to a prior order for immediate transfer of A.B. to a mental health facility, the State explained that the state-run facility that they ordinarily utilized for legally incompetent defendants such as A.B. did not have enough physical bed space to promptly treat every patient. The State argues it is under no deadline to transport legally incompetent defendants for treatment. The plaintiffs, on the other hand, argue that the State's failure to adhere to a seven-day deadline imposed by Washington law, RCWA 10.77.220, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and violates both the Fourteenth Amendment and the Americans with Disabilities Act. On September 12, 2014, the plaintiffs amended their complaint, added three additional named plaintiffs, and sought class certification. The court granted the class certification.
On November 6, 2014, the plaintiffs moved for summary judgment and a declaration that the defendants' conduct had violated the due process rights of the named plaintiffs and class members. On December 22, 2014, the court declared:
The Due Process Clause protects the liberty interests of individuals to be free from incarceration absent a criminal conviction, and to receive restorative treatment when they are being incarcerated due to mental incompetence. Defendants' failure to provide timely services to these detainees has caused them to be incarcerated, sometimes for months, in conditions that erode their mental health, causing harm and making it even less likely that they will eventually be able to stand trial. Because this failure violates the due process rights of criminal defendants who are mentally ill or suspected to be mentally ill, the Court grants Plaintiffs' motion and declares that Defendants have violated their constitutional rights.
2014 WL 7338747 at *1.
There was a seven-day bench trial in March 2015. The court heard facts to determine what amount of time legally incompetent detainees could be made to wait for transfer to a mental health facility without experiencing a violation of their due process rights.
On April 2, 2015, the court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law and ordered the defendants to stop violating the class members' constitutional rights by providing timely competency evaluation and restoration services. The court also entered a permanent injunction requiring the provision of competency services within seven days. The court appointed a monitor to ensure that progress toward the timely provision of services is being made. 101 F. Supp. 3d 1010 (W.D. Wash. 2015).
Subsequently, the defendants asked the court to modify the permanent injunction in four ways. On May 6, 2015, the court modified the permanent injunction to allow for a good cause exception to the seven-day timeframe for class members ordered to receive competency services at state hospitals where a class member’s health prevented them from being medically cleared to be transported, despite the defendants’ good faith efforts. The court denied the defendants’ other requests for modification.
On June 22, 2015, the court granted in part and denied in part the plaintiffs' motion for attorneys' fees and costs. The court awarded $1,303,169 in fees and costs. The defendants also appealed this decision.
The defendants appealed the December 2014 grant of summary judgment to the plaintiffs, the court's judgment, the permanent injunction, and the denial of the defendants' motion to modify the injunction. While the appeal was pending, the defendants again asked the district court to modify the permanent injunction. On February 8, 2016, the district court modified the permanent injunction and extended the defendants’ compliance deadline to May 27, 2016, along with other minor changes.
At two different points, the plaintiffs moved for temporary restraining orders due to safety issues at two different facilities: Yakima Competency Restoration Center and Maple Lane.
First, on March 17, 2016, the plaintiffs moved for an order temporarily restraining the defendant from assigning class members to receive restoration treatment at the Yakima Competency Restoration Center. They claimed that the partially renovated jail was unsafe and violated the court’s orders, as the class members are to be provided services in a state psychiatric hospital or a facility that is therapeutically comparable to the hospital. After considering the motion, defendants’ response, the plaintiffs’ subsequent reply, oral arguments, and findings from a court visit to the facility, on April 12, 2016, the court granted in part plaintiffs’ motion. The court found that there were unacceptable risks of irreparable harm to class members and staff posed by the facility’s staircase and its seclusion and restraint room. The court explained that these spaces presented an opportunity for suicide, especially given that the facility did not have a clear policy on the use of seclusion and restraint. However, the court agreed with the defendants that immediately closing the Yakima program would not be in the best interest of the class members or the public. Thus, the court issued a modified temporary restraining order prohibiting use of the facility’s second floor and seclusion and restraint room unless and until the risks presented are remediated. Per the plaintiffs’ subsequent motions, the court extended the temporary restraining order twice (April 24 and May 10, 2016), leaving it in effect until May 20, 2016. On May 20, 2016, the court lifted the portion of the order restricting use of the seclusion and restraint room. On June 29, 2016, the parties entered a stipulated agreement regarding use of the facility, specifying that the facility had been modified consistently with the court order. On June 30, 2016, the court issued an order stating that the court agrees that there is no further restriction on the use of the stairwell, and that the stairwell and second floor of the facility may be used freely.
Second, on May 19, 2016, the plaintiffs moved for a temporary restraining order enjoining DSHA and its Maple Lane contractors from exposing plaintiffs to an unsafe stairwell at the Maple Lane facility. On June 6, 2016, the court granted the motion with some modification. The court ordered that no members may access the second floor until the staircase risks have been remediated, except for in one wing of the facility in which remediation efforts were completed. On June 7, 2016, the defendants submitted proof of compliance at the facility; they explained that remediation efforts for the rest of the staircases had been completed. On June 10, 2016, the court lifted the temporary restraining order.
Meanwhile, the issue of timeframe for conducting evaluations was being considered on appeal. On May 6, 2016, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion regarding the timeframe for conducting competency evaluations. The court agreed with the district court that DSHS must conduct the evaluations “within a reasonable time following a court’s order,” but found that the seven-day mandate “imposes a temporal obligation beyond what the Constitution requires.” The court therefore vacated the injunction with respect to the seven-day requirement and remanded to the district court to amend the injunction.
The plaintiffs moved the court several times to find the defendants in civil contempt of its prior court orders. On May 10, 2016, the plaintiffs withdrew a previous civil contempt motion (dated May 5) and made a new motion. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants failed to meet important compliance deadlines and were not on track to meet the court’s amended compliance deadline of May 27, 2016. Despite court orders, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendants failed to provide timely competency services. On May 26, 2016, the plaintiffs moved the court to find the defendants in contempt for failing to comply with the court’s order to admit class members to state hospitals for competency evaluations within seven days of a court order.
On June 2 the plaintiffs filed a motion to reconsider the scope of the injunction regarding in-jail evaluations. The plaintiffs claimed that a 10-day requirement for completing jail-based competency requirements serves all legitimate state interests regarding timely completion. On June 30, 2016, the defendants filed a motion to reconsider the scope of the injunction regarding timing of services and impatient evaluations.
On July 7, 2016, the court issued an order of civil contempt. The court imposed monetary sanctions on the defendants, to be continued until the defendants complied by providing timely services. The court issued many money judgments regarding the civil contempt payments throughout the litigation. On December 20, 2016, the court granted the parties’ joint motion to amend the monetary fines imposed as contempt sanctions, ordering a single judgment for $7,486,500 in sanctions to date. After this date, the court made more money judgments.
On August 15, 2016, the court issued an order modifying the permanent injunction as to in jail competency evaluations. The court considered this matter on remand from the Ninth Circuit. The court modified the injunction to require in-jail competency evaluations to be completed within fourteen days of the singing of a court order.
On August 17, 2016, the court issued an order denying defendants’ motion to reconsider the order of civil contempt in all respects except with regard to a transcription error. On August 19, 2016, the court issued an order denying the defendants’ motion to reconsider the injunction regarding timing of services and inpatient evaluations.
On September 14, 2016, the defendants appealed the judgment and order modifying the permanent injunction as to in jail competency evaluations, and the order denying their motion to reconsider the injunction regarding timing of services and inpatient evaluations.
On October 13, 2016, the court granted plaintiffs’ second motion for attorney’s fees and costs, awarding plaintiffs $1,267,769.10 in attorneys fees, and $35,400.38 in litigation costs (subject to reductions previously detailed in the original order on attorneys’ fees). On November 14, 2016, the defendants appealed this order.
On February 1, 2017, at the direction of the court, the defendants submitted a proposed compliance plan. The plan details how DSHS would admit class members to receive competency evaluations, treatment services, and in-custody evaluation services. The plan includes proposals to increase competency evaluation capacity, expand bed capacity for inpatient competency services, and diversion and triage, and it also addresses various recommendations that had been made by the plaintiffs.
On February 21, 2017, the court issued an order expanding the court monitor’s authority and responsibilities.
Meanwhile, the parties had been engaging in mediation regarding the issues on appeal to the Ninth Circuit. On February 15, 2017, the parties informed the Ninth Circuit that they resolved the matter contingent on district court approval of their settlement. On February 23, 2017, the appeal was remanded to the district court for consideration of the settlement. On March 17, 2017, the parties made a joint motion to adopt the mediated settlement agreement. The parties’ agreement includes the following principles: the parties will jointly generate outreach documents to inform courts of their obligations regarding timing of services; DSHS shall complete in-jail competency evaluations within either 14 days from receipt of order (or 21 days from signature or order); DSHS shall admit class members for inpatient competency evaluation or restoration within 7 days from receipt of order (or 14 days from signature of order); orders will be deemed received as of the time they are electronically transmitted; the defendants will continue to track the data.
As of March 30, 2017, the case is ongoing.Anna Dimon - 02/19/2015
Jessica Kincaid - 02/26/2016
Julie Singer - 04/01/2017