On August 4, 2014, advocates for A.B. and other legally incompetent criminal defendants in county jails in Washington State filed this 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 the 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 a finding of fact and conclusion 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.
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.
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.
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.
As of February 26, 2016, the defendants' appeal is still pending and monitoring of the defendants' compliance continues. Anna Dimon - 02/19/2015
Jessica Kincaid - 02/26/2016