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Case Name Johnson v. Shaffer CJ-CA-0017
Docket / Court 2:12-cv-01059-KJM-AC ( E.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Post-PLRA enforceable consent decrees
Post-WalMart decisions on class certification
Case Summary
On April 20, 2012, a state prisoner filed this civil rights lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The plaintiff sued the California Department of Corrections under §1983 and California state administrative law. Represented by UnCommon Law, he asked the Court ... read more >
On April 20, 2012, a state prisoner filed this civil rights lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The plaintiff sued the California Department of Corrections under §1983 and California state administrative law. Represented by UnCommon Law, he asked the Court for declaratory and injunctive relief. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that officials of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and its Board of Parole Hearings, acted unfairly by refusing to authentically consider the appropriateness of parole for prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment.

On October 18, 2012, Magistrate Judge Gregory G. Hollows granted the defendant's Motion to Dismiss, but allowed the plaintiff to file an amended complaint within 28 days. 2012 WL 5187779. On November 15, 2012, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint, alleging with more detail that officials of the State of California, including the Governor, the Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and various officials of the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH), implemented a system to fabricate evidence to support their decisions to deny parole, particularly for inmates serving a life sentence ("Lifers"), and that this discriminatory scheme was used to protect their decisions from judicial scrutiny so that they could maintain the low rate of granting parole to Lifers.

On March 31, 2014, U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller granted the plaintiff's motion for class certification of a class consisting "of California state prisoners who are serving life sentences and are eligible." Judge Mueller also granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment as to the plaintiffs' equal protection and state law claims, but denied the defendants' summary judgment motion as to the plaintiffs' due process claims. 2014 WL 1309289. The defendants appealed this decision but their petition for permission to appeal was denied on June 12, 2014.

On September 26, 2014, the defendants filed a motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, which Magistrate Judge Claire recommended be denied in part and granted in part. Though the defendants objected to the magistrate's findings and recommendations, they were adopted by the District Court in a May 14, 2015 order. 2015 WL 2358583. As a result, the defendants got judgment on counts four (alleging "that their Due Process rights ha[d] been violated by the denial of 'notice of the evidence being used to consider their suitability for parole.'"), five (alleging "that the refusal to provide access to the data underlying the FAD reports also deprive[d] them of their Due Process right to be heard at their parole hearings") nine (alleging "that they ha[d] a 'limited' Due Process right to 'confront and cross examine [the] putative experts' whose FAD reports [were] used to deny plaintiffs parole"), and twelve (alleging "that they ha[d] a Due Process right to call witnesses, including adverse witnesses, at their parole hearings") of the plaintiff's complaint. The Court allowed the plaintiffs to, within 30 days, file an amended complaint as to the remaining counts. The plaintiff decided against amending a complaint.

In a joint status report filed on July 17, 2015, the parties indicated that they had entered into negotiations and were working toward a settlement. On October 2, 2015, the parties entered into a finalized stipulation and settlement agreement, which required reforms in the psychological risk assessment process used by the parole board, including an opportunity for Lifers to challenge factual errors in risk assessments through counsel. The defendants also agreed to consult experts on the use of risk assessments in the correctional setting, and make information presented by the Board of Parole Hearing's Psychologist available to the plaintiffs and be posted online. Furthermore, the Court was to retain jurisdiction over this case until January 1, 2017. If within 30 days after January 1, 2017, the plaintiffs believed that the defendants had not abided by the terms of the settlement, the plaintiffs could seek an extension of the Court's jurisdiction over this matter for no more than 12 months.

Pursuant to the Settlement Agreement, once the Agreement was approved, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed all but one of the defendants -- the Executive Officer of the Board of Parole Hearings. The plaintiffs' motion to do so was granted in an order by Magistrate Judge Claire on June 24, 2016.

The issue of attorneys fees was raised in a separate motion on October 16, 2015, which was referred to Magistrate Judge Claire. On November 10, 2015, she granted the plaintiff's motion for attorneys fees, and the defendants had 30 days to pay $119,796.05 to the plaintiff. The defendants challenged this order, filing a motion for Reconsideration of Timing of Fee and Cost Payment. On December 1, 2015, Magistrate Judge Claire granted the defendant's request for reconsideration and edited the last sentence of the court's order to read: "Defendants shall remit payment to Plaintiffs' counsel in the amount of $119,796.05, within thirty (30) days after the Court grants final approval of the parties Amended Stipulated Settlement, subject to interest thereafter as provided in 28 U.S.C. § 1961."

On October 6, 2017, the court extended its jurisdiction for another year, finding that the defendants had not complied fully with the Settlement. Specifically, the court limited the extension of its jurisdiction to the following issues: (1) revision of timelines for CRAs, objections, and responses; (2) revision of provision allowing CRA reports that contain factual errors to remain in an inmate's file; (3) defendant compliance with provision that "[a]ll future CRAs will clarify that the Overall Risk Rating is relative to other life prisoners; and (4) defendant compliance with provision that "CRAs will inform the reader of the report that, generally speaking, the current recidivism rates for long term offenders are lower than those of other prisoners released from shorter sentences."

The case is ongoing.

Saeeda Joseph-Charles - 10/01/2016
Virginia Weeks - 01/27/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Content of Injunction
Monitoring
Reporting
Required disclosure
Defendant-type
Corrections
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Disparate Treatment
Incident/accident reporting & investigations
Over/Unlawful Detention
Parole grant/revocation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Plaintiff Description The class of California state prisoners who are serving life sentences and are eligible for parole consideration after having served their minimum terms.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
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 - 2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
2:12-cv-1059-KJM-AC (E.D. Cal.)
CJ-CA-0017-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/28/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Civil Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
CJ-CA-0017-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/20/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting Def. Motion to Dismiss] [ECF# 17] (2012 WL 5187779 / 2012 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 150399) (E.D. Cal.)
CJ-CA-0017-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/18/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Civil Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 18]
CJ-CA-0017-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/15/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Attorneys' Fees [ECF# 19] (E.D. Cal.)
CJ-CA-0017-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/30/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Class Cert. and Motion for Summary Judgment in Part [ECF# 44] (2014 WL 1309289) (E.D. Cal.)
CJ-CA-0017-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/31/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Adopting Finding and Recommendations for Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings] (2015 WL 2358583 / 2015 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 64165) (E.D. Cal.)
CJ-CA-0017-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/14/2015
Amended Stipulation and Settlement [ECF# 83]
CJ-CA-0017-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/02/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting Class Action Settlement] (E.D. Cal.)
CJ-CA-0017-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/06/2015
Order [ECF# 167] (E.D. Cal.)
CJ-CA-0017-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/26/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Claire, Allison Court not on record [Magistrate]
CJ-CA-0017-0004 | CJ-CA-0017-9000
Mueller, Kimberly Jo (E.D. Cal.)
CJ-CA-0017-0003 | CJ-CA-0017-0006 | CJ-CA-0017-0007 | CJ-CA-0017-0008 | CJ-CA-0017-0009 | CJ-CA-0017-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Wattley, Keith Allen (California)
CJ-CA-0017-0001 | CJ-CA-0017-0002 | CJ-CA-0017-0005 | CJ-CA-0017-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Blonien, Jessica N. (California)
CJ-CA-0017-0005 | CJ-CA-0017-9000
Heckler, Heather M. (California)
CJ-CA-0017-9000
Lee, Michael Gregory (California)
CJ-CA-0017-9000
O'Carroll, Megan R. (California)
CJ-CA-0017-9000
Rench, Christopher John (California)
CJ-CA-0017-9000

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