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Case Name Disability Law Center v. State of Utah JC-UT-0006
Docket / Court 2:15-cv-00645 ( D. Utah )
State/Territory Utah
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Jail Conditions
Special Collection Post-WalMart decisions on class certification
Solitary confinement
Attorney Organization NDRN/Protection & Advocacy Organizations
Case Summary
On September 8, 2015, the Disability Law Center, a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of individuals with disabilities, and three individuals who were charged with criminal offenses but declared incompetent to stand trial, filed this class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for ... read more >
On September 8, 2015, the Disability Law Center, a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of individuals with disabilities, and three individuals who were charged with criminal offenses but declared incompetent to stand trial, filed this class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah. The plaintiffs sued Utah, the Utah Department of Human Services, the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, and the Utah State Hospital, under 42 U.S.C. §1983. Represented by Disability Law Center attorneys and private counsel, the plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that the state violated their rights under Article I Section 7 of the United States Constitution, the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and parallel provisions in the Utah Constitution.

Specifically, they alleged that criminal defendants who were declared incompetent in Utah were forced to wait for an average of 6 months in county jails, without appropriate treatment, before they could receive competency restoration treatment (each named plaintiff had waited in a county jail for 5 to 6 months). This was because the Utah State Hospital, the only facility in Utah authorized to provide competency services, was past its capacity. Criminal defendants in jail while awaiting treatment were often placed in protective custody or solitary confinement.

The state moved to dismiss the complaint on October 30, 2015. On April 7, 2016, District Judge Robert J. Shelby denied the state’s motion to dismiss, holding that a pretrial detention amounted to punishment and thus violated the plaintiffs’ substantive due process rights when their detention was not reasonably related to a government interest. 180 F. Supp. 3d 998.

On September 17, 2015, the plaintiffs sought to certify a class. A year later, on September 27, 2016, the court granted certification, defining the class as: “All individuals who are now, or will be in the future,
  1. charged with a crime in Utah,
  2. are determined by the court in which they are charged to be mentally incompetent to stand trial, and
  3. are ordered to the custody of the executive director of [DHS] or a designee for the purpose of treatment intended to restore the defendant to competency but remain housed in a Utah county jail.”
The state sought permission to appeal the class certification; the Tenth Circuit denied the request in November 2016.

Having reached a settlement agreement, the parties moved on June 12, 2017 for the court to approve their agreement. It was approved on July 12, 2017, with Dr. Patrick Fox appointed as monitor. The state agreed to transmit a monthly status report to the monitor and to the Disability Law Center; to conduct a screening of every mentally incompetent criminal defendant within 72 hours after the Department of Human Services received a custody order; to gradually reduce the maximum allowable wait time to 14 days by March 31, 2019; to establish offsite forensic facilities for treatment outside of the Utah State Hospital; and to implement an outreach program to treat class members housed in detention facilities. The court retained jurisdiction over the implementation and enforcement of this agreement for 5 years, with monitoring to continue until July 12, 2022. Each party agreed to bear their own litigation costs.

As of July 2020, monitoring continues.

Chiaki Nojiri - 02/01/2019
Gregory Marsh - 07/05/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Content of Injunction
Goals (e.g., for hiring, admissions)
Monitoring
Reporting
Defendant-type
Corrections
Jurisdiction-wide
Disability
Mental impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Administrative segregation
Conditions of confinement
Protective custody
Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)
Medical/Mental Health
Intellectual/Developmental Disability
Mental health care, general
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Act, 42 U.S.C. § 10801
State law
Defendant(s) Utah Department of Human Services
Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Utah State Hospital
Plaintiff Description All individuals who are now, or will be in the future, (a) charged with a crime in Utah, (b) are determined by the court in which they are charged to be mentally incompetent to stand trial, and (c) are ordered to the custody of the executive directors of DHS or a designee for the purpose of treatment intended to restore the defendant to competency but remain housed in a Utah county jail.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NDRN/Protection & Advocacy Organizations
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2017 - 2022
Filed 09/08/2015
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Docket(s)
2:15-cv-00645 (D. Utah)
JC-UT-0006-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/25/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 2] (2015 WL 5258692)
JC-UT-0006-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/08/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Decision and Order [ECF# 51] (180 F.Supp.3d 998) (D. Utah)
JC-UT-0006-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/07/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Decision and Order [ECF# 71] (2016 WL 5396681) (D. Utah)
JC-UT-0006-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/27/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint MOTION Appointment of Monitor , Joint MOTION for Settlement Approval of Settlement Agreement, Joint MOTION to Stay Proceedings filed by Plaintiffs S. B., Disability Law Center, A. U., S. W. [ECF# 85]
JC-UT-0006-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/12/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Shelby, Robert James (D. Utah) show/hide docs
JC-UT-0006-0002 | JC-UT-0006-0003 | JC-UT-0006-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Evans, Bret R. (Utah) show/hide docs
JC-UT-0006-0004 | JC-UT-0006-9000
Fields, Jared C. (Utah) show/hide docs
JC-UT-0006-9000
Kinikini, Aaron M. (Utah) show/hide docs
JC-UT-0006-0001 | JC-UT-0006-0004 | JC-UT-0006-9000
Sullivan, Alan L. (Utah) show/hide docs
JC-UT-0006-0001 | JC-UT-0006-0004 | JC-UT-0006-9000
Sullivan, Erin B. (Utah) show/hide docs
JC-UT-0006-0004 | JC-UT-0006-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Douglas, Parker (Utah) show/hide docs
JC-UT-0006-9000
Green, Tyler R. (Utah) show/hide docs
JC-UT-0006-9000
Thompson, Laura K. (Utah) show/hide docs
JC-UT-0006-9000
Wolf, David N (Utah) show/hide docs
JC-UT-0006-9000

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