On January 10, 1995, inmates at the Bernalillo County Detention Center (BCDC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico filed this class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico. The plaintiffs sued the BCDC under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleged that the gross overcrowding at BRDC was a violation of the Eighth Amendment. The plaintiffs sought injunctive and declaratory relief. On February 16, 1995, the plaintiffs also moved for a preliminary injunction enjoining the operation of the BCDC in its present condition.
The parties engaged in abbreviated discovery related to overcrowding in preparation for a hearing on the preliminary injunction. A day before the hearing, U.S. District Judge Martha Vazquez made an unannounced visit to the jail. On August 23, 1995, Judge Vazquez granted the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction to reduce the population at the BCDC. From the start, the defendants had conceded that crowding was a problem, and the preliminary injunction largely adopted the defendants’ own population reduction proposal. The injunction included a schedule of decreasing population caps for the BCDC and detailed conditions concerning daily operation of the facility. The order also required that inmates with psychological impairments be housed separately from the general population of the jail until a qualified mental health professional issued a written report stating a resident with a psychological impairment could safely live in general population.
On September 7, 1995, the parties entered into a settlement agreement, which the district court approved. The agreement converted the preliminary injunction to a permanent injunction and, among other things, required defendants to comply with their existing policies regarding medical, dental and psychological services and access to a reasonably current law library. The district court retained jurisdiction to enforce or modify the injunction, but expressly reserved any ruling on whether conditions at the BCDC were unconstitutional.
On September 6, 1995 (the day before entry of the settlement), lawyers working for the New Mexico Protection & Advocacy System and the American Civil Liberties Union moved to intervene on behalf of a proposed subclass of all present and future residents of BCDC with mental and/or developmental disabilities. On October 26, 1995, the district court granted "limited intervention" to the plaintiff-intervenors. Intervention was limited to matters “before the court by virtue of the original Plaintiffs' Complaint.”
On November 22, 1995, the plaintiff-intervenors filed an amended complaint in intervention on behalf of the proposed subclass. It alleged discrimination by defendants against people with mental and/or developmental disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Constitution; violations of female subclass members' right to Equal Protection; and violations of procedural due process, access to the courts, and the Eighth Amendment.
The case has been ongoing for over 20 years now. On March 22, 2016, the court granted preliminary approval of a settlement agreement which lays out a process for improving conditions at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), a second prison added to the suit, and attempting to bring the lawsuit to a close. On May 25, 2016, the court held a hearing on final approval of the agreement. On June 27, 2016, the court overruled objections to the agreement and issued final approval.
At a hearing on July 19, 2016, the Court granted the plaintiff-intervenors’ request to conduct limited discovery. On November 9, 2016, the court ordered to schedule a hearing once all the authorized discovery is completed, to consider whether the defendants are in compliance with the provision in 2001 Supplemental Order that sought to enforce population limits at the BCDC facility.
On November 30, 2016, plaintiffs and plaintiffs-intervenors filed a joint motion for order to show cause and for further remedial relief: Plaintiffs sought to mandate orders requiring employees of BCDC unit for medical conditions or medical disabilities to complete a specialized competency-based training, to transfer out the employees that do not demonstrate specialized skills necessary to work in such a unit, and for relief of costs incurred in bringing this motion. The motion has not been decided and the parties are scheduled for a motion hearing in April 2017 regarding this motion.
Separately, on December 21, 2016, parties filed a joint status report and provisional discovery plan, which included information about the possibility of settlement through alternative dispute resolution. On January 17, 2017, the parties informed the Chief Magistrate Judge Karen B. Molzen on the scheduled mediation with Judge Torgerson on February 8, 2017. On February 27, 2017, the Chief Magistrate Judge Karen B. Molzen suspended the discovery deadlines pursuant to the agreement of the parties and to facilitate mediation efforts.
As of March 2017, mediation is ongoing. Michael Abrams - 10/19/2016
MJ Koo - 03/15/2017