On December 19, 2005, a California state prisoner filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff sought injunctive relief on behalf of himself and other prisoners for alleged unconstitutional conditions with respect to dental care provided by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"). The plaintiffs were represented by attorneys of the Prison Law Office in California.
This case stemmed from the case Plata v. Schwarzenegger, 3:01-cv-01351-TEH (N.D. Cal.), PC-CA-18
in this Clearinghouse, which was a class action brought on behalf California state prisoners challenging the medical care provided by the CDCR.
On the same date as filing the complaint, the plaintiffs submitted a proposed stipulation and order outlining a settlement agreement that the parties had reached through informal negotiations that commenced in August 2004. Then the parties filed a joint motion for preliminary approval of an amended class settlement.
On May 1, 2006, Judge Jeffrey S. White certified the class for purposes of settlement and for the remedial phase of the litigation and issued its preliminary approval order as to the settlement. The class was: "all current and future California state prisoners in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation with serious dental care needs." Notices of the settlement were sent to class members and a fairness hearing was held on August 18, 2006.
On August 21, 2006, Judge White approved the settlement and adopted the amended stipulation as an order of the court. The amended stipulation required systemic improvements in the delivery of dental care to all inmates by the CDCR. The stipulation referred to the class as "all California state prisoners in the custody of the CDCR who have serious dental care needs." Monitoring of the remedial phase was to be done by CDCR, the plaintiffs and independent court experts. Perez v. Tilton, 2006 WL 2433240 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 21, 2006). On February 8, 2007, Judge White appointed Drs. Shulman and Scalzo to act as the court's representatives in connection with the oversight and coordination of the remediation phase in this case with Coleman v. Schwarzenegger, 2:90-cv-00520-LKK-JFM (E.D. Cal.), PC-CA-2
in this Clearinghouse, and Plata v. Schwarzenegger.
Beginning in October 2006, the parties brought the question of salaries and staffing to the attention of the court. The defendants stated that the current salary levels at the CDCR were an impediment to hiring and retaining dental staff and that they were trying to remedy this issue. However, it turned out that in order for the CDCR to obtain the necessary funding to finance these salary a court order was necessary. On June 12, 2007, Judge White ordered the defendants to increase dental salaries, hire key dental managers, and streamline dental hiring practices. Perez v. Hickman, 2007 WL 1697320 (N.D. Cal. June 12, 2007).
On June 28, 2007, Judge White approved a group of six coordination agreements among the parties in order to assist the remedial process in all three cases.
In approximately November 2006, the CDCR began to transfer prisoners to private facilities in other states. It is undisputed that, at the time the parties negotiated the original settlement agreement and the Amended Stipulation, that the parties did not contemplate that Defendants would transfer prisoners out-of-state. As a result of these transfers, a dispute arose between the parties about whether those prisoners who had been transferred to private facilities in other states were members of the class. The parties also disputed whether prisoners who were housed in Community Correctional Facilities ("CCFs") were members of the class. On March 10, 2008, Judge White granted the defendants' motion regarding the class definition and denied the plaintiffs' motion to amend the class definition. Judge White held that the parties did not intend to include out-of-state transfers and prisoners house in CCFs as part of the class. Perez v. Tilton, 2008 WL 686723 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 10, 2008).
During the dispute regarding prisoners who the CDCR was transferring out of state, the parties had met to review the dental files for those prisoners eligible for transfer to determine whether they were a member of the class. However, the defendants refused to let the experts review the files. As a result, on October 20, 2008, Judge White granted the plaintiffs' motion to enforce the stipulated injunction and court order regarding experts to allow them access to prisoners' records. Perez v. Cate, 2008 WL 4665130 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 20, 2008).
In 2009, the receiver in Plata v. Schwarzenegger, the special master in Coleman v. Schwarzenegger, and the experts in this case and Armstrong v. Schwarzenegger, PC-CA-1
in this Clearinghouse, presented to the judges in the four cases an agreement that they had reached during the coordination meetings for health care administrative appeals. On January 15, 2009, Judge White ordered that the parties in the four cases had until January 30, 2009, to show cause why the agreement should not be adopted as an order of the court.
Then in this case, regarding the prisoners be transferred out of state, the experts filed a report stating that the defendants' screening process was inadequate and that the application of the screening procedure resulted in an increased likelihood that inmates with essential dental care needs would be endorsed for the transfer. The experts also provided a better screening protocol, which the defendants disagreed with. As a result, the plaintiffs asked the court to modify the amended stipulation to require the defendants to implement an effective screening program approved by the experts and to suspend the transfer program pending the development of such a screening program. On February 23, 2009, Judge White ordered the parties to develop a mutually agreeable screening protocol and the defendants to stop transferring a certain class of inmates until the new screening program was developed. Perez v. Cate, 2009 WL 440508 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 23, 2009).
Also on February 23, 2009, Judge White granted the plaintiffs' motion to join Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as a party defendant.
Pursuant to the amended stipulation injunction from 2006, the plaintiffs were entitled to apply for attorneys' fees. In 2007, Judge White had approved the parties' stipulation to periodic payment of attorneys' fees and costs. A dispute arose over the hourly rate for paralegal services. The defendants paid the plaintiffs' requested rate but asked the court to award a lower rate in the future. The disputed amount was $3,553. On September 1, 2009, Judge White ordered the defendants to pay the plaintiffs the disputed $3,553 granting the plaintiffs' motion to compel the disputed 2008 attorneys' fees. Judge White held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act limits courts to an hourly rate that is 150 percent of the rate established for court-appointed counsel under the Criminal Justice Act and does not set a separate benchmark rate for paralegal fees. Perez v. Cate, 2009 WL 2849593 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 1, 2009). The defendants appealed this decision.
On January 13, 2011, Judge Sandra Segal Ikuta, writing for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, affirmed the district court's decisions, holding that paralegal fees were subject to the same hourly cap as attorney fees. Perez v. Cate, 632 F.3d 553, 558 (9th Cir. 2011).
In August 2012, the case was dismissed with the exception of the provision requiring construction of dental clinics. The docket shows no activity after May 2013, so the current status of the case is unclear. Kristen Sagar - 11/13/2008
Jessica Kincaid - 07/13/2014