On October 14, 2003, the Ohio Justice & Policy Center filed a class action lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on behalf of three prisoners who claimed that their health care was unconstitutionally inadequate. In particular, they cited staffing shortages, long delays in the provision of routine and emergency care, problems ordering and obtaining results of diagnostic tests, and inadequate control measures. On January 23, 2004, the court certified the case as a class action, naming Ohio Justice and Policy Center (formerly the Prison Reform Advocacy Center) as class counsel.
On April 2, 2004, the parties jointly approved of a Medical Investigation Team (MIT), composed of leading correctional health care experts, to conduct an audit of Ohio's prison healthcare system. The MIT released its report in February 2005, and the parties accepted the Report's findings in March 2005. Parties subsequently began negotiations and in October 2005 agreed upon a five-year settlement. The settlement, preliminarily approved by the court (Judge Sandra Beckwith) on October 6, 2005, and finally approved on November 22, 2005, after a hearing on November 16, 2005, created major reforms in a variety of areas of Ohio's prison healthcare, including: medical staffing, implementation, training, access to care, reception and screening, health assessments, transfer screening, chronic care, consultations, medication, consent, emergency services, sick call, infectious diseases, infection control, infirmary, medical equipment, medical records, mortality reviews, credentialing, physician leadership, special populations, dental, grievance, emergency response plan, privacy, diet, discharge planning, compliance and a variety of other administrative policies to secure enforcement. The parties also agreed that a five-year period was required in order to achieve the core goals set forth in the stipulation, while also recognizing that the Prison Litigation Reform Act states that prospective injunctive relief is terminable after two years. Fussell v. Wilkinson, 1:03-CV-704, 2005 WL 3132321 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 22, 2005). Later, on February 26, 2007, the parties filed a stipulation regarding provision of dental services with the court.
During the period of the stipulation, the Medical Oversight Committee (MOC) provided the court with regular reports that detailed both the progress being made and continuing problems encountered at the various state institutions. The monitor and counsel also willingly assisted the court from time to time in investigating and responding to individual complaints about medical care.
On August 21, 2008, a plaintiff (Daniel Wilson) filed a motion seeking enforcement of the agreed upon stipulation or, in the alternative, holding the defendants in contempt of court for failing to provide the plaintiff with unimpeded, timely, and professional acceptable and efficient medical care for his serious medical needs and pain management. However, on January 15, 2009, Judge Beckwith found the plaintiff's motion seeking hip surgery as moot since the surgery occurred in November 2008.
On March 12, 2009, dissatisfied with the court's rulings and the class counsel's handling of the case, an interested party (William E. Martin) filed motions to intervene as a party in this case, for appointment of counsel, to grant a hearing on his motion and to order several other inmates to be brought to court to testify, to hold in contempt numerous state officials for violations of the Consent Decree, to order the release of 25,500 inmates from Ohio prisons, and to award him sanctions for every day he was denied proper medical treatment. On June 1, 2009, Judge Beckwith denied all the interested party's motions, who then filed a motion for recusal. On July 21, 2009, Judge Beckwith denied the interested party's motion for recusal.
On June 10, 2009, the interested party then filed a motion for relief from judgment. The case was referred to Magistrate Judge Timothy S. Black, who recommended that the interested party's motion for relief from judgment be denied. On September 21, 2009, Judge Beckwith adopted Magistrate Judge Black's recommendation, denying the interested party's motion for relief from judgment. Fussell v. Wilkinson, 1:03-CV-704, 2009 WL 3010850 (S.D. Ohio Sept. 21, 2009). The interested party appealed, but on August 10, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit denied the petition for a writ of mandamus.
On November 2, 2010, Judge Beckwith approved modification to the original settlement that both parties had agreed to. ODRC was in the process of converting all of the medical staff positions to the civil service, and it agreed to extend the stipulation to complete that process. The parties agreed to extend the stipulation for an additional eighteen months, to June 22, 2012, at which time it would expire by its terms. They also agreed that the stipulation with regard to dental services would expire on June 30, 2011.
On April 11, 2012, Judge Beckwith dismissed a different case, Greene v. Kasich, 1:12-cv-144, (S.D. Ohio Feb. 17, 2012), because the plaintiffs in that case violated the terms of this case's consent decree by not using the remedies and procedures outlined in the consent decree. If the plaintiffs had a legitimate complaint about systemic deficiencies in Ohio's medical care system, they had to use those remedies and procedures prior to instituting any legal action of their own.
On June 6, 2012, the plaintiffs filed a motion for extension of the stipulation for relief and to stay the termination of the stipulatio pending ruling on this motion. The defendants opposed the motion but conceded that a stay of the termination date would be appropriate pending the submission of the final report from the MOC. Thus, on June 13, 2012, Judge Beckwith stayed the termination date (which had been June 22, 2012) to permit the parties and the court to review the anticipated report granted the plaintiffs.
On July 16, 2012, the MOC submitted the final report. The findings stated that there were no current and ongoing violations of the Eighth Amendment and that the stipulation was no longer necessary. The MOC did identify remaining problems in medical care, but nothing that rose to the level of a constitutional violation. The ODRC had also agreed to continue working with the members of the MOC for two more years to improve quality assurance programs and procedures.
On September 24, 2012, the parties filed a stipulation of dismissal, agreeing that the 2005 stipulation should expire as scheduled and that the court would no longer have jurisdiction of that stipulation. The private settlement agreement stated that during the two-year period of ongoing oversight and consultation services provided by members of the MOC, the ODRC agreed to pay additional sums to class counsel to cover some of OJPC's costs attendant to OJPC's ongoing involvement with the consultants' services. As a result, on October 2, 2012, Judge Beckwith terminated the November 2005 stipulation for injunctive relief and all modifications. Fussell v. Wilkinson, 1:03-CV-704, 2012 WL 4506231 (S.D. Ohio Oct. 2, 2012).Kristen Sagar - 06/07/2009
Jessica Kincaid - 07/13/2014