On January 16, 2003, a taxpayer whose juvenile nephew was a ward of the court filed this lawsuit in the Alameda County, California, Superior Court. The plaintiff filed under state law against the director of the California Youth Authority ("CYA"). She alleged that the CYA expended funds on policies, procedures, and practices that were illegal under state law. Represented by counsel from the Prison Law Office, from Disability Rights Advocates, and from two major firms, she sought declaratory and injunctive relief to prohibit the allegedly illegal expenditures and prevent the CYA from subjecting its wards to illegal conduct. She also sought attorneys' fees and continuing jurisdiction by the court until the CYA complied with remedial orders. The CYA generally denied her allegations. Discovery proceedings occurred for the following several months.
The plaintiff's complaint, as amended in September 2003, alleged that the CYA failed in its statutory duties to provide training, treatment and rehabilitation to juvenile wards entrusted to CYA care. CYA shortcomings allegedly included failing to provide for prisoner safety, subjecting wards to excessive force from staff and sexual assaults from other wards, to female-on-female violence, to gang violence, and to staff-encouraged fights among wards. The plaintiff also alleged that the segregation of wards for conduct reasons involved CYA placement of some wards in inhumane, filthy, stultifying housing conditions (a) lacking programs to train improved behaviors or to improve mental health problems, and (b) which promoted mental illness and suicide. Relatedly, the plaintiff alleged that, in numerous particulars, CYA wards were denied adequate medical, dental, and mental health care. Deficient or absent educational, substance abuse, exercise, religious, grievance and access to courts programs, at inadequate CYA physical facilities, were among plaintiff's allegations. The plaintiff asserted that developmentally disabled, cognitively impaired, and sensory impaired CYA wards were denied basic care, physical accommodations, and necessary staffing and were subject to discrimination and harassment, as were mentally ill wards. The plaintiff also cited sex discrimination by the CYA in its disparate provision of college classes and vocational training to female wards, in comparison to male wards. The plaintiff's complaint repeatedly quoted from CYA budget and Inspector General reports and documents to bolster her assertions. The plaintiff's complaint did not rely on federal law; instead, she cited dozens of provisions of California's constitution, civil law, and penal code in support of her claims.
The parties agreed that experts would review the CYA's performance in several topical areas. The experts' reports were made available to the plaintiff and the public in early 2004.
The parties entered into a consent decree in early November 2004. It required improving CYA shortcomings in multiple respects, including ward safety, staff training, classification, grievance systems, religious services, gang-related violence issues, verbal abuse, physical facilities, program access, mental health, education, sex offender treatment, and accommodations for disabled wards. The decree called for detailed remedial plans addressing these topics to be filed with the court by January 31, 2005, and implemented by the CYA, for interim plans and improvements in the meantime, and for appointment of Donna Brorby as Special Master, compensated by CYA funds, to monitor remedial compliance. The decree obligated the CYA to retain independent experts in the areas needing remediation and to provide them, and plaintiff's counsel, with access to CYA facilities. Disputes arising under the terms of the decree would be settled by arbitration. Attorneys' fees would be paid by the CYA. Judge Ronald M. Sabraw accepted the consent decree and entered judgment on December 29, 2004, according to the case's docket sheet.
In succeeding months and years, numerous evaluative reports were filed with the court, as well as Special Master's reports on CYA performance and compliance. Of note, the CYA's name changed during this period, becoming the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. An agreed-upon delay in filing the remedial plans until November 2005, stemmed from the parties' desire to comprehensively remedy systemic problems at DJJ, which required improvements in adult institutions, as well. By November 2006, remedial plans were being implemented covering education, sex behavior treatment, disabilities issues, and medical care, new leadership existed at key DJJ posts, and institutional change was underway, according to the Special Master, who observed mixed progress and DJJ resource limitations.
In August 2011, a federal judge issued an order finding that the DJJ was still in violation of its duties to provide education and programming to wards housed in its facilities. The Court granted a motion for enforcement and set deadlines for the DJJ to comply with its obligations under the Remedial Plan.
The Special Master in the Farrell case has continued to file periodic reports detailing the changes in conditions for wards at Department of Juvenile Justice facilities. Active management of the case by the court appears to be on-going.
This case is similar to three other cases in this database which were brought, in part, by the Prison Law Office to challenge conditions in California juvenile facilities. Those cases are Hixon v. Hope (JI-CA-14), Porter v. Speirs (JI-CA-15), and Waters v. Woodford (JI-CA-16).
Lawsuit Timeline as of August 2013: http://www.cjcj.org/uploads/cjcj/documents/farrell_litigation_timeline.pdfMike Fagan - 05/16/2008