Plaintiffs, disabled inmates of the New York State Department of Correctional Services (''DOCS''), brought an action via an amended complaint in April 2003, against defendants (DOCS administrators and health care facility supervisors) alleging violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (''ADA''), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794. The plaintiffs were represented by attorneys from The Prisoners' Rights Project of The Legal Aid Society in New York City. The case asked the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for declaratory and injunctive relief, together with attorneys' fees. The plaintiffs sought to redress the defendants' failure to provide access to prison programs, services and activities to prisoners with disabilities who are in DOCS custody and housed in its Regional Medical Units (RMUs). Plaintiffs sought to represent a class of individuals with disabilities housed in the RMUs, who are not provided access to prison programs available to non-disabled prisoners, such as educational, vocational, work and substance abuse programs, including those that would qualify them for an earlier release from prison.
The district court (District Judge Charles L. Brieant), in an unpublished memorandum and order dated September 24, 2003, dismissed the action. Judge Brieant found that plaintiffs had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies prior to filing suit as required by part of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), because, though they had arguably exhausted internal prison grievance procedures, they had not lodged a complaint with the Department of Justice (''DOJ''). DOJ regulations at 28 C.F.R. 35.170-178 provide a complaint procedure for persons who believe they have been subjected to discrimination on the basis of disability by a public entity and this procedure, too, according to the district court, must be exhausted prior to filing suit. The judge ruled this was so, even if the DOJ process is largely advisory and lacks the means of providing the relief the plaintiffs seek.
After the dismissal, plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Before the appeal process concluded, the defendants moved to have the appellate court vacate the district court's order and remand the case for further proceedings. The basis of the motion was the defendants' announced decision to abandon reliance on the DOJ administrative exhaustion defense, now and in the future. The plaintiffs consented to the motion and, in a brief ruling on March 2, 2005, the Second Circuit vacated the district court's order of dismissal and remanded the case. Rosario v. Goord, 400 F.3d 108 (2d Cir. 2005) (per curiam).
Having returned to the district court, the parties there disputed whether the case should be accorded class action status. In an unpublished order, Judge Brieant ruled in the plaintiffs' favor on that issue on September 15, 2005. A second amended complaint, filed by the plaintiffs of March 1, 2006, was answered by the defendants on March 23d. By July 21, 2006, the parties' settlement negotiations produced a voluntary stipulation of dismissal, subject to their settlement agreement and a notice of the impending dismissal and settlement was sent to the plaintiff class. On September 29, 2006, the court approved the voluntary dismissal and settlement agreement in the case. We do not have details about the settlement's terms.
We have no further information on the case.Mike Fagan - 04/30/2008