United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
PHASE 2A INVOLUNTARY-MEDICATION SETTLEMENT FINAL
H. THOMPSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
class-action lawsuit brought by a group of seriously mentally
ill prisoners in the custody of the Alabama Department of
Corrections (ADOC or Department) is before the court on a
promised opinion explaining why, in partial resolution of
this litigation, it previously approved a settlement of the
group's claims challenging the Department's
involuntary-medication policies and procedures.
plaintiffs in this phase, Phase 2A, of the lawsuit are a
group of seriously mentally ill state prisoners and the
Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP), which
represents mentally ill prisoners in Alabama. The defendants
are ADOC Commissioner Jefferson Dunn and the ADOC Associate
Commissioner of Health Services Ruth Naglich, who are both
sued in only their official capacities.
plaintiffs claim that the Department's
involuntary-medication policies and procedures deprive
prisoners of due process of law in violation of the
Fourteenth Amendment, as enforced through 42 U.S.C. §
1983. See Fifth Amended Complaint (doc. no. 805) at
137-38. Specifically, they contend that the Department's
involuntary-medication policies and procedures: (1) deny
prisoners subject to involuntary-medication orders
substantive due process by requiring them to be medicated
absent a recent finding of dangerousness; (2) deny prisoners
subject to involuntary-medication orders procedural due
process by failing to provide them with adequate notice of
hearings and other protections provided for in the applicable
regulation; and (3) deny prisoners who are not subject to
involuntary-medication orders substantive and procedural due
process by coercing consent to take medications that they
otherwise would refuse. The plaintiffs seek injunctive and
declaratory relief. Jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331 (federal question) and § 1343(a)(3) (civil
rights). Following months of negotiations, the parties have
settled these claims.
case has twice been bifurcated for administrative convenience
of the court and the parties. In September 2015, this case
was divided into two distinct phases: Phase 1, which involves
claims under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act
(codified at 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq.) and § 504
of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (codified at 29 U.S.C.
§ 794) (both of which statutes are, for ease of
reference, referred to as the ADA), but which claims are
unrelated to mental health; and Phase 2, which involves all
other claims. A year later, in September 2016, the court
further bifurcated this case into Phase 2A, encompassing an
Eighth Amendment claim related to the treatment of prisoners
with mental illness, an ADA claim of prisoners with only
mental disabilities, and involuntary-medication claims; and
Phase 2B, involving Eighth Amendment claims related to
medical and dental care. The court has already granted relief
on several of the plaintiffs' claims.
September 2016, the court approved a settlement of the
plaintiffs' Phase 1 ADA claims for prisoners with
physical disabilities. See Dunn v. Dunn, 318 F.R.D.
652 (M.D. Ala. 2016) (Thompson, J.). The court subsequently
entered the parties' settlement as a consent decree.
2017, the court found the Department liable on the
plaintiffs' Phase 2A Eighth Amendment claim. See
Braggs v. Dunn, ___ F.Supp.3d ___, 2017 WL 2773833 (M.D.
Ala. June 27, 2017) (Thompson, J.). Based upon a veritable
mountain of evidence, the court found the Department's
provision of mental-health care to be “horrendously
inadequate” and constitutionally deficient under the
Eighth Amendment. Id. at *68.
2017, the court approved a settlement of the plaintiffs'
Phase 2A ADA claim, relating to prisoners with mental
disabilities, see Braggs v. Dunn, ___ F.R.D. ___,
2017 WL 3151261 (M.D. Ala. July 25, 2017) (Thompson, J.),
which resulted in the court entering a consent decree.
parties, with the able assistance of United States Magistrate
Judge John E. Ott, have now reached a settlement on the
plaintiffs' only remaining unaddressed claims for Phase
2A: the involuntary-medication claims. The court had
previously certified a class for the plaintiffs'
involuntary-medication claims. See Braggs v. Dunn,
317 F.R.D. 634 (M.D. Ala. 2016) (Thompson, J.).
parties filed a joint motion for preliminary approval of the
proposed settlement of the involuntary-medication claims.
After a hearing on the joint motion, the court preliminarily
approved the proposed settlement. In its preliminary approval
order, the court established a procedure for providing class
members with notice of the agreement and an opportunity to
object and submit comments on the agreement's fairness.
receiving written comments from class members, the court held
two days of fairness hearings in August 2017. During the
first day, the court heard from a representative group of
class members--selected by the court with input of the
parties--who had submitted comments on the proposed
agreement. During the second day, counsel for the parties
responded to various witnesses' comments and questions
raised by the court.
the fairness hearings, the court, on September 6, 2017,
entered an order granting final approval of the Proposed
Phase 2A Involuntary Medication Settlement Agreement and
granted the parties' request to enter their settlement
agreement as a consent decree. This opinion discusses the
court's reasons for doing so.
DESCRIPTION OF PROPOSED SETTLEMENT
speaking, the proposed settlement is designed to address all
disputed issues related to involuntarily medicating ADOC
inmates and remedy all claims arising from that process. It
is meant to include all procedural and substantive
due-process claims. See Proposed Phase 2A
Involuntary Medication Settlement Agreement (doc. no. 1248-1)
agreement includes the following eight substantive
Commissioner agrees to adopt and implement the revised
Administrative Regulation (AR) 621, which is the
Department's involuntary-medication regulation. The
revised regulation contains the following provisions, in
relevant part: (1) a policy against threatening or coercing
prisoners to accept psychotropic medications; (2) a
requirement that the Department consider and document whether
there is a current and substantial likelihood of serious
physical harm towards self or others when deciding to place a
prisoner on an involuntary-medication order; (3) a
requirement that the Involuntary Medication Review Committee
find that involuntary-medication is in the patient's best
medical interest before deciding to issue an
involuntary-medication order; (4) a policy requiring an
independent and knowledgeable advisor to review
involuntary-medication orders and assist prisoners in
challenging an adverse involuntary-medication order, where
appropriate; (5) the creation of an involuntary-medication
review board, consisting of providers who were not involved
in the patient's treatment; and (6) a requirement that a
patient be afforded an opportunity to be unmedicated for 30
days if on an involuntary-medication order for 180 days.
parties agree, and jointly move, to dismiss plaintiff Quang
Bui's claims with prejudice.
Admission of Liability:
parties submit that the agreement may not be construed as an
admission of liability against Commissioner Dunn, Associate
Commissioner Ruth Naglich or the Department. Moreover,
nothing in the agreement is to be construed as evidence of
liability as to any claim or case against the Department or
any of its officials.
of Agreement in Law Libraries:
Department agrees to place the agreement, including the
revised involuntary-medication regulation, in the law library
of every major correctional facility.
of Mental-Health Records to ADAP:
Department will provide information and documentation to ADAP
for review on a monthly basis for 24 months, including (1) a
roster of all prisoners on involuntary-medication orders; and
(2) all medical, mental-health, or other records concerning
the Department's involuntary-medication proceedings
pertaining to up to four prisoners on involuntary-medication
may then prepare and submit a monthly report to the
Department regarding the Department's compliance with
this agreement and the revised involuntary-medication
regulation, including by providing any recommendations it
believes necessary to ensure the Department is in substantial
compliance with the agreement or the revised
involuntary-medication regulation. The Department may object,
comment on, or provide a remedial plan to any suggestions
contained in ADAP's monthly report.
Fees and Expenses:
Department will pay the plaintiffs' attorneys $ 230,
000.00 in fees and costs. This agreement, unlike the
parties' settlements of the plaintiffs' ADA claims,
does not provide for additional fees for monitoring services
or fees associated with any litigation necessary to enforce
the agreement or any resulting consent decree.
parties also agree that the settlement fully resolves the
plaintiffs' “Third Cause of Action: Deprivation of
Due Process Prior to Involuntarily Medicating
Prisoners” claims in the Fifth Amended Complaint. As a
result, no member of the certified settlement class may bring
a claim that the revised involuntary-medication regulation
deprives prisoners of procedural due process during the
settlement term. Finally, the parties agree that named
plaintiff Bui will not to assert a substantive due-process
claim seeking prospective injunctive relief against the
Department concerning its revised involuntary-medication
addition to these substantive provisions, the agreement
contains the following “Other Terms and
in the agreement imposes any obligation to provide any form
of monetary payment to any current or future prisoners housed
within the Department.
parties have agreed to waive the right to appeal the
imposition of the agreement.
Retention of Jurisdiction:
parties agree that, after the court's approval of the
agreement, the court ...