United States District Court, M.D. Alabama
PHASE 2A OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING EIGHTH AMENDMENT
H. THOMPSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
litigation is before the court on the plaintiffs'
proposal, submitted on December 21, 2017 (doc. no. 1525), for
procedures for resolving the parties' disputes regarding
the placement of prisoners with serious mental illness (SMI)
in segregation. When the plaintiffs filed their proposal, it
was unclear whether they intended a district judge or a
magistrate judge to consider it. And along with this
‘for whom' question, there is the underlying
question of ‘why' the plaintiffs even filed the
on-the-record hearing on the December 21 proposal was held on
December 27, 2017. The court now addresses how it will handle
Phase 2A issue of segregation is currently before the court
in two ways. First, in its Eighth Amendment
liability opinion on June 27, 2017, see Braggs v.
Dunn, 257 F.Supp.3d 1171 (M.D. Ala. 2017), the court
reserved a finding on the plaintiffs' contention that the
Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) is not conducting
adequate periodic mental-health evaluations of prisoners in
segregation. The court completed an evidentiary hearing on
this discrete contention on December 1, 2017, and the parties
are now to make post-hearing legal submissions in January
2018. See Order (doc. no. 1504). The plaintiffs'
December 21 proposal does not appear to be part of these
January post-hearing submissions.
in its June 27 opinion, the court did make a liability
finding that, among other things, “it is categorically
inappropriate to place prisoners with serious mental illness
in segregation absent extenuating circumstances.”
Id. at 1247. Pretrial and trial hearings on what
remedy is appropriate in light of this finding are set,
respectively, for January 23 and February 5, 2018, with the
defendants to make a pretrial submission on January 5 and 8
and the plaintiffs to respond to that submission on January
15. See Order (doc. no. 1522). It clearly appears
that the plaintiffs' December 21 proposal goes to this
aspect of the case and thus should be handled as a part of
it. The parties are, therefore, to address the
plaintiffs' December 21 proposal in their January 5, 8,
and 15 pretrial submissions.
December 27 hearing, counsel for plaintiffs said that they
submitted their December 21 proposal for consideration by
Magistrate Judge Borden in the hope that he might facilitate,
and thus help the court in, resolution of this remedy aspect
of the case by making factual findings as to whether the ADOC
is currently placing SMI prisoners in segregation and, if so,
under what circumstances. Defense counsel responded with a
concern that any finding by the magistrate judge would be
duplicative of the findings the court would need to make at
the February 5 hearing. The court remains open to the
participation of the magistrate judge in the factual
resolution of aspects of this case where appropriate.
However, it is imperative that the magistrate judge's
role be clearly defined and that that role be within the
legal authority given to the magistrate judge. The court
will, therefore, require that, in their January 5, 8, and 15
pretrial submissions, the parties are to include their
suggestions of what role, if any, the magistrate judge
should, and by law may, play in the fashioning of a remedy in
response to the court's June 27 finding of liability as
in their December 21 proposal, the plaintiffs raised a
discovery matter that the court thinks it should address now,
since the upcoming January 23 and February 5 hearings are so
near. In the proposal, the plaintiffs stated: “This
Court already has sufficient evidence before it to resolve
the dispute: ADOC is placing large numbers of persons that it
has identified as having serious mental illness in
segregation.” Plaintiffs' Proposal (doc. no. 1525)
at 2. The plaintiffs then identified what they consider
“sufficient evidence.” Id. at 2-3.
Afterwards they added: “If the Court does not consider
the evidence already before it to be sufficient to determine
whether persons with serious mental illness are being placed
in segregation or if the Court seeks to determine the scope
of the problem, the Court should order the following
documentation to be produced ....” Id. at 3-4.
In pages 4 through 13 of their December 21 proposal, they
identified and discussed additional discovery.
December 27 hearing, the defendants strongly disputed both
the legal and factual bases for the plaintiffs'
contention that the ADOC is still inappropriately placing SMI
prisoners in segregation. Because of the defendants'
stance as well as the seriousness of the issue, the court
believes that additional discovery on whether the ADOC is
still inappropriately placing SMI prisoners in segregation is
warranted and, if so, on what “the scope of the
problem, ” id. at 4, is. The court is not
saying, at this time, that the additional discovery should be
as outlined in the December 21 proposal. Instead, the court
will leave this additional discovery for resolution by the
magistrate judge should the parties have a dispute over the
it is ORDERED that, in their submissions of January 5, 8, and
15, 2018, see Order (doc. no. 1522), the parties are
(1) to address, with all other relevant matters, the
plaintiffs' proposal for procedures for resolving the
parties' disputes regarding the placement of prisoners
with serious mental illness in segregation (doc. no. 1525),
as well as (2) to make suggestions of what role, if any, the
magistrate judge should, and by law may, play in the
fashioning of a remedy in response to the court's June
27, 2017, finding of liability as to segregation.
further ORDERED that the parties may engage in additional
discovery as outlined in ...