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Armstrong v. Brown

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

September 26, 2014

JOHN ARMSTRONG; JAMES AMAURIC; RICHARD PONCIANO; JACK SWENSEN; BILLY BECK; JUDY FENDT; WALTER FRATUS; GREGORY SANDOVAL; DARLENE MADISON; PETER RICHARDSON; STEVEN HILL; DAVID ROSE; DAVID BLESSING; ELIO CASTRO; ELMER UMBENHOWER; RAYMOND HAYES; GENE HORROCKS; KIAH MINCEY; CLIFTON FEATHERS; WILLIE JOHNSON; DAVID BADILLO; JAMES SIMMONS; FLORA ABRAMS; JOEY GOUGH; TIMOTHY WHISMAN, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
EDMUND G. BROWN, JR.; MICHAEL MINOR; MATTHEW L. CATE; DIANA TOCHE; CHRIS MEYER; KATHLEEN DICKINSON; MARGARITA PEREZ, Defendants-Appellants

Argued and Submitted, Pasadena, California: May 20, 2014.

Page 976

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 977

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. D.C. No. 4:94-cv-02307 CW. Claudia Wilken, Chief District Judge, Presiding.

SUMMARY[*]

Prisoner Civil Rights

The panel affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court's order modifying the accountability provisions of an earlier injunction ordering the State of California to take specified steps to ensure that disabled inmates were provided with needed accommodations.

The panel rejected the State's contention that the Modified Injunction was issued without notice and an opportunity for it to respond. The panel further held that the State waived its challenge to the statewide scope of the injunction and also waived its argument that the injunction conflicted with state law and the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the State and prison employees. The panel declined to exercise its discretion to consider these arguments.

The panel held that the Modified Injunction complied with the Prison Litigation Reform Act. The panel held that the district court did not err in finding that a modification to the accountability system was necessary because the State had failed to fulfill the accountability requirements mandated by its previous injunction to track inmates' needs and ensure the receipt of needed accommodations. The panel determined that the Modified Injunction was narrowly tailored and no broader than necessary to address the federal violations.

The panel held that the district court exceeded its authority in appointing an expert to resolve disputes between plaintiffs and the State because this delegation of authority was beyond the scope of the duties that may be assigned to an expert appointed pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 706. The panel therefore vacated that portion of the Modified Injunction and remanded to the district court with instructions to revise the Modified Injunction in a manner consistent with the panel's opinion.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General of California, Jonathan L. Wolff, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Jay C. Russell, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, Janelle M. Smith, Deputy Attorney General, Jay M. Goldman (argued), Supervising Deputy Attorney General, San Francisco, California, for Defendants-Appellants.

Donald Specter (argued), Warren George, Rebekah Evenson, and Penny Godbold, Prison Law Office, Berkeley, California; Michael W. Bien, Gay C. Grunfeld, Lisa Ells, Blake Thompson, and Michael Freedman, Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP, San Francisco, California; and Linda Kilb, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Inc., Berkeley, California, for Plaintiffs-Appellees.

Before: Stephen Reinhardt, A. Wallace Tashima, and Marsha S. Berzon, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge Tashima.

OPINION

Page 978

TASHIMA, Circuit Judge:

For more than two decades, disabled prisoners have been mired in litigation aimed at bringing California's prison facilities into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ), the Rehabilitation Act (" RA" ), and the U.S. Constitution. In this appeal, Defendants, officials responsible for the state's corrections system (collectively, the " State" ), challenge a 2012 order in which the district court modified the accountability provisions of an earlier injunction ordering the State to take specified steps to ensure that disabled inmates were provided with needed accommodations. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm in part and vacate in part the district court's order.

I.

In 1994, Plaintiffs, a class of disabled state prisoners and parolees, filed an action against officials responsible for California's corrections system and parole proceedings, seeking disability accommodations required by the ADA and the RA.[1] After a series of orders in which the district court and this court found the State to be in violation of these federal statutes, the State produced a remedial plan intended to ensure that disabled inmates had access to programs and facilities in California's prisons. Armstrong v. Schwarzenegger, 622 F.3d 1058, 1063 (9th Cir. 2010) (" Armstrong II " ). In March 2001, the district court entered a permanent injunction directing enforcement of the remedial plan (the " 2001 Injunction" ). Id.

By 2007, however, the State had failed to bring its correctional facilities into compliance with the remedial plan and the 2001 Injunction. Armstrong v. Schwarzenegger, No. 4:94-cv-2307 (N.D. Cal. Jan 18, 2007). Accordingly, the district court issued another injunction (the " 2007 Injunction" ), which provided, in relevant part:

Within 120 days of the date of this Order, defendants . . . shall develop a system for holding wardens and prison medical administrators accountable for compliance with the Armstrong Remedial Plan and the orders of this Court. This system shall track the record of each institution and the conduct of individual staff members who are not complying with these requirements . . . .

Id.

In response to the 2007 Injunction, the State issued a memorandum outlining tracking, investigation, and reporting protocols designed to address the failings identified by the district court (the " 2008 Memo" ). The 2008 Memo provided that allegations or reports of staff misconduct would be investigated by a designated Hiring Authority, which would render a decision in the matter. The Hiring Authority's decision would then be recorded in non-compliance logs, which were to be provided to the district court and Plaintiffs' counsel.

Page 979

In 2012, Plaintiffs, dissatisfied with the State's response to the 2007 Injunction, filed a request for an order to show cause why the State should not be held in contempt for failing to comply with the injunction's accountability requirements. In the motion, Plaintiffs submitted evidence that inmates were continuing to be denied access to needed accommodations and that the State had failed to investigate and record numerous alleged violations of the remedial plan. In opposition, the State argued that the 2007 Injunction required institutions to track only instances of actual employee noncompliance, as found by the Hiring Authority, and not unsubstantiated allegations. The State also argued that the 2007 Injunction did not require it to investigate or log allegations that did not identify a particular staff member responsible for the deprivation, that did not allege that the deprivation resulted from misconduct, or that were later remedied.

The district court disagreed with the State's interpretation of its investigation and logging obligations, but declined to hold the State in contempt. Armstrong v. Brown, No. 94-cv-2307 CW, 2012 WL 3638675, at *8 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 22, 2012). The district court concluded that " the 2007 injunction implicitly required Defendants to include in the accountability system requirements to investigate promptly and appropriately all allegations of violations, regardless of the source, and to record the outcomes of the investigations, including whether or not the allegations were substantiated . . . ." Id. The district court further found that the State's reporting practices did not comply with these requirements. Id. However, " in an abundance of caution," the district court concluded that the 2007 Injunction might not have stated these requirements clearly enough and, instead of holding the State in contempt, issued an injunction clarifying the State's accountability obligations (the " Modified Injunction" ). Id. The district court modified the injunction explicitly to mandate that the State investigate and " track all allegations of non-compliance with the [remedial plan] and the orders of this Court." Id. (emphasis added). The district court also added dispute-resolution procedures, including that Plaintiffs' counsel may review the investigations and that an expert witness would resolve disputes between Plaintiffs' counsel and the State over compliance. [WL] at *11-*12.

The State appealed the Modified Injunction on several grounds. The State contends that the Modified Injunction is invalid because it was issued without notice and an opportunity for the State to be heard; that it violates the Prison Litigation Reform Act (" PLRA" ); that the statewide scope of the injunction is unjustified by the evidence; that the district court exceeded its authority in appointing an expert to resolve disputes between Plaintiffs and the State; and that the Modified Injunction conflicts with various ...


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