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Coleman v. Newsom

United States District Court, E.D. California

January 7, 2020

RALPH COLEMAN, et al., Plaintiffs,
GAVIN NEWSOM, et al., Defendants.


         As required by court order, on December 13, 2019, this matter came on for the third quarterly status conference of 2019. Michael Bien, Esq., Lisa Ells, Esq., Steven Fama, Esq., Jenny Yelin, Esq. and Cara Trapani, Esq., appeared as counsel for plaintiffs. Kyle Lewis and Elise Thorn, Deputy Attorneys General, and Roman Silberfeld, Esq., appeared as counsel for defendants. Also present in court with defendants were Rei Onishi, Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary to Governor Gavin Newsom; Jerome Hessick, General Counsel for California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR); Diana Toche, Undersecretary for Healthcare Services for CDCR; and Christine Ciccotti, General Counsel for the Department of State Hospitals.

         On December 4, 2019, the court issued an order setting an agenda for the status conference, which guided the proceeding. See ECF No. 6403. After consideration of the parties' briefing and discussion with counsel, the court makes the following findings and orders.


         A. History, Purpose and Nature of Coordination

         Formal coordination between this action and the Plata[1] case began in 2006. This court has recently reviewed the origins of the coordination process and noted the court orders issued by the coordinating courts in 2007 and 2008.[2] ECF No. 6396. After review, it appears that at least some of those orders are outdated and in need of updates. The Special Master has informed the court that he and the Plata Receiver have begun review of those orders and discussion of necessary updates. The court anticipates receiving proposed updates in due course.

         As proceedings before this court have revealed, it also appears that the coordination process has strayed from its founding principles. Given some of the statements in the parties' briefing, the court once again articulates its view that this departure is not the fault of the Plata Receiver. From this court's perspective, the fault lies primarily with defendants in this action who have failed to observe the proper boundaries between their remedial responsibilities to this court and its Special Master while they also work with the Plata Receiver on other matters. Going forward, as the coordination process continues and becomes more robust, the ground rules for those matters under this court's jurisdiction are as follows.

         First, there will be full transparency. If any stakeholder has a question about whether information should be shared, it should be shared. Everyone involved should err on the side of transparency.

         Second, the court cannot comprehend why new assertions of possible claims of privilege have arisen in discussions of the coordination process between this court's Special Master and the Plata Receiver, each of whom is an arm of his respective court. During proceedings here on the Golding Report, this court exercised its discretion to not “venture further into the thicket” of privilege claims raised then by defendants. ECF No. 6247 at 10. The court did so in order to avoiding wasting “valuable court time and resources and distract[ing] from the important, indeed imperative, tasks that remain to achieve delivery of constitutionally adequate mental health care, ” despite the court's “general impression” that defendants had “overreached” with many of their privilege claims. Id. All stakeholders are encouraged to think deeply and carefully before asserting claims of privilege in the context of the coordination process or otherwise as related to this case, given the public interests at stake. Going forward, the court will not hesitate to reach the merits and resolve any asserted claim of privilege that affects the Coleman class in any way.

         B. Whether, and to what extent, defendants have been unilaterally coordinating remedial efforts with the Plata Receiver, advising the court and Special Master only after significant effort has been expended; whether, and to what extent, any such efforts have been properly and timely disclosed to the Special Master and/or the plaintiffs; and whether plaintiffs should be granted a period of discovery designed to identify answers to these questions

         The parties have agreed to a period of sixty days for an informal exchange of information related to the extent to which defendants have been coordinating remedial efforts with the Plata Receiver and whether or not those efforts have been timely disclosed to the Special Master and/or the plaintiffs. The parties also plan to discuss entering into an information-sharing stipulation in Plata and Coleman similar to the agreement that exists now between the Coleman class and the Armstrong class. The parties shall present a proposed stipulation and protective order to the court for consideration within thirty days. This matter is continued to the agenda for first quarterly status conference of 2020. See Section VII infra.

         C. Whether the Special Master should be granted authority to hire his own data expert to support his renewed coordination with the Receiver

         At hearing, all parties agreed the Special Master should be authorized to hire his own data expert as part of the ongoing remedial process that follows the court's proceedings on the Golding Report and the proposed coordination of data management with the Plata Receiver. The court agrees, and will authorize the Special Master to submit a request to approve this hiring when he has identified an appropriate expert.

         D. Review of reporting channels and committee/subcommittee structures relevant to mental health data collection and reporting

         As required by court order, defendants have filed a list of “reporting channels and committee/subcommittee structures relevant to mental health data collection and reporting, whether currently in place or put on hold during the Golding proceedings, ” ECF No. 6396 at 5. See ECF No. 6398. The list is substantially similar to a list provided at the court's request by the Plata Receiver; the Plata Receiver recently updated his courtesy list to include two additional mental health committees not reflected on the list filed by defendants.

         The list filed by defendants is lengthy. At hearing, defendants represented that they intended the list to be fully inclusive, that the list is not static, and that not all committees are currently active. They also represented that they are working with the Special Master on a review of the mental health committees. The discussion of committees will continue at the first quarterly status conference of 2020. By that time, defendants shall provide an updated organizational chart of committees. That chart shall show which committees are active and which are inactive, and to whom active committees report. Defendants shall also be prepared to discuss how the committee structure compares to best business or operations practices. Defendants may, as appropriate, reduce or refine the number of committees for this presentation, explaining changes in the list of committees if they do make changes.

         E. Review of Coleman/Plata coordination efforts generally

         As noted above, the details of coordinated efforts are evolving, and this subject will remain on the agenda for future status conferences. All stakeholders in this action are reminded ...

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