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Parsons v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 6, 2017

Victor Antonio Parsons, et al., Plaintiffs,
Charles L. Ryan, et al., Defendants.


          David K. Duncan, United States Magistrate Judge

         Defendants moved for Rule 60(b) relief from the Court's November 10, 2016 Order (“Outside Provider Order”). (Doc. 1779) Defendants frame their argument in two parts: (1) the Court's order impermissibly modified the Stipulation's timeframe and compliance rates and (2) the Court did not appreciate the ensuing logistical and security issues and they should be permitted to present testimony on this matter. (Doc. 1779, 1821 at 5, 7) Before briefing on this motion was complete, Defendants filed a Notice of Appeal. (Doc. 1817) The Court retains jurisdiction of this matter under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(4)(B)(i).

         Procedural Background and Jurisdiction.

         As an initial matter, the Court notes that, without explanation, Defendants have formulated their motion as one for relief under Rule 60(b)(1), (4), and (6). (Doc. 1779 at 2) As Plaintiffs' note, these sections of Rule 60(b) are mutually exclusive and subject to different standards. (Doc. 1806 at 8) Defendants do not explain or justify their attempt to use multiple subsections and do not analyze their claim under any particular standard. (Docs. 1779, 1821) Instead, they argue that “Plaintiffs do not dispute that Defendants may appropriately challenge the Court's November 10, 2016 order under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60. Therefore, there is not jurisdictional basis to not consider Defendants' Motion.” Doc. 1821 at n.1.

         First, the Court notes that any perceived waiver by Plaintiffs does not eliminate the Court's duty to ensure the procedural jurisdictional propriety of Defendants' pending motion. On first review, it appears that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) may not be the most appropriate vehicle for challenging the Court's order because this matter is not post-judgment in the traditional sense of the word because no judge or jury entered judgement and the challenged order is not necessarily “final” as contemplated by Rule 60(b).[1] 28 U.S.C. § 1291; Catlin v. U.S., 324 U.S. 229, 233 (1945) (“A ‘final decision' generally is one which ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment.”).

         Nevertheless, the Court has concluded that the parties are entitled to some mechanism for the Court to review its orders interpreting the Stipulation. U.S. v. Washington, 761 F.2d 1404, 1406 (9th Cir. 1985). Accordingly, the Court will assume that Defendants' motion under Rule 60(b) is proper when, as here, the Court's Order is an exercise of its remedial authority pursuant to Paragraph 36 of the Stipulation.[2] (Doc. 1185 at 14-15)

         However, Defendants have attempted to bootstrap their argument into multiple subsections of Rule 60(b) without any explanation or analysis. (Doc. 1779 at 2:1) This will not suffice. Defendants have not explained how the Outside Provider Order is a void judgment and so the Court concludes that Defendants are not entitled to relief under Rule 60(b)(4) which, by its plain language, is limited to “void judgments.” Defendant's motion also does not explain which subsection of Rule 60(b)(1)-mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect-would apply and so the Court will consider this claim waived. (Doc. 1779) Accordingly, the Court will construe Defendants' motion as one for relief under Rule 60(b)(6)'s catch-all provision. Thus, the question is whether Defendants have shown “extraordinary circumstances” such that they are entitled to relief. Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 535 (2005).

         Application of Order.

         Before evaluating Defendants' arguments, it is worth reiterating the scope of the Outside Provider Order. (Doc. 1754 at 4) The Court is not ordering Defendants to use Outside Providers in the first instance. The Court expects Defendants can and should use all of their internal resources first and foremost to comply with the Stipulation. Using internally available resources should provide the most expeditious and effective care to Class Members. Some of these resources are described by Defendants' remediation plans. Other resources, like hiring sufficient staff, are not in a remediation plan but remain a viable solution that Defendants can (and probably should) implement on their own. It is only when Defendants' internal resources are insufficient that the Court's Order to use Outside Providers takes effect. In other words, if Defendants comply with the Stipulation using on-site resources, then the Court's Order on Outside Providers would not apply. It is only when Defendants cannot provide on-site resources to Class Members that the Court's Order on Outside Providers becomes applicable.

         The Stipulation was not modified.[3]

         Defendants claim that the Court cannot mandate 100% compliance with the Stipulation because the Stipulation only requires that Defendants meet the substantial compliance thresholds, currently set at 80% and soon to rise to 85%. (Doc. 1779 at 5) Plaintiffs counter that the Stipulation requires Defendants to provide 100% compliance and that the Stipulation's definition of “substantial compliance” only describes the trigger for the Stipulation's enforcement measures not the cap for the Court's involvement. (Doc. 1806 at 10-13)

         Both parties use the plain language of Paragraphs 8, 9, and 10 of the Stipulation to bolster their arguments. (Doc. 1185 at 3-4) After extensive consideration and analysis, the Court has concluded that these three paragraphs use the terms “compliance” and “substantial compliance” in contradictory ways that cannot be reconciled simply by reference to the plain language. Accordingly, the Court must turn to the Stipulation's intent. See, e.g., Williston on Contracts 4th, §§ 32:7, 32:9.

         As the Court has repeatedly explained, the Court understands that the Stipulation requires 100% compliance with the performance measures and that the graduated compliance rates are the trigger for the imposition of a remediation plan. (Doc. 1767 at 17-19) Put another way, the Court understands that the Stipulation requires 100% compliance and, therefore, its Order on Outside Providers requires Defendants to pursue 100% compliance.

         Defendants' argument that the Stipulation only requires 80% compliance conflates the Defendants' obligation to provide healthcare with the Court's authority to require them to do so. In other words, there is a delta between the Court's authority and the Stipulation's requirement: the Court cannot impose remedial measures if Defendants fall below the Stipulation's 100% requirement but satisfy the Stipulation's substantial compliance percentages. Here, the Court has not exceeded its authority ...

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