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Parsons v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Arizona

October 10, 2017

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

          ORDER

          DAVID K. DUNCAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Because of pervasive and intractable failures to comply with the Stipulation, the Court is considering the exercise of its civil contempt authority.

         Court's Contempt Authority.

         The Stipulation, negotiated by the parties, defines the Court's enforcement authority as follows:

In the event the Court subsequently determines that the Defendants' plan did not remedy the deficiencies, the Court shall retain the power to enforce this Stipulation through all remedies provided by law, except that the Court shall not have the authority to order Defendants to construct a new prison or to hire a specific number or type of staff unless Defendants propose to do so as part of a plan to remedy a failure to comply with any provision of this Stipulation. In determining the subsequent remedies the Court shall consider whether to require Defendants to submit a revised plan.

(Doc. 1185-1 at ¶ 36) Contempt is a statutory remedy afforded to federal courts under 18 U.S.C. § 401. Accordingly, contempt is one of the “remedies provided by law” to the Court under the Stipulation.

         Coercive, Civil Contempt.

         Any exercise of the Court's contempt authority in this matter would be intended to spur Defendants' compliance with the performance measures that they have contractually agreed to perform. Shell Offshore Inc. v. Greenpeace, Inc., 815 F.3d 623, 629 (9th Cir. 2016) (describing coercive civil contempt). When Defendants provide the health care required by the Stipulation, the contempt will purge. Int'l Union, UMWA v. Bagwell, 512 U.S. 821, 829 (1994). The power of economic carrots and sticks is clearly understood by Defendants. (Doc. 2295; Doc. 2330 at 195-197) Accordingly, the Court expects this to be an effective and short-lived tool that creates compliance with the Stipulation.

         Scope of Contempt.

         The Stipulation established increasing benchmarks, now at 85%. These benchmarks are a triggering device to inform the parties and the Court whether remedial measures must be imposed. The Court reiterates that the Stipulation requires Defendants to provide all class members with the health care described therein. (Doc. 2179 at 2) Accordingly, any contempt sanction ultimately imposed by the Court will be for every single violation of the Stipulation, not just those below 85%.

         Order of Compliance.

         Defendants submitted two remediation plans and the Court adopted both of them. (Docs. 1619, 2030) For a subset of performance measures, these remediation plans have failed. The Court has provided Defendants wide latitude to revise their remediation plans over the last two years. As a result, the Court has determined that requiring Defendants to submit a revised plan is not necessary. (Doc. 1185-1 at ¶ 36)

         Since at least June 2017, Defendants have been on notice that the Court was considering some form of monetary sanction to achieve compliance with the Stipulation. (Docs. 2124, 2236) The Court is now putting Defendants on notice that certain performance measures/locations are subject to possible civil contempt because (1) they were subject to an existing remedial plan and either (a) have not had three or more consecutive months of compliance in the last 12 months or (b) had three consecutive months of compliance nearly one year ago and consistent non-compliance since then.[1]

         IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that, effective immediately, Defendants shall comply with the following performance measures at ...


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