WALTER STEPHEN JACKSON, by his parents and next friends, Walter and Helen Jackson; STEVE NUNEZ, by his guardian and next friend, ARC of New Mexico; MARY KATHERINE NOWAK, by her next friend, James W. Ellis, Esquire; RICHARD STANFIELD, by his father and next friend, The Reverend Clyde Stanfield; BETTY YOUNG, by her next friend, Mary Dudley, Ph.D.; KELLY VAN CUREN, by her parents and next friends, Ted and Sallie Van Curen, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs - Appellees,
LOS LUNAS COMMUNITY PROGRAM; NEW MEXICO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH; LYNN GALLAGHER, in her official capacity as Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health; JILL MARSHALL, in her official capacity as Administrator for the Los Lunas Community Program; NEW MEXICO HUMAN SERVICES DEPARTMENT; BRENT EARNEST, in his official capacity as Secretary of the New Mexico Human Services Department; NEW MEXICOPUBLIC EDUCATION DEPARTMENT; JOE D. CORDOVA, in his official capacity as Director of the New Mexico Vocational Rehabilitation Division, Defendants - Appellants. and ARC OF NEW MEXICO; AVA PEETS, Plaintiffs Intervenors - Appellees,
from the United States District Court for the District of New
Mexico (D.C. No. 1:87-CV-00839-JAP-KBM)
A. Walz (James J. Grubel appeared with him on the briefs),
Walz and Associates, P.C., Albuquerque, New Mexico, for
Defendants - Appellants.
J. Schwartz, Center for Public Representation, Northampton,
Massachusetts (Cathy Costanzo, Center for Public
Representation, Northampton, Massachusetts; Peter Cubra,
Albuquerque, New Mexico; Philip Davis, Albuquerque, New
Mexico; Ann Sims, Los Lunas, New Mexico; Tim Gardner and
Nancy Koenigsberg, Disability Rights New Mexico, Albuquerque,
New Mexico, appeared with him on the briefs), for Plaintiffs
MATHESON, McKAY, and McHUGH, Circuit Judges.
McHUGH, CIRCUIT JUDGE
civil rights class action lawsuit was filed thirty years ago
to challenge various aspects of the institutionalization of
developmentally disabled individuals at two state-supported
facilities in New Mexico. After a lengthy trial in 1990, the
district court ruled that Defendants-the two institutions and
the individuals charged with their operation-were violating
class members' federal constitutional and statutory
rights. The district court ordered the parties to develop a
plan to cure the violations, and the plan was implemented
over the ensuing years through several consent decrees and
other court-approved agreements (collectively, consent
decrees). Although the two institutions closed in the 1990s,
the district court has continued to monitor whether
Defendants are in compliance with the obligations set forth
in those consent decrees (decree obligations). And in the
twenty-five years since the court's initial ruling, the
parties have agreed to, and the court has approved, numerous
additional decree obligations of varying specificity with
which Defendants must comply before the court will
discontinue its oversight. As of the district court's
most recent order, Defendants had yet to fulfill over 300
August 2015, Defendants moved under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 60(b)(5) to vacate all consent decrees and to
terminate the court's oversight, arguing that changed
factual circumstances warrant the requested relief. The
district court denied the motion in June 2016. Defendants
appealed. We vacate the 2016 Order and remand for the
district court to decide whether Defendants are currently
violating class members' federal constitutional or
statutory rights and to reassess the equity of continuing
federal oversight with the benefit of that determination.
provide context for this dispute, we begin with an overview
of the procedural history of this multi-decade litigation. We
then examine the district court's ruling on
Defendants' Rule 60(b)(5) motion under the governing
1987, twenty-one developmentally disabled individuals brought
this class action lawsuit on behalf of themselves and others
similarly situated. In their complaint, Plaintiffs challenged
the conditions of institutionalization at Fort Stanton
Hospital and Training School (Fort Stanton) and Los Lunas
Hospital and Training School (Los Lunas), both of which were
state-supported institutions for the developmentally disabled
in New Mexico. Jackson v. Fort Stanton Hosp. &
Training Sch. (Jackson II), 964 F.2d 980, 985
(10th Cir. 1992). Plaintiffs sought to correct the federal
constitutional and statutory deficiencies of the conditions
at Fort Stanton and Los Lunas. Id. They also
requested relief permitting developmentally disabled persons
residing at the institutions to live in integrated
family-like settings within the community. Id.
1988, the district court allowed more than 125 parents and
guardians of residents at Fort Stanton and Los Lunas to
intervene. Id. Like Plaintiffs, Intervenors sought
to bring the conditions at the two institutions into
compliance with federal constitutional and statutory law.
Id. But Intervenors opposed Plaintiffs' efforts
to require mandatory transfer of the institutions'
residents to community-based facilities. Id.
1989, the district court certified a class of "all
persons who at that time resided at [Fort Stanton] or [Los
Lunas], all persons who would become residents of the
institutions during the pendency of the action, and all
persons who had been transferred from these two institutions
to other facilities funded by [D]efendants."
The 1990 Order
prolonged trial, the district court issued, on December 28,
1990, an extensive Memorandum Opinion and Order (1990 Order).
Jackson v. Fort Stanton Hosp. & Training Sch.
(Jackson I), 757 F.Supp. 1243 (D.N.M. 1990),
rev'd in part, 964 F.2d 980 (10th Cir. 1992). In
the 1990 Order, the court "made detailed findings of
fact regarding almost every aspect of the conditions" at
the two institutions, Jackson II, 964 F.2d at 986,
and determined that the conditions were statutorily and
constitutionally deficient in eighteen areas, Jackson
I, 757 F.Supp. at 1315-16. The court concluded that
Defendants were discriminating against class members in
violation of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by
failing to provide adequate accommodations for severely
handicapped residents capable of residing in a community
setting, while simultaneously serving less severely
handicapped individuals in the community. See id. at
1297-99; see also 29 U.S.C. § 794. And the
court ruled that Defendants were violating class members'
substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment
and Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307 (1982). See
Jackson I, 757 F.Supp. at 1305-13. Specifically, the
court ruled that Defendants were violating due process by
failing to provide residents of the two institutions with
minimally adequate medical care; by failing "to provide
reasonable conditions of safety for the residents"; by
physically restraining residents as a result of
understaffing; by failing to provide "minimally adequate
training" to the residents; and by failing to implement
recommendations by interdisciplinary treatment teams
(Teams)-consisting of qualified professionals-that certain of
these residents should be placed in community settings.
Id. at 1306-07, 1312.
district court ordered the parties to work together in good
faith "to formulate by agreement a plan to correct"
the eighteen areas of deficiencies at the two institutions.
Id. at 1315. The court required the parties to
formulate a "detailed written policy to be adopted by
and followed at each institution, " to designate persons
responsible at each institution for implementing the
correction plans, to describe the "strategies to be
adopted by each institution" in order to ensure
successful implementation of the correction plans, and to
develop a "detailed timetable establishing deadlines by
which specific components of the correction plan for each
deficiency will be achieved." Id. at 1316. The
court also set September 10, 1991, as the deadline for
"complete correction of all deficiencies."
Id. And the court required the parties to describe
the "[m]eans of assuring continued compliance with
appropriate standards after correction of the deficiencies
has been achieved." Id.
court further ordered Defendants to prepare, by March 1,
1991, "a written plan of transfer to an appropriate
community setting for each resident whose [Team] has
recommended placement in a community setting."
Id. at 1317. The court urged Plaintiffs to confer in
good faith with Defendants to resolve any concerns Plaintiffs
may have with the proposed plans and to amend the plans
accordingly. Id. at 1316- 17. The court also
afforded Plaintiffs the opportunity to "file with the
court and serve on [D]efendants a statement of any remaining
objections they may have to, and their proposals for
amending, any particular plan." Id.
the next several years, the district court entered various
remedial orders and continued to oversee enforcement of those
orders. See Jackson v. Los Lunas Ctr.
(Jackson III), No. CIV 87-839-JAP/KBM, 2016 WL
9777237, at *2 (D.N.M. June 14, 2016).
2. The 1994 Stipulation Concerning Fort
1994, New Mexico elected to close Fort Stanton by 1995 and to
transfer all of the residents at the institution to
community-based services. In April 1994, the parties filed a
joint motion under Rule 60(b) and Rufo v. Inmates of
Suffolk County Jail, 502 U.S. 367 (1992), to modify
portions of the district court's 1990 Order, and to
terminate the 1990 Order's requirements as to Fort
Stanton upon closure of that facility.
district court found the parties' joint motion
"well-taken" and determined that "the proposed
modification is consistent with the rights of the
classmembers." JA Vol. 3 at 582. As a result, the court
relieved Defendants from making further improvements to Fort
Stanton. In doing so, the court stated, "[i]n the event
that all classmembers have been transferred from Fort Stanton
to appropriate settings by July 31, 1995, this Order and all
portions of the [1990 Order] concerning corrections of
deficiencies . . . at Fort Stanton will hereby be
terminated." Id. at 584.
The 1997 Joint Stipulation on Disengagement (JSD) and Plan of
October 1997, the parties presented the court with the JSD, a
Plan of Action, and a joint motion requesting the court's
approval of the JSD. According to the parties'
stipulation, the JSD "does not seek a remedy for past
violations of Plaintiffs' constitutional and statutory
rights." JA Vol. 7 at 1403. It is instead designed to
prevent future harm by ensuring that "Plaintiffs'
rights are not violated in the community settings."
Id. at 1394. To that end, the JSD "defines the
further actions and requirements" that Defendants had to
complete, "and the services, supports, and
benefits" that Defendants had to provide to class
members, in order for Defendants to comply with their
obligations under the court's existing orders. JA Vol. 4
acknowledges Defendants' "substantial efforts to
develop a non-discriminatory service system for persons with
developmental disabilities and to provide appropriate
community living arrangements and supports to
classmembers." Id. at 620. And it states
Defendants had made "efforts to reasonably accommodate
the residents of Fort Stanton and Los Lunas in community
settings." Id. at 621. As a result of those
efforts, Fort Stanton closed in March 1995 when all its
residents had transitioned to community settings, and Los
Lunas closed in July 1997 when its last resident transitioned
to the community.
also includes a process for judicial disengagement of
Defendants' decree obligations. And it identifies the
"Continued Improvement of Community Services" as an
area subject to disengagement. The Continuous Improvement
obligations address "a quality improvement approach that
requires Defendants to achieve a certain score on an annual
audit." Jackson III, 2016 WL 9777237, at *2
(internal quotation marks omitted). In the order denying
Defendants' Rule 60(b)(5) motion that is the subject of
this appeal, the district court recognized that Defendants
have achieved disengagement from fifty-six of the seventy
Continuous Improvement obligations. Id.
parties identified additional obligations in the Plan of
Action, which Defendant Department of Health developed
"to [e]nhance the Community Service System" for
persons with developmental disabilities. JA Vol. 4 at 629.
The Plan of Action contains "a narrative, desired
outcomes, and specific activities for thirteen components of
the community service system." Id. Those thirteen
components are contained in the Plan of Action's thirteen
attached appendices. Two more appendices were later added by
consent of the parties.
holding a fairness hearing, the district court issued, in
December 1997, an order approving the JSD and the Plan of
Action. The court noted the JSD "does not call for
immediate dismissal of this lawsuit, " but instead
"contemplates continued judicial oversight that could
extend well into the next [millennium]." Id. at
801. The court further observed that the JSD "states the
parties' intention to fulfill most of the activities
described in the Plan of Action by December 31, 1998, but
makes an exception for certain requirements that may not be
met until December 31, 2000." Id.
The 2005 Stipulation to Resolve Motion for Noncompliance
2004, Plaintiffs moved for an order to show cause and for
further remedial relief to require Defendants to comply with
the court's December 1997 order approving the JSD and the
Plan of Action. In June 2004, Plaintiffs moved for an Order
to Reengage Effective Case Management, Desired Outcome A,
Under the Plan of Action.
2005, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation on Agreed Actions
to Comply with Joint Stipulation of Disengagement and Plan of
Action and to Resolve Pending Motions to Show Cause and to
Re-engage (2005 Stipulation). Attached to the 2005
Stipulation is "Appendix A[:] Agreed Actions to Address
Contempt Motions" (Appendix A). JA Vol. 10 at 1903. The
2005 Stipulation states that it "is intended to obligate
Defendants to take certain actions outside the Plan of Action
as more specifically outlined in Appendix A."
Id. at 1898. "[T]he actions identified in
Appendix A are intended to facilitate compliance with the
JSD, to promote completion of . . . Audit Recommendations, to
further address Case Management even though Plan of Action
Desired Outcomes related to Case Management have been
previously disengaged by an order of the Court and to address
certain aspects of Vocational Rehabilitation."
Id. at 1898-99. The 2005 Stipulation clarifies that
it is not intended to change or modify the terms of the JSD,
which remain in effect. And it further states that Defendants
"agree to implement all of the actions identified and
listed in Appendix A, " and that the parties agree some
of the Appendix A actions supplanted or modified activities
listed in the Plan of Action. Id. at 1899.
A imposes 107 specific obligations on Defendants. Some of the
obligations are identified as "complete, " while
many obligations were scheduled to be completed by May 2006
or in 2007. Although those deadlines were not met, Defendants
represent that one third of the activities in Appendix A have
been disengaged. Jackson III, 2016 WL 9777237, at
district court issued an order adopting the parties'
stipulation the same day the parties submitted it.
The 2012 Order
mid-July 2010, Plaintiffs filed another Motion for Further
Remedial Relief to Remedy Noncompliance. After full briefing,
the district court denied the motion without prejudice so
Plaintiffs could refile after an evidentiary hearing
scheduled for June 2011.
April 26, 2011-the day before the pretrial conference for the
evidentiary hearing-Defendants filed a Rule 60(b)(5) motion
to terminate all remaining orders and to conclude the
court's oversight. Defendants maintained that they have
made more than a reasonable effort to comply with the
court's orders, that they have substantially complied
with all existing orders, and that changed factual conditions
make continuing compliance substantially more onerous. The
court held the motion in abeyance and suspended briefing on
it until the completion of the evidentiary hearing, which
occurred from June 13 to June 17, 2011. Jackson III,
2016 WL 9777237, at *4. The court later terminated the
pending Rule 60(b)(5) motion without deciding its merits.
Id. at *4 n.12.
November 2011, after the evidentiary hearing, Plaintiffs
filed a Renewed Motion for Further Remedial Relief to Remedy
Noncompliance. Plaintiffs argued that Defendants had failed
to comply with the JSD, the Plan of Action, Appendix A, the
Rehabilitation Act, and the ADA (collectively, decrees).
Plaintiffs also asked the court to appoint a Jackson
Compliance Administrator (Compliance Administrator) to
oversee and ensure Defendants' compliance. In October
2012, the district court issued a 206-page, Findings of Fact
and Conclusions of Law (2012 Order). The court praised
Defendants' "innovations and progress, " but
determined that Defendants were still in substantial
noncompliance with the decree obligations. JA Vol. 25 at
5303. Indeed, the court identified instances of noncompliance
in the areas of health, safety, and supported employment.
on the evidence before it, however, the court stated it
"is unable to conclude that Defendants have violated the
Rehabilitation Act and ADA." The court explained:
To start with, the Court could not conclude that Defendants
have discriminated against severely disabled class members
with respect to the provision of health care services. In
fact, the Court commends Defendants for accommodating those
severely disabled class members who live in rural New Mexico
by providing them meaningful access to health care services .
. . and for developing more and better health care services
directed to severely disabled persons. There is, however, a
question as to whether Defendants violated the Rehabilitation
Act and ADA by intentionally denying severely disabled class
members supported employment services equivalent to those
received by less severely disabled persons. Unfortunately,
that question of disparate treatment cannot be analyzed at
this time, but must be further briefed. On the other hand,
the Court was unable to find a violation of the
Rehabilitation Act and ADA when severely disabled class
members choose to participate in segregated, congregate day
services while less severely disabled persons more often
chose to engage in supported employment.
Id. at 5304-05.
court also noted that Defendants "are close to
substantially complying with [their] obligations, " and
suggested that "the parties reconsider the descriptions
of the more broadly stated obligations and restate them in
language that makes the obligations achievable."
Id. at 5303-04. After all, "many of the
obligations are described in language that is more
aspirational in nature than operational." Id.
at 5304. Finally, the court granted Plaintiffs' request
to appoint a Compliance Administrator, who could "prod
Defendants into final substantial
compliance." Id. at 5305.
The 2015 Revised Table IV
the district court issued its 2012 Order, the parties were to
develop a consolidated remedial plan in the areas of health,
safety, and supported employment to address the identified
violations. See Jackson III, 2016 WL 9777237, at *6.
The parties, counsel, the Compliance Administrator, and the
court then worked together for over two years before
finalizing a consolidated plan. Id.
2015, the parties jointly filed the 2015 Revised Table
IV-which is a final list of objectives in the areas of
health, safety, and supported employment- along with
evaluative components (or disengagement criteria) and
projected completion dates for each objective. In November
2015, the parties jointly filed a Stipulated Agreement on
Disengagement Process for Revised Table IV. Under the
agreed-upon disengagement process, Defendants would submit a
request for disengagement of a specific decree objective to
the Compliance Administrator, who would then make a written
"determination" on whether the disengagement
criteria had been met. If the Compliance Administrator did
not agree that the criteria had been met, then Defendants
could withdraw their request for a determination or pursue a
disengagement motion with the court.
court noted that, as of May 2016, the Compliance
Administrator had issued approximately three determinations
on Defendants' requests, with roughly 197 decree
obligations remaining for which the Compliance Administrator
had not issued preliminary determinations. Jackson
III, 2016 WL 9777237, at *7 n.20. The court also stated
Revised Table IV did not replace or modify existing decree
obligations that were not the subject of Plaintiffs'
Renewed Noncompliance Motion and the court's 2012 Order.
Id. at *8. Thus, Defendants must demonstrate
substantial compliance with the earlier outstanding decree
obligations, in addition to those listed in Revised Table IV.
Id. The court estimated that, between the JSD, the
Plan of Action, Appendix A, and Revised Table IV, Defendants
must still show substantial compliance with approximately 307
decree obligations. Id. at *9.
District Court's Denial of Defendants' Rule
August 2015, Defendants filed their current motion under Rule
60(b)(5), arguing that factual circumstances have changed to
the extent that the district court should vacate all
remaining orders and conclude its oversight entirely.
Defendants identified four changed factual circumstances they
claim warrant vacatur of all pertinent decrees and
termination of the case. First, Defendants argued that their
decree obligations have increased in number and complexity to
the point they will never be able to satisfy the