Wednesday, January 29, 2020

BREAKING: 9th Circuit Says Holding Arizona In Contempt For Healthcare In Prisons Is Valid, Maintains $1.45M Fine (READ Opinion)

The contempt order against the state of Arizona for failing to meet healthcare standards in state prisons is valid, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today. The unanimous panel also upheld the $1,445,000 fine imposed on the state in 2018, and said the District Court Judge's reasoning for the $1,000/violation standard was valid.

The 55-page opinion (below) handled three other appeals by the parties in the long-running class action case. The 9th Circuit made some determinations that will slightly reduce the amount of
attorney's fees that the State owes to the Plaintiffs' attorneys - the District Court Judge had awarded $1.3M in fees.

The panel also ruled against the state in its appeals about continued monitoring requirements.

Arizona argued that the District Court Judge lacked the power to issue the civil contempt judgment. that the State had not been afforded due process, that the amount of the sanctions was excessive, and that the judge had improperly added reporting requirements regarding the violations.

The court disagreed:
Here, the “character” of the sanction was primarily coercive. The district court explicitly stated that the purpose of holding Defendants in contempt was to “compel compliance” because the “mere threat of monetary sanctions” in the Order to Show Cause was “not sufficient.” Moreover, the district court utilized the paradigmatic coercive contempt sanction of prospective, conditional fines outlined in the Order to Show Cause and ordered Defendants to continue filing monthly reports regarding their compliance.
The judges say that the sanctions are also compensatory, but that the amount did not become punitive.

The state has already paid out more than $16.2M in legal costs related to this matter, with the largest portion going to the outside counsel representing the state. While the appellate judges remanded the $1.3M award, the changes will not be major.

Arizona blames private contractor Corizon Health for the conditions that brought about the suit, and the Department of Corrections has told lawmakers that Corizon will be held responsible.

Opinion:


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