863 A.2d 890 (Me. 2004), Ken-03-623, Bates v. Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services

Docket Nº:No. Ken-03-623.
Citation:863 A.2d 890, 2004 ME 154
Opinion Judge:ALEXANDER, J.
Party Name:Paul BATES et al. v. DEPARTMENT OF BEHAVIORAL AND DEVELOPMENTAL SERVICES [1] et al.
Attorney:Peter Darvin, Esq. (orally), Portland, Helen M. Bailey, Esq., Augusta, for plaintiffs., G. Steven Rowe, Attorney General, Phyllis Gardiner, Asst. Atty. Gen. (orally), Katherine Greason, Asst. Atty. Gen., Augusta, for defendants. Attorneys for plaintiffs: Peter Darvin, Esq. (orally), 178 Middle S...
Case Date:December 17, 2004
Court:Supreme Judicial Court of Maine
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 890

863 A.2d 890 (Me. 2004)

2004 ME 154

Paul BATES et al.

v.

DEPARTMENT OF BEHAVIORAL AND DEVELOPMENTAL SERVICES 1 et al.

No. Ken-03-623.

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine.

December 17, 2004

Argued: April 13, 2004.

Page 891

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 892

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 893

Peter Darvin, Esq. (orally), Portland, Helen M. Bailey, Esq., Augusta, for plaintiffs.

G. Steven Rowe, Attorney General, Phyllis Gardiner, Asst. Atty. Gen. (orally), Katherine Greason, Asst. Atty. Gen., Augusta, for defendants.

Panel: CLIFFORD, RUDMAN, DANA, ALEXANDER, and LEVY, JJ.

ALEXANDER, J.

[¶ 1] This matter is before the Court on the State's appeal of a judgment entered in the Superior Court (Kennebec County, Mills, C.J.) that (1) determined that the State was not in substantial compliance with a 1990 consent decree and incorporated settlement agreement; (2) found that the State had acted in bad faith in filing its notice of substantial compliance and in pursuing its efforts to achieve substantial compliance with the provisions of the settlement agreement; (3) held the State in contempt for its failure to have complied with the terms of the consent decree and settlement agreement by 2002; (4) appointed a receiver to supervise and direct the day-to-day operations of the Augusta Mental Health Institute (AMHI); 2 and (5) deferred for six months the question of

Page 894

appointment of a receiver to supervise the Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services (BDS) with respect to the operation of community-based mental health programs and services.

[¶ 2] The State contends that the trial court (1) misinterpreted the consent decree in measuring substantial compliance by examining whether the State is meeting the needs of individual class members, rather than by generally examining over-all progress toward compliance with the settlement agreement's goals and requirements; (2) improperly interpreted the consent decree and incorporated settlement agreement to require provision of services to all individuals in the community receiving or seeking mental health services, rather than just individuals who are present or former patients of AMHI; (3) erred in finding that the State had acted in bad faith in failing to achieve substantial compliance with the consent decree and settlement agreement, and consequently erred in finding the State in contempt; and (4) exceeded the bounds of its discretion and violated the separation of powers clause, Article III of the Maine Constitution, by appointing a receiver to operate AMHI and supervise the activities of BDS with respect to AMHI.

[¶ 3] We conclude that the court correctly determined that the State had failed to comply with the requirement that the State develop a comprehensive plan for implementation of the consent decree and settlement agreement, supported by detailed standards and an objective evaluation, quality assurance and reporting process to measure compliance with the requirements of the settlement agreement and that without such standards for evaluating programs and measuring compliance, it was not possible for the State to prevail in meeting its burden to prove substantial compliance. We also conclude that the court erred in some of its legal conclusions, specifically: (1) in the absence of systemic evidence, the court erroneously relied on the extent to which the State provided for the needs of selected individual class members rather than the class as a whole in assessing whether the State achieved substantial compliance with the settlement agreement; (2) the court did not consider some evidence of recent remedial efforts by the State in reaching its contempt conclusions; and (3) the court exceeded the bounds of its discretion in appointing a receiver. Accordingly, we affirm portions and vacate portions of the judgment, and remand for further proceedings.

I. CASE HISTORY

A. The Consent Decree and Settlement Agreement

[¶ 4] In 1989, a group of patients filed an action against the State, including the then existing Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, later known as BDS, the Department of Human Services, and several named officials in those Departments. The action alleged that the State, in its care, supervision, and provision of treatment and services to present and former patients of AMHI, was acting in violation of constitutional and statutory requirements. The State was alleged to be violating the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution; Article 1, Sections 1 and 6-A of the Maine Constitution; 42 U.S. C.A. § 1983, and the 1989 versions of several Maine laws including 18-A M.R.S.A. § 5-601; and 34-B M.R.S.A. §§ 1430, 3003, 3004, 3803, 3871.

[¶ 5] Acting pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2), the Superior Court (Brody, C.J.) certified as a class of plaintiffs "all persons who, on or after January 1, 1988, were patients at the Augusta Mental Health Institute ... and all persons who will be

Page 895

admitted to AMHI in the future." The court also certified a subclass of plaintiffs consisting of "those persons who are class members and who also have been public wards of the Maine Department of Human Services or who in the future become public wards."

[¶ 6] On July 31, 1990, representatives of the parties entered into an extensive settlement agreement to resolve the pending litigation. On August 2, 1990, a six-page consent decree incorporating the settlement agreement by reference was approved by the Superior Court (Chandler, J.). The consent decree defines the plaintiff class as consisting "of all persons who on or after January 1, 1988 were patients at the Augusta Mental Health Institute and all persons who will be admitted to the Augusta Mental Health Institute in the future."

[¶ 7] The consent decree provides that the class would close, retroactive to the State's filing a notice of substantial compliance, upon the date when the court determined that the State was in substantial compliance with the consent decree. The consent decree states that the parties contemplated that substantial compliance would be achieved, subject to approval of the court, on or before September 1, 1995. It also provides that the court would retain jurisdiction over implementation of the consent decree and the settlement agreement until the provisions of the settlement agreement had been "fully and faithfully implemented," at which point the settlement agreement would be dissolved. The consent decree specifies the procedure for determining substantial compliance, with the State assigned the burden of proof of substantial compliance.

[¶ 8] The incorporated settlement agreement contains 303 numbered paragraphs, divided into nineteen sections. It defines the plaintiff class in the same limited manner as the consent decree. It states that its purpose is to assure "that conditions at AMHI and services provided to class members in the community will meet constitutional, statutory, and regulatory standards as applicable."

[¶ 9] The settlement agreement requires development of a comprehensive plan to meet the obligations of the agreement. The initial plan was to have been submitted to and approved by the court by January 1, 1991, only five months after approval of the consent decree. The settlement agreement addresses the details of the comprehensive plan in paragraphs 36-38 as follows:

36. The plan shall describe each component of the system, its costs and funding sources, timelines for development or implementation, and the means whereby its quality and effectiveness shall be monitored and evaluated on an ongoing basis. For each client service component of the system, the plan shall additionally: describe the models to be used and the capacity of the services both in terms of numbers of individuals to be served and the intensity of services delivered; demonstrate that development plans are based upon class members' actual needs for the planned services, and enclose supporting data.

37. The plan shall verify with supporting data that in meeting class members' identified needs, defendants shall not deprive non-class members of services solely because they are not members of the class.

38. Defendants shall comply with the performance terms and schedule of the plan. The plan may be revised with the master's approval. Defendants must seek revision of the plan as needed to assure that services are developed based upon class members' actual needs.

Page 896

[¶ 10] To provide an objective basis to measure compliance with the settlement agreement and progress in achieving the goals of the comprehensive plan, the State was required to develop a system for monitoring, evaluation and quality assurance. Paragraph 279 of the settlement agreement states that:

By September 1, 1991, Defendants shall design a comprehensive system of internal monitoring, evaluation and quality assurance for all areas covered by this Agreement. Critical data shall be collected and reported through an electronic data base system. As part of this system, defendants shall perform an annual random statistically significant review of class members residing both at AMHI and in the community to measure defendants' compliance with this Agreement in meeting individual class members' needs and in protecting their rights under this Agreement.

[¶ 11] Separately, the court master, in consultation with the Plaintiffs and the State, was directed to "develop a process to evaluate and measure the Defendants' compliance with the terms and principles of this Agreement."

[¶ 12] Beyond the generalized goals envisioned for the comprehensive plan, the settlement agreement includes extensive details addressing all aspects of inpatient and community-based care, supervision, treatment, housing...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP