United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER ON PLAINTIFFS' SECOND MOTION FOR CIVIL
CONTEMPT: JAIL-BASED EVALUATIONS
J. Pechman, United States District Judge.
Court has received and reviewed:
1. Plaintiffs' Second Motion for Civil Contempt of
Court-Ordered In-jail Evaluation Deadlines (Dkt. No. 427);
2. Defendants' Response to Plaintiffs' Second Motion
for Civil Contempt of Court-Ordered In-jail Evaluation
Deadlines (Dkt. No. 442);
3. Plaintiffs' Reply on Motion for Civil Contempt of
Court-Ordered In-jail Evaluation Deadlines (Dkt. No. 449);
including all attachments and declarations, plus relevant
portions of the court record; additionally, the Court heard
in-court testimony and oral argument related to
April 2, 2015, the Court wrote the following summary at the
conclusion of the trial in this matter:
The State of Washington is violating the constitutional
rights of some of its most vulnerable citizens. The State has
consistently failed to provide timely competency evaluation
and restoration services, services needed to determine
whether individuals understand the charges against them and
can aid in their own defenses, which is required in order for
them to stand trial. By failing to provide competency
evaluation and restoration services within seven days of a
court order,  the State fails to provide both the
substantive and procedural due process required by the
Constitution. Our jails are not suitable places for the
mentally ill to be warehoused while they wait for services.
Jails are not hospitals, they are not designed as therapeutic
environments, and they are not equipped to manage mental
illness or keep those with mental illness from being
victimized by the general population of inmates. Punitive
settings and isolation for twenty-three hours each day
exacerbate mental illness and increase the likelihood that
the individual will never recover.
The Department of Social and Health Services has been
hampered in providing these required services by insufficient
funding for beds and personnel. Without these resources, they
cannot collaborate and coordinate with the other agencies and
courts involved in the criminal mental health system.
No. 131, Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law
(“FOFCOL”) at 2.
Court ordered the Defendants to cease violating the
constitutional rights of class members by reducing wait
times. The Defendants were given nine months to comply. The
Court further stated:
The Department of Social and Health Services has failed to
change its procedures to respond to this ongoing crisis, and
has routinely defied the orders of Washington's state
courts, a practice that has resulted in hundreds of thousands
of dollars in contempt fines. The Department continues to
fail to make significant progress in implementing any of the
reforms recommended by auditors and experts. The Department
has failed to plan ahead for growth in the demand for
competency services, which has increased every year for the
last decade, and has failed to show the leadership and
capacity for innovation that is required to address the
crisis. Other states and counties have been able to meet the
constitutional requirements, and so can the State of
Id. at 3.
the time of trial, the Court has modified its time for
evaluations to be completed. It extended the time for
compliance based upon the Defendants' negotiated
agreements with the Plaintiffs, and based upon
Defendants' representations and promises. The Defendants
have failed to meet all deadlines, including those set by
themselves. Their excuses remain the same and their planning
remains inadequate. They were given every opportunity to
adopt steps that would ameliorate this crisis by doing the
(1) Expanding the pool of professionals who can do
evaluations for competency.
(2) Developing a certification process to train the expanded
pool of professionals.
(3) Setting up a cadre of contract professionals who could
respond to increases in demand and adequately paying
reasonable rates in order to attract them.
(4) Utilizing newly-hired staff to meet the demand.
(5) Developing programs to divert class members out of the
criminal justice system.
Court continues the order of contempt and increases the
fines. The Department's lack of effort is frustrating,
particularly in light of multiple studies and consultants
offering concrete solutions that have not been acted upon,
and in light of deadlines and other promises which Defendants
themselves have made and not kept. As a result of these
failures, Defendants continue to amass fines for their
contempt, fines which are funneled into a fund in the
Registry of the Court. The Defendants' contempt payments
are being used to fund programs agreed to by the parties
providing services for and benefits to the class members
which Defendants (despite statutory, constitutional and court
mandates) have been unable to furnish.
most vulnerable population, those with mental health needs,
deserve the protection of the Constitution and the provision
of services to which they are entitled, not the ongoing
foot-dragging and rationalizing which Defendants have
exhibited to date. The question of why DSHS prefers to pay
millions of dollars to the court treasury rather than honor