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Healey v. Spencer

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

August 26, 2014

JEFFREY M. HEALEY; EDWARD GIVEN, Plaintiffs - Appellees/Cross-Appellants,
LUIS S. SPENCER, in his official capacity as Commissioner of Correction; MASSACHUSETTS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION; MICHAEL CORSINI, in his official capacity as the Superintendent of the Massachusetts Treatment Center, Defendants - Appellants/Cross-Appellees, JOEL PENTLARGE, Plaintiff, NATAYLIA PUSHKINA; DEBORAH O'DONNELL, Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Mary P. Murray, Supervising Counsel, with whom Nancy Ankers White, Special Assistant Attorney General, and Brendan J. Frigault, Counsel, Massachusetts Treatment Center, were on brief, for appellants/cross-appellees.

John A. Houlihan, for appellee Healey, and Harry L. Miles, for appellee Given, with whom Hilary B. Dudley, Scott R. Magee, Kevin Kam, Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP, Green, Miles, Lipton, LLP, Eric Tennen, and Swomley & Tennen, LLP, were on brief, for appellees/cross-appellants.

Before Torruella and Selya, Circuit Judges, McAuliffe,[*] District Judge.


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McAULIFFE, District Judge.

Jeffrey Healey and Edward Given reside in the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater, Massachusetts (the Treatment Center or Center). Each has been civilly committed as a sexually dangerous person (SDP). In separate suits, Healey and Given challenged the adequacy of sex offender treatment provided by the Center as well as the conditions of their confinement. They sought equitable relief against the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, as well as the Commissioner of Correction and the Superintendent of the Treatment Center, in their official capacities (hereinafter referred to collectively as DOC). The cases were consolidated.

Healey and Given alleged violations of the Constitution and state statutory provisions. Healey also alleged that the DOC was not in compliance with the terms of its plan for the management of the Treatment Center -- a management plan the DOC developed during the course of prior litigation. Following a trial on the merits, the district court entered a final order granting plaintiffs declaratory and injunctive relief on some claims, but entered judgment in favor of the defendants on the remaining claims. Both sides appeal from the district court's final judgment. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

I. Background

Massachusetts law provides for the involuntary civil commitment of persons found to be sexually dangerous. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123A, § 1 et seq. Under Section 2 of the civil commitment statute, sexually dangerous persons may be placed in the Treatment Center, for " care, custody, treatment and rehabilitation." Id. § 2. Operational control of the Center is vested in the DOC. Id. Each resident of the Center is permitted, by Section 9 of the statute, to annually petition the Massachusetts Superior Court for an examination and determination of whether he or she remains sexually dangerous. Id. § 9.

An earlier version of the statute provided for shared control of the Treatment Center by the DOC and the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH). In 1972, Treatment Center residents brought two lawsuits seeking to rectify a broad array of appalling conditions, as well as

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inadequacies in treatment, work opportunities, and avocational and educational activities at the Center. See King v. Greenblatt (King I), 52 F.3d 1, 2 (1st Cir. 1995) and; Williams v. Lesiak, 822 F.2d 1223, 1224 (1st Cir. 1987). That litigation gave rise to nearly three decades of judicial oversight of the Treatment Center's operations. The layered history of that long-running period of judicial supervision can be found in this Court's related decisions. See, e.g., King v. Greenblatt (King II), 149 F.3d 9, 11-12 (1st Cir. 1998) (recounting prior decisions); In re Pearson, 990 F.2d 653, 655 (1st Cir. 1993) (same); Langton v. Johnston, 928 F.2d 1206 (1st Cir. 1991). During that period, substantial improvements in both the conditions of confinement and treatment protocols for Center residents were realized, and, in 1999, the relevant equitable decrees were finally terminated. See King v. Greenblatt (King III), 53 F.Supp.2d 117, 139 (D. Mass. 1999). The general background that follows is necessarily a condensed version of that history, but one sufficient to illuminate the current issues.

In 1974, the district court entered two remedial consent decrees in King and one in Williams, the parties having agreed that the then prevailing conditions warranted judicial relief. See King III, 53 F.Supp.2d at 119. (The cases were later consolidated. Id.) Conditions at the Treatment Center at that time " were medieval -- worse than those obtaining in the prison system," Langton, 928 F.2d at 1212, and included " cramped, poorly furnished cells" without toilets or sinks; a polluted and unsafe water supply; an " outmoded and sub-standard" sewerage system; obsolete heating and ventilation equipment which caused some cells to go unheated for days; a dearth of medical professionals; the absence of a library, educational programs, gymnasium, outdoor recreation area, work release or community access programs; and limited vocational facilities. King III, 53 F.Supp.2d at 119. The consent decrees, which became known as the Original Decree and the Supplemental Decree, " aimed to correct" those and other inadequacies. Id.[1]

The Original Decree provided that " patients at the Treatment Center should have the least restrictive conditions necessary to achieve the purposes of commitment." King II, 149 F.3d at 15 (internal quotation marks omitted). That provision, we noted in King II, was the Original Decree's " substantive essence." Id. The decree's more specific provisions required DMH and DOC to " take steps jointly to improve physical conditions, implement a meaningful work program, and have a system of differing security for different categories of patients . . . to permit less restrictive conditions for those patients not requiring maximum security." King III, 53 F.Supp.2d at 120 (internal quotation marks omitted). Defendants were also required " to submit a plan for therapeutic, educational, vocational, and avocational programs at the Treatment Center," as well as for the short-term release of residents into the community.[2] Id. The Supplemental Decree prohibited the placement of Treatment Center residents into solitary confinement as punishment or for disciplinary purposes, and required all sequestration to meet " minimum standards of due process" and " human decency." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

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The decrees considered the Center a mental health facility, with primary responsibility over residents and their treatment vested in the Department of Mental Health. The Department of Corrections, on the other hand, was responsible for providing a secure setting. The DOC was expected to work collaboratively with DMH to carry out the decrees' requirements. Id. at 119-20. The joint governance framework embodied in the decrees mimicked the division of control described in the statute, as it then existed.

For nearly two decades after entry of the consent decrees, " [t]he stream of [enforcement] litigation occasionally overflowed the district court," Pearson, 990 F.2d at 655, much of it occasioned by the conflicts inherent in DOC's and DMH's shared governance of the Center.[3] Shared governance by statutory command came to an end in 1994, when the Massachusetts legislature transferred all operational control of the Treatment Center to the DOC. See 1993 Mass. Acts ch. 489. The Commonwealth then moved, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(5), to modify the consent decrees to reflect that statutorily-directed change in governance. The district court at first denied the motion to modify, " finding that DOC had not presented the Court with any information demonstrating its ability to provide treatment in compliance with the consent decrees." King III, 53 F.Supp.2d at 121. The court " invited DOC to provide specific details in the form of a plan of how it proposed to operate the facility." Id. at 121-22. DOC, in response, developed and proffered a detailed management plan and, subsequently, an amended management plan (Plan).

Finding that the proffered Plan met the " goals of treatment and security and protection of residents' rights," the district court modified the outstanding decrees to reflect DOC's sole responsibility for the Treatment Center's operation. Id. at 122. The Original Decree's provisions governing the allocation of state agency responsibility were modified, and the Supplemental Decree's " general proscription of disciplinary and punishment procedures" was stricken, with solitary confinement " link[ed] . . . to the offense underlying the original commitment of the individual." King II, 149 F.3d at 19. The Commonwealth's alternative request -- for outright vacation of the decrees -- was denied, but without prejudice to its renewing that request after one year. King III, 53 F.Supp.2d at 122.

In several related appeals from the district court's modification orders, this Court determined that the modifications passed muster under Rufo v. Inmates of Suffolk Cnty. Jail, 502 U.S. 367, 112 S.Ct. 748, 116 L.Ed.2d 867 (1992). See King II, 149 F.3d at 19, 22. Rufo requires institutional consent decree modifications to be grounded on a " 'significant change' in either factual conditions or in law" and " 'suitably tailored to the changed circumstance.'" King I, 52 F.3d at 4 (quoting Rufo, 502 U.S. at 383). We held that the state statutory amendment constituted a significant change in law impacting the Original Decree's terms regarding the division of control between DMH and DOC, id. at 6, and that factual circumstances had changed sufficiently to warrant modification of the Supplemental Decree's " general proscription of disciplinary and punishment procedures." King II, 149 F.3d at 19, 22.

Addressing Rufo's second prong, we anticipatorily scrutinized the DOC's Plan, id.

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at 15, and determined, based on that review, that the change in Treatment Center governance did not " appear likely to undermine the Original Decree or to violate the Constitution." Id. at 19. Importantly, in making that determination, we emphasized that the Plan itself did not constitute a modification of the Original Decree, but represented, instead, the " ways in which DOC aspire[d] to fulfill the requirements of the Original Decree." Id. at 15. Just as the " policies and practices that [had] been relied on in the past by DMH" constituted that agency's response to its obligation under the decree " to achieve effective treatment under the least restrictive conditions," the Plan represented the DOC's own proposed means of achieving the same goal. Id. We also held, upon review of the Plan's provisions regarding " clinical treatment programs and procedural ...

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