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Jackson v. Los Lunas Center for Persons With Developmental Disabilities

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

November 6, 2019

WALTER STEPHEN JACKSON, et al., Plaintiff,
v.
LOS LUNAS CENTER FOR PERSONS WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, et al., Defendants. and THE ARC OF NEW MEXICO, Intervenors, and MARY TERRAZAS, et al, Intervenors. pro se

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         On October 3, 2019, Defendants filed two motions: DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF REGARDING ACTIONS OF COMMUNITY MONITOR (Doc. No. 2318) (Motion for IR); and DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO ENFORCE THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT AS TO THE OPERATION OF THE INDIVIDUAL QUALITY REVIEW AND DECLARE REVIEWER QUALIFIED (Doc. No. 2319) (Motion to Qualify). At a quarterly meeting held on October 9, 2019, Plaintiffs argued that Defendants' Motion to Qualify was not ripe. The Court asked for further briefing confined to that question. On October 21, 2019, Plaintiffs responded to the Motion to Qualify, [1] and on October 25, 2019, Defendants replied.[2]Subsequently, on October 30, 2019, Plaintiffs responded to the Motion for IR.[3]

         Both motions ask the Court to clarify the procedure outlined in ¶ 15 of the Settlement Agreement (SA) as it applies to state employees going through the qualification process to become a reviewer for the Individual Quality Review (IQR). After considering the briefs of the parties, [4] the language of the SA, and applicable law, the Court will grant, in part, Defendants' Motion to Qualify and will deny as moot Defendants' Motion for IR.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The factual background of this 32-year-old case is well documented and known by all parties, and the Court will not repeat it here.

         On April 17, 2019, the parties jointly filed a motion asking the Court to give preliminary approval to a settlement agreement, [5] which the Court granted on April 19, 2019.[6] On June 4, 2019, the parties filed a motion asking the Court to give final approval to the SA.[7] On June 21, 2019, the Court granted the parties' motion.[8]

         The SA states that its purpose is “to memorialize a resolution that allows the Court to conclusively end this litigation and terminate all orders and decrees relating to this matter with a durable remedy in place.” SA (Doc. No. 2299-1) at ¶ 1. The MOO terminated all outstanding orders and Consent decrees, excepting three: the Court's 1992 dispositive opinion, the order allowing the plaintiffs to amend the complaint and the order to reconfigure the class.[9]

         ANALYSIS

         Defendants' two motions filed on October 3, 2019 arise from conflicting interpretations of ¶ 15 of the SA, which focuses on the IQR process. The IQR process is implemented by reviewers who evaluate the care of Jackson class members. Before becoming an IQR reviewer, an individual must become qualified through a three-step progression. At the completion of the three-steps, a reviewer will either be determined qualified or unqualified. In relevant part, ¶ 15 provides:

The current Community Monitor, Lyn Rucker, will continue to transfer the IQR process to DHI and complete the transfer by June 30, 2020. During this transfer period, the Defendants will hire and employ a total of at least five reviewers and one supervisor, each of whom will pass a core competency test, will be mentored in at least one region, and will independently complete reviews in a second region. At that time, the Community Monitor and the state supervisor jointly will evaluate the state staff person and determine if the individual is qualified to conduct the IQR. In the event that the Community Monitor and the state supervisor disagree, the matter will be submitted to the Court which will make a final decision.

SA (Doc. No. 2299-1) at ¶ 15.

         Both parties agree that historically the Community Monitor, Lyn Rucker (CM), has determined each part of the three steps. But Defendants argue that now, under the plain language of ¶ 15, only the Division of Health Improvement of New Mexico's Department of Health (DHI) may determine the requirements of each step. Accordingly, in the Motion to Qualify, Defendants ask the Court to decide that a specific state employee is a qualified IQR reviewer. Alternatively, Defendants ask the Court to conclude that the State has the authority to determine when a reviewer may move from one step to another. In the Motion for IR, Defendants ask the Court to conclude that ¶ 15 does not give the CM authority to enforce the three-step reviewer qualification process she has historically overseen. In opposition, Plaintiffs argue that neither issue is ripe for the Court's review, and that even if the issue was ripe, Defendants' motions should be denied as improper attempts to modify ¶ 15 of the SA.

         A. Motion to Qualify

         1. Whether This Issue is Properly Before the Court

         As a preliminary matter, the Court must consider whether Defendants' motions are properly before the Court. Defendants argue that ¶ 15 of the SA contemplates the Court's resolution of this dispute when it states: “In the event that the Community Monitor and the state supervisor disagree, the matter will be submitted to the Court which will make a final decision” (disagreement sentence). ...


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