We have been keeping you updated on the status of the U.S. v. State of Mississippi mental health lawsuit, which the State lost in September 2019. After we sent last week’s newsletter Judge Reeves issued an order in response to the state’s motion to clarify the Special Master’s (Dr. Michael Hogan) role in creating a report for the court (click here for more info on the motion).
In his March 31 order Judge Carlton Reeves addresses the three issues raised by the State of Mississippi and responded to by the U.S. Department of Justice; “…that the Special Master’s report: (1) be in writing; (2) not deviate from the existing trial record; and (3) adhere to Federal Rule of Evidence 408.”
Judge Reeves states that after reviewing the U.S. DOJ response and replies from the two parties he finds that the only issue that needs clarification is #2: “whether the Special Master’s report can deviate from the trial record.”
In addressing this point of clarification he notes that his order appointing the Special Master adopted almost all of the State’s proposed framework for the Special Master’s work, and agreed that additional discovery was not needed because ”Mississippi’s mental health needs are well known” and “the services to expand have already been well defined.” But he says what the court and the parties lacked was “a seasoned executive to propose a timeline for the state to reach full compliance.”
Judge Reeves then concludes that “Dr. Hogan must use his judgment and professional experience to propose such a timeline” and that he should have the ability to “fill the gap” with his expertise when it is necessary, and in doing so, add to the record.
A final hearing on the matter has been scheduled for June 2021. Once the judge makes a decision on the remedy, it is possible that either side could appeal.
In February 2020, Judge Carlton Reeves appointed Dr. Michael Hogan as Special Master in the case to help the two sides (U.S. Department of Justice and the State of Mississippi) craft a remedy to address the problems that the lawsuit brought to light.
As always, we urge the parties to work toward a remedy that is responsive to and fully inclusive of people receiving services and their families, that is accountable and transparent, and that allows for input from all interested stakeholders, including the public.
If you have feedback or questions for either side in U.S. v. Mississippi, here is their contact information:
For the State of Mississippi:
Doug T. Miracle, Civil Litigation
Office of Attorney General Lynn Fitch
For the United States:
Sarah L. Malks
Civil Rights pision, U.S. Department of Justice