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US v. State of Mississippi Transcript Now Available

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Last month on February 22nd Judge Carlton Reeves held a status conference in the US v. State of Mississippi mental health lawsuit. During the conference, both parties spoke about various ways to move the case toward final judgment. Here is the transcript of the status conference.

Judge Reeves then issued a follow-up order on February 24th, 2021, in which he granted the state’s request “for at least 60 days” to submit either a “proposed Agreed Order” or their proposed remedial plan, and told the state (the defendant) that it must file either the agreed order or a proposed remedial plan by April 30, 2021. The follow-up order gives the US DOJ (the plaintiff) 21 days to respond.

Reeves asked in the follow-up order that the Special Master (Dr. Michael Hogan) “weigh in on the parties’ points of disagreement, again, if any,” and that he support his recommendations and file them by June 4, 2021.

On March 5, the State of Mississippi filed this motion for clarification in response to Judge Reeves’ ruling, along with this memorandum explaining the motion. Both documents focus on these points by the state:  “(i) the Special Master’s input regarding any proposed remedial plan must be in the form of a written report, (ii) the Special Master cannot provide information which is outside the record regarding mental health systems, and (iii) the Special Master is prohibited from relying on or disclosing any Rule 408 information in providing his report.”

These assessments that were entered into evidence during the trial would be helpful documents if Special Master Hogan is limited to only information that was introduced at trial. Although we are not qualified to offer a legal opinion about them, we believe that they contain recommendations that haven’t been fully considered and appreciated but would be beneficial to Mississippi’s system of care for mental health.

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.

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 US 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
Outreach Specialist
Civil Rights Division, US Department of Justice
iPhone 202.598.5344

In 2016, the United States Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the State of Mississippi, alleging that Mississippi fails to provide enough of the right kinds of support for people with mental illness to be able to live in the community if they choose to.  This is considered a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The case began with this 2011 letter of findings. The United States and the State of Mississippi engaged in negotiations from 2012 through 2015, at which time the negotiations failed. The United States then sued Mississippi in 2016.

The State lost this lawsuit in September 2019 after a month-long trial in June 2019. In February 2020, Judge Reeves appointed Dr. Michael Hogan as Special Master in the case to help the two sides (US DOJ and the State of Mississippi) craft a remedy to address the problems that the lawsuit brought to light.

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