State Settles Lawsuit Over Delays in Providing Pretrial Detainees Court-Ordered Competency Evaluations and Restorative Treatment

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Landmark Ten-Year Agreement Resolves Lengthy Delays that Lawsuit Alleged Violate U.S. Constitution

“In our view, the Department has been struggling with this problem for years. So we are especially gratified to have reached a long-term agreement,” said attorney Iris Eytan.

The Colorado Department of Human Services (the “Department”) and the non-profit Legal Center for People with Disabilities and Older People (the “Legal Center”) announced that they have settled the federal lawsuit brought by the Legal Center to address chronic delays in the system for providing court-ordered competency evaluations and restorative treatment to pretrial detainees. The lawsuit alleged that pretrial detainees in Colorado suffered unconstitutional delays, in some cases lasting as long as six months, in receiving evaluations and treatment that would enable them to participate in their criminal proceedings.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement:

  •     The Department is required to admit a pretrial detainee to the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo (“CMHIP”) within 28 days of the court determining the need for an evaluation or restorative treatment.
  •     The Department is required to maintain a monthly average of no more than 24 days for all patients admitted to CMHIP for evaluation or treatment.
  •     Competency evaluations performed in county jails must be completed within 30 days.
  •     For the 10-year duration of the agreement, the Department must provide monthly reports to the Legal Center to ensure the Department’s compliance. The agreement provides that its duration may be shortened if the Department remains in full compliance.
  •     The parties agreed that the United States District Court for the District of Colorado would retain jurisdiction to enforce the Agreement. In the event the Department fails to meet its obligations, the federal court can hold the Department in contempt.
  •     The parties have agreed to work together to educate the state judiciary, district attorneys, defense attorneys, and county sheriffs to help ensure timely evaluation and treatment of the mentally ill pretrial detainees.

“In our view, the Department has been struggling with this problem for years. So we are especially gratified to have reached a long-term agreement,” said attorney Iris Eytan, adding that, “The Department has agreed to a comprehensive framework that will govern the provision of competency evaluations and restorative treatment for years to come. ”

The Legal Center’s legal team consisted of Iris Eytan, Jason M. Lynch, Caleb Durling, and Ellie Lockwood of Reilly Pozner LLP, and Marcus Lock of Wilderson Lock & Hill, LLC.

“I’m pleased that once the suit was filed, the Department acknowledged the problem, accepted responsibility for fixing it, and began working with our team to identify a holistic solution that will result in the state's mentally ill pretrial detainees being evaluated and treated more quickly,” Lock said.

The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, was titled Center for Legal Advocacy d/b/a The Legal Center for People with Disabilities and Older People v. Reggie Bicha, in his official capacity as Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Human Services, and Teresa A. Bernal, in her official capacity as Interim Superintendent of the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo, No. 11-cv-02285-BNB (D. Colo.).

The Legal Center for People with Disabilities and Older People (http://www.thelegalcenter.org) is an independent public interest non-profit specializing in civil rights and discrimination issues. The Legal Center protects the human, civil, and legal rights of people with mental and physical disabilities, people with HIV, and older people throughout Colorado, and works for systematic change to improve these people’s lives. The goal of the Legal Center’s work is to open up the legal system to those who would otherwise be unable to voice their needs because of the complexity of the issues they face, their disability, or because they are unable to act on their own behalf.

Reilly Pozner LLP (http://www.rplaw.com) is a full-service litigation firm handling high profile cases involving significant liability exposure and a high likelihood of going to trial. The firm’s lawyers have handled matters in more than 40 states. Reilly Pozner dedicates substantial resources to pro bono legal work, which includes both complex cases involving broad-based social issues, and also the representation of individuals who cannot afford legal representation.

Wilderson Lock & Hill, LLP (http://www.lawoftherockies.com) is a one of the premier law firms in Western Colorado. Located in Gunnison, Colorado, WLH handles transactional, litigation, and water matters across the State.

To learn more and to view the settlement agreement, click here.

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Dan Reilly
Reilly Pozner, LLP
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