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Frew v. Janek

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

December 19, 2013

LINDA FREW, et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
KYLE L. JANEK, M.D., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO ENFORCE AND GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISSOLVE CORRECTIVE ACTION ORDER: PRESCRIPTION AND NON-PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS, MEDICAL EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES [DE #637-8]

RICHARD A. SCHELL, District Judge.

Pending before the court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Enforce the Corrective Action Order: Prescription and Non-Prescription Medications, Medical Equipment and Supplies, and Related Decree Provisions (Dkt. 971); Defendants' Rule 60(b)(5) Motion to Dissolve the Corrective Action Order on Prescription and Non-Prescription Medications, Medical Equipment and Supplies, and Related Consent Decree Provisions and Response in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion to Enforce the Corrective Action Order (Dkt. 998); Plaintiffs' Response (Dkt. 1004); Defendants' Reply (Dkt. 1019); and Plaintiffs' Sur-Reply (Dkt. 1026). Also pending before the court is Defendants' Motion to Strike the Testimony of Drs. Mazur, Whitney, Wood and Rider In Part or In Whole (Dkt. 1023) and Plaintiffs' Response (Dkt. 1027).The court held a hearing on September 9, 2013 and heard argument from the parties on these pending motions. After considering the briefing and the arguments of both parties and for the reasons set forth herein Plaintiffs' Motion for Further Action (Dkt. 971) is DENIED, Defendants' Rule 60(b)(5) Motion (Dkt. 998) is GRANTED. Defendants' Motion to Strike (Dkt. 1023) is DENIED. Also pending before the court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Pay Expert Witnesses (Dkt. 1043), Defendants' Response (Dkt. 1045), and Plaintiffs' Reply (Dkt. 1046), which is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

A detailed background of this case can be found in previously issued opinions.[1] On September 1, 1993, Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit alleging that Defendants (the successive commissioners of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of Health) did not adequately provide Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) services to Medicaid recipients under the age of twenty-one as required by the Medicaid Act, Title 42, United States Code, Sections 1396a(a)(43) and 1396d(r). In Texas, the EPSDT program is referred to as "Texas Health Steps" and is administered jointly by the federal government and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. The Plaintiffs structured this case as a class action and defined the class broadly to include all Texas youth eligible to receive Medicaid. The Plaintiffs sought injunctive relief to ensure that the state complied with the Medicaid Act. The primary governing documents in this case are the "Consent Decree" (Dkt. 135) and the "Corrective Action Orders" (Dkt. 637).

a. The Consent Decree

In July 1995, after extensive settlement negotiations, the parties proposed a Consent Decree that was subsequently approved by the court on February 16, 1996 (Dkt. 135). The Decree is a court-enforced settlement agreement that sets forth a compliance plan for the State's EPSDT program.[2] The Decree was not intended to resolve all the contested issues between the parties. Rather, it was designed to reduce the nature and scope of the litigation. The Decree discusses in detail the areas in which the State's EPSDT program was deficient, sets goals and requirements for improvements, and establishes deadlines for the State's implementation of the improvements.

In 1998, Plaintiffs moved to enforce the Decree, arguing that Defendants were not complying with several of the Decree's provisions (Dkt. 208). Defendants opposed the motion, arguing that their efforts had been sufficient and that, regardless of their efforts, the Eleventh Amendment barred the court from enforcing the Decree. In 2000, this court held that the State had failed to comply with several of the Decree's provisions and that the Eleventh Amendment did not bar enforcement of the Decree.[3] On appeal the Fifth Circuit disagreed with the court and held that the Eleventh Amendment barred enforcement of elements of the Decree that were not specifically mandated by the Medicaid Act.[4] The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Fifth Circuit, holding that the Decree was enforceable under the principals of Ex Parte Young , 209 U.S. 123 (1908) because the Decree addressed federal interests.[5] The case was remanded to this court for continued oversight.

b. The Corrective Action Orders

In November 2004, Defendants moved to terminate or alternatively to modify the Decree under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5) (Dkt. 406). The basis for Defendants' motion was that even though they had not yet fulfilled the Decree their efforts had brought them into compliance with the Medicaid Act. The court denied the Defendants' motion, holding that compliance with the federal law was not the sole object of the Decree.[6] Defendants' appeals to the Fifth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court were unsuccessful.[7]

Plaintiffs eventually filed three other motions relating to enforcement of the Decree (Dkts. 607, 429, 428). In 2007, the parties reached an agreement on the pending motions that set forth corrective action plans for eleven areas of the EPSDT program that had been addressed in the Decree. The parties filed their proposed agreement with the court on April 27, 2007 (Dkt. 637). The court orally approved the agreement at a July 9, 2007 hearing and subsequently entered the agreement as the Corrective Action Order (CAO) on September 5, 2007 (Dkt. 663). On April 17, 2009, the case was transferred by the Honorable William Wayne Justice to the undersigned judge (Dkt. 716).

The Corrective Action Order presently at issue is Dkt. 637-8.[8] Defendants represent that they have complied with the obligations set forth in CAO 637-8 and paragraphs 124-130 of the Decree. The provisions in dispute relate to training for pharmacists that provide prescription and non-prescription medication and other medical supplies to class members. Plaintiffs request that the court order Defendants to take further action. Defendants request that they be relieved from their obligations under CAO 637-8 and Decree paragraphs 124-130 because they have satisfied the judgment.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 60(b)(5) permits a party to obtain relief from a judgment or order if: (1) the judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged; (2) it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or (3) applying it prospectively is no longer equitable. "General principles of contract interpretation govern the interpretation of a consent decree."[9] "[C]onsent decrees are to be construed only by reference to the four corners' of the order itself."[10]

"Rule 60(b)(5) serves a particularly important function in... institutional reform litigation" because "injunctions issued in such cases often remain in force for many years, and the passage of time frequently brings about changed circumstances."[11] Indeed, "institutional reform injunctions often raise sensitive federalism concerns."[12] "Federalism concerns are heightened when, as in these cases, a federal court decree has the effect of dictating state or local budget priorities."[13] Consent decrees "sometimes go well beyond what is required" by underlying statutes and may "improperly deprive future officials of their designated legislative and executive powers."[14] "Where state and local officials inherit overbroad or outdated consent decrees that limit their ability to respond to the priorities and concerns of their constituents, they are constrained in their ability to fulfill their duties as democratically-elected officials."[15] ...


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