United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
LEONARD BRIGGS, GEORGE SKINDER, LOUIS MARKHAM, FRANCIS MCGOWAN, ERIC ROLDAN, ROLANDO S. JIMENEZ, and JENNIFER WARD, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
MASSACHUSETTS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION; CAROL A. MICI,  COMMISSIONER OF THE MASSACHUSETTS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION; JENNIFER A. GAFFNEY, * DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF CLASSIFICATION, PROGRAMS, AND REENTRY DIVISION; COLETTE M. GOGUEN, * SUPERINTENDENT OF MCI-SHIRLEY; STEVEN SILVA, * SUPERINTENDENT OF MCI-NORFOLK; LISA MITCHELL, * SUPERINTENDENT OF THE MASSACHUSETTS TREATMENT CENTER; ALLISON HALLET, * SUPERINTENDENT OF MCI- FRAMINGHAM; and MASSACHUSETTS PARTNERSHIP FOR CORRECTIONAL HEALTHCARE, Defendants.
PRELIMINARY APPROVAL ORDER
A. O'TOOLE, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiffs and defendants have filed a joint motion, pursuant
to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for an
order preliminarily approving their settlement agreement,
which resolves all claims in this action except for
plaintiffs' claims defined as “Reserved
Claims” in the settlement agreement. The Court has read
and considered the motion and attached exhibits, the
settlement agreement, and the arguments made by the parties.
settlement purposes, the Court preliminarily certifies a
plaintiff class consisting of all individuals who are
currently in Massachusetts Department of Correction
(“DOC”) custody or in the future are placed in
DOC custody, and who are currently or in the future become
deaf or hard of hearing.
Court preliminarily finds, for purposes of the settlement,
that the elements required for certification pursuant to Rule
23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure have been
satisfied: (a) the members of the class are so numerous that
their joinder in this action would be impracticable; (b)
there are questions of law and fact common to the class that
predominate over any individual questions, as well as
appropriate injunctive and declaratory relief; (c) the
plaintiffs' claims are typical of the claims of the
class; (d) plaintiffs' counsel has fairly and adequately
represented and protected the interests of the class; and (e)
a class action is superior to other available methods for the
fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy.
Court preliminarily finds that the settlement agreement
attached as Exhibit 2 to the motion for preliminary approval
appears to be fair, reasonable, and adequate. Under the terms
of the settlement agreement, DOC will update its policies
where necessary for consistency with the settlement
agreement, and implement new practices regarding: (i) the
identification and tracking of deaf and hard-of-hearing
inmates; (ii) the care, treatment, and accommodation of deaf
and hard-of-hearing inmates by DOC's contract medical
provider; (iii) the provision of qualified sign language
interpreters; (iv) the provision of telecommunication
devices; (v) the implementation of new training programs for
DOC staff; (vi) the provision of visual and tactile
notifications of non-emergency announcements to deaf and
hard-of-hearing inmates; and (vii) consideration of a deaf or
hard-of hearing inmate's request at classification
hearings to be housed at a DOC facility that already houses
another deaf or hard-of-hearing inmate. The settlement
agreement also requires DOC to revise existing, relevant
internal policies to ensure they comply with applicable laws
and the other provisions within the settlement agreement.
the settlement agreement, the parties will consult and timely
agree upon a third party to serve as the settlement monitor
to assess DOC's compliance with the terms of the
settlement agreement. The settlement monitor will prepare
bi-annual reports regarding DOC's implementation of and
compliance with the terms of the settlement agreement and
will share those reports with DOC and plaintiffs'
settlement agreement calls for plaintiffs to dismiss DOC from
this action, with the exception of plaintiffs' claims
defined as “Reserved Claims” in the settlement
agreement, if and when the Court issues final approval of the
Court will retain jurisdiction over this action during the
settlement term (3 years) and will be the sole forum for
enforcement of the settlement's terms, as described in
the settlement agreement.
addition, the Court preliminarily finds that plaintiffs and
plaintiffs' counsel fairly and adequately represented the
interests of the class, and that the proposed settlement was
negotiated at arms' length and treats class members
Court approves the proposed notice attached as Exhibit 3 to
the motion as appropriate in this case and reasonably
calculated to reach absent class members.
entry of this Preliminary Approval Order, the written notice
shall be issued to class members by Prisoners' Legal
Services sending the notice through first-class mail to
currently identified class members in DOC custody and by DOC
posting the notice in a common area in each DOC facility.
Class members shall file any written objection to the
proposed settlement no later than September 6, 2019.
fairness hearing shall take place on September 25, 2019 at
2:00 p.m. in Courtroom 22, 7th Floor of the John Joseph
Moakley United States Courthouse, 1 Courthouse Way, Boston,
Massachusetts 02210, to determine whether the proposed
settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable as to the class
members and should be approved.