In the matter of Litigation Relating to the Conditions of Confinement at Montana State Prison,
Civil Action No. 93-46-H-DWM-JCL, U.S. District Court, District of Montana
IMPORTANT NOTICE TO ALL INMATES CURRENTLY HOUSED IN THE MONTANA STATE PRISON
Notice of Class Action Settlement: A class action lawsuit was filed in 1994 challenging conditions of confinement at the Montana State Prison (“MSP”). On January 14, 1994, the court certified the case as a class action (the “Class”). On October 28, 1994, the parties entered a settlement agreement (“1994 Settlement”). Prior to January 26, 2006, the Defendants had complied with all parts of that agreement except the provision requiring compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”); no finding had been made concerning compliance with that provision (“the ADA Provision”).
On June 29 and July 12, 2012, the Court appointed experts (the “Experts”) to assess ADA compliance at MSP. The Experts issued their reports in May, 2013, finding that MSP was not in substantial compliance with the ADA Provision. Between September, 2013, and January, 2018, attorneys for the Defendants and attorneys for the Class negotiated to resolve the ADA Provision.
The parties to the lawsuit have negotiated a proposed settlement that resolves claims relating to the ADA for inmates housed at MSP. In those negotiations, the Class was represented by Eric G. Balaban of the ACLU National Prison Project, Jon Ellingson of the ACLU of Montana, and Amy F. Robertson of the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (“Class Counsel”). The Defendants in the case are the Montana Department of Corrections (“MDOC”), the Director of MDOC, the Warden of MSP, and the Governor. Defendants are represented by Colleen Ambrose, Chief Legal Counsel of the MDOC.
Proposed Class Action Settlement Agreement. The Class Action Settlement Agreement (“2018 Settlement Agreement”) provides that the Defendants will do or already have done and will continue to do the following:
- Remove specific architectural barriers identified by the Experts or take specific steps to ensure program access;
- Amend specific MDOC policies, MSP procedures, and other policy documents to ensure program access for inmates with disabilities;
- Train new and existing staff at MSP to ensure that the policies and procedures are implemented; and
- Pay Class Counsel’s reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, in an amount to be approved by the Court.
Details concerning the barriers, policies, and procedures affected are set forth in the 2018 Settlement Agreement. You can request a copy of the 2018 Settlement Agreement or any of the affected policies by writing to the address at the bottom of this page. The policies will also be available on computers in the libraries.
Your Rights as a Class Member. The Court has granted Preliminary Approval of the 2018 Settlement Agreement. A hearing to evaluate the fairness of the 2018 Settlement Agreement, and to decide whether to grant Final Approval will be held on June 8, 2018 at 10:00 A.M. in the courtroom of U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch, Russell Smith Courthouse, 201 E. Broadway, Suite 370, Missoula, MT 59802. If the 2018 Settlement Agreement is given Final Approval, all Class members will be bound by the provisions of the 2018 Settlement Agreement with respect to any and all claims for injunctive relief -- that is, what MDOC agrees to do to comply with the ADA -- and related attorneys’ fees. The 2018 Settlement Agreement does not release claims for damages.
If you wish to object to the 2018 Settlement Agreement or to speak at the hearing, you must send any objection and/or notice of your intent to appear at the hearing to the Court in writing on or before May 8, 2018. Include the case number (Civil Action No. No. 93-46-H-DWM-JCL) and mail your objection or notice of intent to appear to the following address: Clerk of the Court, Russell Smith Federal Courthouse, 201 E. Broadway, Missoula, MT 59802. The Court will determine whether it will hear from any objecting Class members at the Final Approval Hearing, and will enter an Order identifying all objecting Class Members who may speak at the hearing.
How To Get Further Information. If you have any questions or want a copy of the entire 2018 Settlement Agreement or any of the affected policies, send an Offender Staff Request (OSR) to:
Legal Services Office
Montana State Prison
Please read this Notice carefully. It affects your legal rights.