On March 27, 2013 there was a hearing in U.S. District Court in Sacramento before Judge Lawrence Karlton about the State of California’s motion to terminate Coleman v. Brown – the long-running class action on behalf of prisoners with mental illness in state prisons.  

According to an article in the New York Times, “Michael Bien, a lawyer who has long represented inmates, said that the state was still guilty of ongoing constitutional violations. California, he said, had shown “deliberate indifference” by knowingly disregarding recommendations that would have improved the quality of mental health care.” 

In addition, Bien’s co-counsel Donald Specter commented to the Sacramento Bee outside of the courtroom about the State’s potential ethical violations, “They interviewed our mentally ill clients without our knowledge about the case and then they used the evidence (to buttress their claims that conditions in the prisons have improved) . They didn’t really explain to the mentally ill clients what the purpose of the interviews were, so the inmates had no idea who they were speaking to.”

Under a federal statute, if Judge Karlton does not rule by April 7, the federal orders covering the staffing and operation of the prison mental health system will be suspended. 

Selected media coverage of yesterday’s hearing is linked below:

Lawyers argue California prison mental health care control, KABC, Sacramento, March 27, 2013

Lawyers argue about prison mental health care, Associated Press, March 27, 2013

Judges weighs Brown’s bid to end court oversight, Los Angeles Times, March 27, 2013

Ethical violations could derail governor’s push to end court oversight of inmate mental health, KPCC, March 27, 2013