On September 26, 2023, a federal court granted Plaintiffs’ Motion to Enforce the Settlement Agreement and Wellpath Implementation Plan in the Monterey County Jail litigation, Hernandez v. County of Monterey, N.D. Cal. No. 13-cv-02354-BLF.  The court’s order is here.

In 2013, RBGG and co-counsel sued the County of Monterey and its for-profit medical provider, Wellpath, challenging dangerous and unconstitutional conditions in the County’s Jail.  On May 11, 2023, RBGG filed a motion in federal court to enforce the Settlement Agreement and Wellpath Implementation Plan in the case that had been approved by the Court in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

In its September 26 order, Judge Beth Labson Freeman found Wellpath out of compliance with 43 remedial requirements related to medical, mental health, and dental care.  Judge Freeman found Wellpath’s request to deny Plaintiffs’ Enforcement Motion “not only frivolous, but also offensive,” and concluded that “Wellpath’s continued failure to comply with its obligations … creates a serious risk of harm to the health and well-being of the entire inmate population of the Jail.” 

The Court ordered Wellpath to come into compliance within six months or face a $25,000 fine per issue, to be reassessed every six months.  The fine is owed to the Court itself.  The Court rooted its assessment of contempt sanctions in its finding that “Wellpath has left it no viable option but to impose coercive sanctions in the form of a conditional fine in the hope that a threat to its bottom line may galvanize Wellpath’s compliance where other measures have failed.”  Judge Freeman directed the parties to file future neutral monitoring reports on the public docket.  

“Judge Freeman’s order confirms what Wellpath has long known—that it is providing inadequate medical, mental health, and dental care to the thousands of individuals who are incarcerated in the Monterey County Jail each year, ” said RBGG’s Van Swearingen, counsel for Plaintiffs.  “As a for-profit company, Wellpath is incentivized to skimp on its provision of health care.  We are hopeful that the threat of significant fines will spur Wellpath to do better, and to come into compliance with its court-ordered obligations.”

At a status hearing on March 28, 2024, Judge Freeman granted Wellpath more time to come into compliance, setting a new date of August 1, 2024.  According to RBGG’s Caroline Jackson in an interview with KSBW, “At the hearing, Judge Freeman made clear that she was very displeased with the progress that Monterey has made so far in order to come in compliance with this court order, This was based on auditing tours that were conducted in 2023, so she (Freeman) did not have the most up-to-date information about the progress, but she made clear that she wanted that up-to-date information, and she was quite alarmed about what is going on at the jail and taking it very seriously.”