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Idaho DOC and Corizon Held in Contempt in Long-standing Lawsuit

by Derek Gilna

The Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) and its contracted private medical care provider, Corizon Health, were held in contempt of consent orders entered in 1984 and 2014 in a class-action suit. The original November 1, 1984 order required prison officials to adopt a special dietary program for medically infirm prisoners, create 24-hour emergency medical care, hire a full-time physician, provide a properly staffed medical delivery system and establish a psychiatric care program. See: Balla v. Idaho State Board of Correction, 595 F.Supp. 1558 (D. Idaho 1984).

In the decades following the original consent order, numerous court hearings were held as court-appointed monitors and the IDOC clashed over the execution of the order and its progeny. Due to those conflicts, starting in 2011 the federal district court appointed a special master to determine whether there was substantial non-compliance by Idaho prison officials.

As previously reported in Prison Legal News, the special master found the IDOC and Corizon were not in compliance, and the parties agreed to institute a mediation process to avoid the time and expense of a trial in the case. In 2014, “The parties crafted the Modified Compliance Plans (collectively, ‘MCP’) in and after the mediation sessions,” according to the district court. [See: PLN, Nov. 2016, p.44; Feb. 2013, p.40].

However, the compliance procedures established by that agreement, the court said, did not resolve the plaintiffs’ issues; further, the IDOC and Corizon had violated the 2014 agreement. “Defendants have not shown that the violations were based on a good faith and reasonable interpretation of the Order, because Defendants did not even read the Order ... in fact, they failed to take the first necessary step toward compliance,” the court found. “Defendants have no viable defense to the request that they be held in contempt for their past failure to follow the 2014 Order.”

As a result, on September 28, 2017 the district court held the defendants in contempt but determined the plaintiffs had not proven that any of the class members had suffered actual damages. Still, based on the contempt finding, the parties stipulated to an award of $168,239.08 in fees and costs payable to the plaintiffs’ attorneys in connection with their contempt motion, which the court approved in April 2018. See: Balla v. IDOC, U.S.D.C. (D. Idaho), Case No. 1:81-cv-01165-BLW. 


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Related legal case

Balla v. Idaho State Board of Corrections