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United States v. State

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

March 20, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PLAINTIFF
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI DEFENDANT MARY TROUPE, et al. PLAINTIFFS
v.
GOVERNOR PHIL BR YANT, et al. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          HENRY T. WINGATE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         This Court has pending before it the amended motion of plaintiff L.S., [doc. no. 138], asking this court to reconsider and vacate the December 6, 2016 Order of the Magistrate Judge which consolidated the case of United States v. Mississippi, No. 3:16-cv-622-CWR-FKB (“DOJ” case) with Troupe v. Barbour, No. 3:10-cv-153-HTW-MTP (“Troupe”). The Magistrate Judge's order of consolidation is found at docket. no. 127.

         BACKGROUND

         At the time of filing, the Troupe plaintiffs were a group of Medicaid-eligible children who allegedly suffered from a variety of behavioral, emotional and mental health disorders. They contended that they were forced to seek treatment in restrictive residential-treatment facilities which severed connections with family and peers and exacerbated their mental disorders. These plaintiffs claimed that the defendants' failure to provide adequate mental health services violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”)[1] and the Rehabilitation Act.[2] These plaintiffs sought to be certified to represent a class composed of all children under the age of twenty-one with behavioral or emotional disorders, who are in need of intensive home- and community-based mental health services, but are not receiving such services.

         The DOJ case, filed by the United States Department of Justice, alleges that the State of Mississippi (hereafter “State”) discriminates against adults with mental illness by providing treatment that relies on repeated, long periods of institutionalization. This, the United States claims, is in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”). The United States seeks to have the State provide community-integrated services, programs, and activities for these adults.

         The defendants[3] in both cases filed a motion to consolidate, claiming the two lawsuits involved common issues of fact and law and should be consolidated pursuant to Rule 42(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [doc. no.112]. Rule 42(a) provides as follows: “If actions before the court involve a common question of law or fact, the court may: (1) join for hearing or trial any or all matters at issue in the actions; (2) consolidate the actions; or (3) issue any other orders to avoid unnecessary cost or delay.” The State pointed to factors that it claimed favored consolidation. Both matters were pending in the same federal court district; and, although the Troupe case involves children and the DOJ lawsuit involves adults, any changes in how the State treats persons with mental illness would necessarily involve changes for the care of both children and adults, the State claimed. Without consolidation, the State contended, there was a threat of inconsistent results.

         The Troupe plaintiffs took no position as to consolidation, but the United States objected, [doc.no.118], stating the cases were factually and legally distinct and involved different plaintiffs. The delay that would result from consolidation, according to the United States, would unduly prejudice the adults with mental illness on whose behalf they sued, and the inevitable delay would offset any potential reduction of costs and judicial resources. The two cases, according to the United States, will require separate discovery, dispositive motions, factual findings, witnesses, trial and remedies.

         THE ORDER OF CONSOLIDATION

         Magistrate Judge Michael T. Parker considered the motion. In deciding whether to consolidate cases the courts look at a variety of factors, including the following:

(1)whether the actions are pending before the same court; (2) whether common parties are involved in the cases (3) whether there are common questions of law and/or fact, (4) whether there is a risk of prejudice or confusion if the cases are consolidated, and if so, is the risk outweighed by the risk of inconsistent adjudications of factual and legal issues if the cases are tried separately, (5) whether consolidation will conserve judicial resources, (6) whether consolidation will result in an unfair advantage, (7) whether consolidation will reduce the time for resolving the cases, and (8) whether consolidation will reduce the cost of trying the cases separately.

Crest Audio, Inc. v. QSC Audio Prods., Inc., Civil Action Nos. 3:12-cv-755-CWR-FKB, 3:13-cv-610-CWR-FKB 2016 WL 3249217 (S.D.Miss. Mar. 4, 2016) (quoting In re Camp Arrowhead, Ltd, Civil Action No. SA-10-cv-170-XR, 2010 WL 841340, at *1 (W.D. Tex. Mar. 4, 2010).

         The Magistrate Judge conducted a thorough analysis of the above factors and correctly concluded that most of the factors weighed in favor of consolidation at the time. The Magistrate judge found: a) that the cases were pending in the same court; b) some parties were the same; c) there were common questions of law and fact; d) consolidation posed little risk of prejudice, confusion, or inconsistent rulings; e) consolidation would help conserve judicial resources f) no unfair advantage would be created; g) the reduction of time issue weighed against consolidation; h) costs to the parties would be reduced. The motion was granted and the cases were consolidated by order of December 6, 2016 [doc. no. 127].

         On December 9, 2016, the Troupe plaintiffs, joined by the United States, filed a motion urging reconsideration of the order of consolidation, citing to changed circumstances [doc. nos. 130 and 131]. On January 20, 2017, the Troupe plaintiffs filed an amended motion for reconsideration. The defendants oppose the motion. This court ...


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