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United States v. State

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

May 13, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PLAINTIFF
v.
THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI DEFENDANT

          ORDER DENYING DAUBERT MOTION

          CARLTON W. REEVES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         “[U]njustified institutional isolation of persons with disabilities is a form of discrimination” under Title II of the ADA. Olmstead v. L.C. ex rel. Zimring, 527 U.S. 581, 600 (1999). The United States alleges that Mississippi is discriminating against individuals with mental illness by institutionalizing them or placing them at serious risk of institutionalization in violation of Title II of the ADA.

         The United States designated six experts as its Clinical Review Team. The Clinical Review Team reviewed the records of 154 individuals who were housed in one of the four state hospitals at some point between October 13, 2015 and October 13, 2017.[1] The Clinical Review Team asked four questions about each of the individuals:

1. Would the individual have avoided or spent less time in a State Hospital if he/she had been provided reasonable community-based services?
2. Is the individual at serious risk of institutionalization in a State Hospital?
3. Would the individual be opposed to receiving community-based services?
4. If the individual is appropriate for and would benefit from community-based services, what services would the individual need?

         The State has moved to exclude the Clinical Review Team's reports and testimony, arguing that the opinions are irrelevant and unreliable. See Docket No. 147.

         I. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Evidence 702, a witness may testify as an expert through a demonstration of “knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education.” Trial courts have the “gatekeeping” duty of ensuring that a qualified expert gives testimony that is both relevant and reliable. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 597 (1993).

         Expert testimony is relevant when “sufficiently tied to the facts of the case that it will aid the jury in resolving a factual dispute[.]” Daubert, 509 U.S. at 591 (quotation marks and citation omitted). Expert testimony is reliable when “the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is scientifically valid” and that “reasoning or methodology properly can be applied to the facts in issue.” Id. at 592-93.

         “Most of the safeguards provided for in Daubert are not as essential in a case . . . where a district judge sits as the trier of fact in place of a jury.” Gibbs v. Gibbs, 210 F.3d 491, 500 (5th Cir. 2000). That is because “there being no jury, there is no risk of tainting the trial by exposing a jury to unreliable evidence.” Whitehouse Hotel Ltd. P'ship v. C.I.R., 615 F.3d 321, 330 (5th Cir. 2010).

         II. Argument and Analysis

         First, the State argues that Question 1 is irrelevant by “operation of law” because “once a chancery court finds that an individual should be committed to a State Hospital, ” the state hospital is not allowed to reevaluate whether that individual would be better served with community-based services. Docket No. 167 at 2-3. Next, the State argues that Question 4 is unreliable because the experts have crafted the question to always produce an answer that is beneficial to the United States' case. Finally, the State argues that the Clinical Review Team discussed individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (“IDD”) in their expert reports, ...


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