United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
ORDER DENYING SUMMARY JUDGMENT
CARLTON W. REEVES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
2016, the United States filed this lawsuit alleging that the
State “unnecessarily requires thousands of adults with
mental illness to receive services in State-run psychiatric
hospitals” instead of community-based services, in
violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”). Docket No. 153 at 1.
December 2018, the State of Mississippi filed two motions for
summary judgment, one alleging that the United States lacks
standing to bring such a suit, and one alleging that it has
not properly articulated a necessary element of the claim.
Both motions are denied for the reasons below.
1990, Congress passed the ADA “to provide a clear and
comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of
discrimination against individuals with disabilities.”
42 U.S.C. § 12101(b)(1). Congress instructed the
Attorney General to issue regulations on the implementation
of the ADA. Those regulations require that the government
“administer services, programs, and activities in the
most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified
individuals with disabilities.” 28 C.F.R. §
1999, the Supreme Court upheld the Attorney General's
regulations and held that “under Title II of the ADA,
States are required to provide community-based treatment for
persons with mental disabilities when the State's
treatment professionals determine that such placement is
appropriate, the affected persons do not oppose such
treatment, and the placement can be reasonably accommodated,
taking into account the resources available to the State and
the needs of others with mental disabilities.”
Olmstead v. L.C. ex rel. Zimring, 527 U.S. 581, 607
(1999). Olmstead continues to serve as the seminal
case on this matter.
this backdrop, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”)
has investigated, litigated, and worked with states around
the country to ensure that their systems for mental health
treatment uphold the purpose of the ADA, as articulated in
Olmstead. In 2011 DOJ issued a findings letter
regarding what it deemed to be the State's
over-institutionalization of adults with mental illness and
the lack of alternative community-based services. Then, the
United States filed this lawsuit in August of 2016.
complaint, the United States alleges that Mississippi
over-relies on four state psychiatric hospitals that are
“segregated, institutional settings that do no enable
individuals living there to interact with non-disable persons
to the fullest extent possible.” Docket No. 1 at 9.
There are thousands of Mississippians who cycle in and out of
the state hospitals each year, and many return for repeated,
lengthy stays. According to the United States, on a randomly
chosen day in 2014, 55% of the 206 patients housed on the
short-term care unit at the Mississippi State Hospital had
previously been admitted to the hospital two or more times.
See Id. at 11. In a similar sampling of the
long-term care unit, where the average length of stay is
seven years, there was a man who had been housed at the State
Hospital for over fifty years. See Id. at 12.
complaint also alleges that the over-institutionalization is
compounded by a lack of appropriate discharge plans for
individuals and the overall structure of the state mental
health system. The United States ultimately claims that
“Mississippi is aware that it unnecessarily relies on
institutional settings and has not taken the action needed to
remedy the violations of law[.]” Docket No. 1 at 21.
this litigation, the State has denied these allegations and
asserted the “fundamental alteration defense”
under Olmstead. See Docket No. 3. In
December, the State filed two motions for summary judgment
challenging the United States' standing and ability to
prove a key element of its claim, as well as a
Daubert motion challenging the reliability of its
the filing of the complaint, the parties completed discovery,
where depositions were taken, and expert reports were
produced. Both sides have invested significant time in
litigating this case. A bench trial is set to begin on June
judgment is appropriate when “the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Once a summary judgment motion is
made and properly supported, the nonmovant must go beyond the
pleadings and designate specific facts in the record showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial. Neither conclusory
allegations nor unsubstantiated assertions will satisfy the
nonmovant's burden.” Wallace v. Tex. Tech
Univ., 80 F.3d 1042, 1047 (5th Cir. 1996) (quotation
marks and citations omitted). The Court views the
“evidence and draw[s] reasonable inferences in the
light most favorable to the non-movant.” Maddox v.
Townsend and Sons, Inc., 639 F.3d 214, 216 (5th Cir.
if the standards of Rule 56 are met, a court has discretion
to deny a motion for summary judgment if it believes that
‘the better course would be to proceed to a full
trial.'” Harris v. Bruister, No.
4:10-CV-77-DPJ-FKB, 2013 WL 6805155, at *2 (S.D.Miss. Dec.