For the second time, the state of Arizona is pushing to oust federal judge David Duncan from overseeing a legal settlement demanding that Arizona improves healthcare for its inmates.
The request to remove Duncan from the settlement stemmed from his threats to hold Corrections Director Charles Ryan and Assistant Corrections Director Richard Pratt in civil contempt of court for failure to comply with settlement agreements.
According to The Associated Press, the state acknowledges 1,900 instances when it failed to make improvements – incurring possible fines totaling as much as $1.9 million. Duncan has threatened to hold Ryan in civil contempt and fine the state $1,000 for each instance it failed to make improvements to the system.
Duncan is retiring in three weeks due to health issues according to the Associated Press. Earlier this year the state attempted to remove Duncan from the case on accounts of bias toward officials.
Those opposing Duncan’s role question his objectivity in the suit arguing he was appointed by lawyers who filed the suit and not at random.
The case, Parsons v. Ryan, began in 2012 and was settled in 2014 but the state was not complying with certain standards such as urgent medication and special care.
With the state’s approval, Judge Duncan has presided over the case for three years.
There have still been no indications as to when Duncan will release rulings regarding contempt and fines incurred by the state, as reported in the Associated Press.
Courthouse News Service reported on an Arizona prison counselor’s recent testimony about a prison health care system she characterized as riddled with inadequate staffing and poor care. The counselor, Angela Fischer worked at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Phoenix as a psychology associate for Corizon Health, the health care provider for Arizona’s prison system. Fischer revealed emails from her employment that she said revealed failures “by the state to make improvements to the prison healthcare system.”
For more information on the history of the case and the state of prison healthcare in Arizona, visit The Marshall Project.