United States District Court, D. Minnesota
James and Lorie Jensen, as parents, guardians, and next friends of Bradley J. Jensen; James Brinker and Darren Allen, as parents, guardians, and next friends of Thomas M. Allbrink; Elizabeth Jacobs, as parent, guardian, and next friend of Jason R. Jacobs; and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
Minnesota Department of Human Services, an agency of the State of Minnesota; Director, Minnesota Extended Treatment Options, a program of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, an agency of the State of Minnesota; Clinical Director, the Minnesota Extended Treatment Options, a program of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, an agency of the State of Minnesota; Douglas Bratvold, individually and as Director of the Minnesota Extended Treatment Options, a program of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, an agency of the State of Minnesota; Scott TenNapel, individually and as Clinical Director of the Minnesota Extended Treatment Options, a program of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, an agency of the State of Minnesota; and the State of Minnesota, Defendants.
P. O'Meara, Esq., and Mark R. Azman, Esq., O'Meara
Leer Wagner & Kohl, PA, counsel for Plaintiffs.
H. Ikeda, Aaron Winter, and Anthony R. Noss, Assistant
Attorneys General, Minnesota Attorney General's Office,
counsel for State Defendants.
DONOVAN W. FRANK United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendants' objection to
the Court's continuing jurisdiction over this matter. On
April 5, 2017, the Court directed the parties to brief this
issue and to submit a proposed briefing schedule for the
Court's approval. (Doc. No. 626.) On April 18, 2017, the
Court imposed a briefing schedule. (Doc. No. 630.) The
parties have fully briefed the issue. (See Doc. Nos.
631, 634, 635, 637.) For the reasons set forth below, the
Court overrules Defendants' objection.
case began nearly eight years ago, on July 10, 2009, when
Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against Defendants asserting
multiple violations of federal and state law arising out of
allegations of “abusive, inhumane, cruel and improper
use of seclusion and mechanical restraints routinely imposed
upon patients of the Minnesota Extended Treatment Options
program (METO).” (Doc. No. 1 at 2.) Following extensive
negotiations, the parties entered into a Stipulated Class
Action Settlement Agreement (“Agreement”) which
was approved by the Court on December 5, 2011. (See
Doc. Nos. 104, 136.)
Agreement provides for the closure of the METO facility,
establishes requirements regarding restraint and seclusion at
successor facilities, and establishes requirements for the
Department of Human Services (“DHS”) to
internally and externally monitor restraint use.
(See Doc. No. 136-1 (“Agreement”) at
6-13.) The Agreement also provides that the State shall
exercise “best efforts” for appropriate discharge
of residents to the most integrated setting through
transition planning. (Id. at 13-14.) In addition,
the Agreement imposes requirements relating to other
practices at METO and its successor facilities such as staff
training. (Id. at 14-16.)
the provisions applicable to METO and its successors, the
Agreement also includes a section entitled “System Wide
Improvements.” (See Id. at 16-21.) This
section identifies goals and objectives in the areas of
long-term monitoring, crisis management, and training.
(Id. at 16-17.) In addition, this section imposes
requirements related to the creation of an Olmstead
Plan which was agreed to be developed and implemented within
eighteen months of the Agreement's approval.
(Id. at 18.) The Agreement also establishes
requirements relating to two other state facilities, the
modernization of state administrative rules relating to
positive behavioral supports (“Rule 40”), and the
substitution of offensive terminology in DHS publications.
(Id. at 19-21.)
December 1, 2011 Fairness Hearing regarding the Agreement,
the Court stated:
I find it to be fair, reasonable and adequate and will also
serve the public interest, as well as the interests of the
Class Members. Of course that carries with it . . . a
responsibility on the parties and the public has a right to
hold the Court to its responsibility to follow its oath and
to make this Agreement mean something with the jurisdiction
of the Court.
And obviously, enough people have spoken today, so it is not
surprising that, obviously, many of you will have a watchful
eye and careful scrutiny to see to it that this does what it
says it is going to do, and what it is intended to do, and
just isn't words on a legal document.
And of course, by the agreement, the Court, by an agreement
of all of the parties, the Court does reserve continuing
jurisdiction for a minimum of a two-year period to enforce
compliance with the provisions of the Agreement and the
Judgment . . . .
(Doc. No. 146 at 75.)
March 24, 2017, the Court held a status conference relating
to Defendants' implementation of the Olmstead
Plan which was developed by Defendants and approved by the
Court in the intervening years following the Court's
approval of the Agreement. (See Doc. No. 620.) At
this status conference, Defendants' Counsel raised an
objection to the Court's continuing jurisdiction over
this case. Specifically, Defendants' Counsel argued that
the Court has been without jurisdiction since December 2014.
Counsel for Plaintiffs argued that the Court presently has
jurisdiction. In light of Defendants' objection, the
Court ordered briefing and now issues this order to resolve
jurisdiction is a threshold requirement which must be assured
in every federal case.” Kronholm v. Fed. Deposit
Ins. Corp., 915 F.2d 1171, 1174 (8th Cir. 1990). A court
is required to dismiss an action if “at any time”
it concludes it has no subject-matter jurisdiction.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3). “Jurisdictional
issues, whether they involve questions of law or of fact, are
for the court to decide.” Osborn v. United
States, 918 F.2d 724, 729 (8th Cir. 1990).
“Because jurisdiction is a threshold issue for the
court, the district court has ‘broader power to decide
its own right to hear the case than it has when the merits of
the case are reached.'” Wessels, Arnold &
Henderson v. Nat'l Med. Waste, Inc., 65 F.3d 1427,
1431 (8th Cir. 1995) (quoting Bellecourt v. United
States, 994 F.2d 427, 430 (8th Cir. 1993), cert.
denied, 510 U.S. 1109 (1994)). In particular, a court
may “weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the
existence of its power to hear the case.”
Osborn, 918 F.2d at 730 (quoting Mortenson v.
First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891
(3d. Cir. 1977)). To evaluate whether it has jurisdiction,
“a district court may make findings of fact.”
Appley Bros. v. United States, 164 F.3d 1164, 1170
(8th Cir. 1999). “As no statute or rule prescribes a
format for evidentiary hearings on jurisdiction, ‘any
rational mode of inquiry will do.'”
Osborn, 918 F.2d at 730 (quoting Crawford v.
United States, 796 F.2d 924, 929 (7th Cir. 1986)). The
burden of establishing subject-matter jurisdiction rests with
the plaintiff. V S Ltd. P'ship v. Dep't of
Hous. & Urban Dev., 235 F.3d 1109, 1112 (8th Cir.
Federal Court Jurisdiction to Enforce Settlement
courts do not have automatic ancillary jurisdiction to
enforce a settlement agreement arising from federal
litigation.” Gilbert v. Monsanto Co., 216 F.3d
695, 699 (8th Cir. 2000). Rather, a federal court has
jurisdiction to enforce a settlement agreement only where
“the parties' obligation to comply with the terms
of the settlement ha[s] been made part of the order of
dismissal-either by separate provision (such as a provision
‘retaining jurisdiction' over the settlement
agreement) or by incorporating the terms of the settlement
agreement in the order.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life
Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 381 (1994). The Eighth
Circuit has consistently acknowledged this
“well-established rule.” See W. Thrift &
Loan Corp. v. Rucci, 812 F.3d 722, 724 (8th Cir. 2016);
see also Roberts v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC, 617
F. App'x 613, 614 (8th Cir. 2015); Jenkins v. Kan.
City Mo. Sch. Dist., 516 F.3d 1074, 1080-82 (8th Cir.
2008). As the Supreme Court's opinion in
Kokkonen suggests, courts applying this rule must
look at the terms of the court's dismissal order to
evaluate the scope of the court's ancillary jurisdiction.
See 4:20 Commc'ns, Inc. v. Paradigm Co., 336
F.3d 775, 778 (8th Cir. 2003) (“The issue of subject
matter jurisdiction under Kokkonen turns on the
language of the dismissal order, not on events prior to the
court retains jurisdiction for a specified period of time,
the court no longer has ancillary jurisdiction after that
period ends. Id. During a period of retained
jurisdiction, however, “the parties [are] at liberty .
. . to request the [c]ourt for assistance in effecting the
settlement, or in further extending its retention of
jurisdiction.” Buettner v. Kunard, Barnett,
Kakeldey & Gates, Ltd., Civ. No. 4-95-720, 1998 WL
668035, at *1 n.1 (D. Minn. Aug. 10, 1998); see also
Stewart v. O'Neill, 225 F.Supp.2d 6, 8-9 (D.D.C.
2002). Even where the parties agree to the court's
retention of jurisdiction, a court is not obligated to
exercise continuing jurisdiction and may terminate its
jurisdiction in its discretion. See Arata v. Nu Skin
Int'l., Inc., 96 F.3d 1265, 1269 (9th Cir. 1996).
the Court's December 5, 2011 Final Approval Order for
Stipulated Class Action Settlement Agreement, (Doc. No. 136),
governs the scope of the Court's ancillary jurisdiction
to enforce the settlement agreement. In this order, the Court
granted Plaintiffs' Petition for Final Approval of
Stipulated Class Action Settlement Agreement and dismissed
the action with prejudice. (Id. at 2-3.) The Court
also retained jurisdiction to enforce the Agreement in two
ways. First, the Court provided that the Agreement was
“expressly incorporated herein” and attached the
Agreement to the order. (Id. at 2.) Second, the
Court expressly retained jurisdiction over the Agreement as
[I]t is hereby ordered that the parties are directed to
consummate the Agreement in accordance with its terms, and
this Court hereby reserves continuing jurisdiction for the
time period set forth in the Agreement to enforce compliance
with the provisions of the Agreement and the Judgment, as
well as ensuring proper distribution of Settlement payments.
(Id.) Under Kokkonen and relevant Eighth
Circuit caselaw, the Court plainly retained ancillary
jurisdiction to enforce the Agreement through this order.
See Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 381; W. Thrift &
Loan Corp., 812 F.3d at 724. The parties do not appear
to dispute this conclusion. However, the parties dispute the
scope of the Court's retained jurisdiction. Because the
Court's order both incorporated the Agreement by
reference and specifically reserved jurisdiction “for
the time period set forth in the Agreement, ” (Doc. No.
136 at 2), the scope and duration of the Court's
jurisdiction in this case depends upon the proper
construction of the Agreement itself.
The Agreement's Jurisdictional Provision
Agreement provides that it “shall be construed and
enforced in accordance with applicable federal and Minnesota
laws.” (Agreement § XXI.) Settlement agreements
are contracts to which ordinary principles of contract
interpretation apply. See Sheng v. Starkey Labs.,
Inc., 53 F.3d 192, 194 (8th Cir. 1995); Dykes v.
Sukup Mfg. Co., 781 N.W.2d 578, 581-82 (Minn. 2010).
Federal courts evaluating settlement agreements apply the
forum state's law. See Am. Prairie Const. Co. v.
Hoich, 594 F.3d 1015, 1023 (8th Cir. 2010). Neither
party disputes that Minnesota law applies.
Minnesota law, ‘the primary goal of contract
interpretation is to determine and enforce the intent of the
parties.'” Loftness Specialized Farm Equip.,
Inc. v. Twiestmeyer, 818 F.3d 356, 361 (8th Cir. 2016)
(citation omitted). “Where the parties express their
intent in unambiguous words, those words are to be given
their plain and ordinary meaning.” Id.
(citation omitted). Therefore, a court “must first make
a legal determination whether the contract is ambiguous-i.e.,
‘whether the language used is reasonably susceptible of
more than one meaning.'” Swift & Co. v.
Elias Farms, Inc., 539 F.3d 849, 851 (8th Cir. 2008)
(quoting Blattner v. Forster, 322 N.W.2d 319, 321
(Minn. 1982)). A court should “construe a contract as a
whole and attempt to harmonize all of its clauses.”
Storms, Inc. v. Mathy Const. Co., 883 N.W.2d 772,
776 (Minn. 2016). In addition, unambiguous provisions should
not be given “a strained construction.”
Id. (quoting Valspar Refinish, Inc. v.
Gaylord's, Inc., 764 N.W.2d 359, 364-65 (Minn.
2009)). The presence or absence of ...