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Salazar v. District of Columbia

February 18, 2010

OSCAR SALAZAR, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gladys Kessler United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

The District of Columbia has filed a Motion to Vacate the Court's Order Granting Injunctive Relief Dated October 18, 2004 ("Motion to Vacate the Dental Order") [Dkt. No. 1153]. Upon consideration of the Motion, Opposition, Reply, Surreply, Supplemental Brief, the many exhibits submitted by the parties, and the long, tangled, and complex history of this important case which focuses on the provision of medical services to poor children in the District of Columbia, Defendants' Motion is denied.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In 1993, Plaintiffs brought this far-reaching class action to provide and arrange for a range of medical services, guaranteed under the federal Medicaid statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1396, et seq., to poor children in the District of Columbia. During lengthy pre-trial proceedings before Judge Norma Holloway Johnson, to whom the case was originally assigned, discovery was completed, and many motions (both dispositive and non-dispositive) were decided. Thereafter the parties settled several claims prior to trial with the help of a mediator appointed under the Court's Alternative Dispute Resolution Program.

In July of 1994, the case was re-assigned to this Judge. After a seven-day trial in April of 1996, this Court issued a 56-page opinion finding Defendants to be in violation of several provisions of the Medicaid statute. See Salazar v. District of Columbia, 954 F. Supp. 258, 334 (D.D.C. 1996). By the time of trial, many of the issues pled in the original Complaint had been substantially narrowed and the trial itself focused primarily on whether Defendants were complying with the statute's requirement to provide EPSDT services ("early and periodic, screening, diagnostic, and treatment services") to children entitled to them. Since that time, the parties have focused virtually all their attention on the EPSDT issue.

The District of Columbia took an appeal from the decision. On the eve of oral argument in the Court of Appeals, the parties entered into a detailed and complex agreement. A public hearing was held. On January 25, 1999, after various proceedings, the Court approved and entered the parties' final settlement as an Order Modifying the Amended Remedial Order of May 6, 1997 and Vacating the Order of March 27, 1997 ("the Settlement Order") [Dkt. No. 663]. Since that date, January 25, 1999, the Settlement Order, which contains several provisions relating to dental services for class members, has been the governing document in this case.*fn1

On April 23, 2004, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Enforce the Settlement Order of January 25, 1999 and the Order of February 28, 2003, Concerning Dental Services [Dkt. No. 1010]. After full briefing, on October 18, 2004, the Court granted the Motion in large part and issued its Memorandum Opinion and Dental Order ("Dental Order of October 18, 2004" or " Dental Order") [Dkt. No. 1034]. The District of Columbia took an appeal on December 4, 2004; however, on January 27, 2005, it requested the Court of Appeals to hold its appeal in abeyance as it "expect[s] to file in the near future a motion [in the district court] to dissolve that injunction." Motion to Hold Appeal in Abeyance, Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, No. 04-7200. No such motion was ever filed in this Court. On December 2, 2005, the District of Columbia withdrew its appeal of the Dental Order.

On May 26, 2006, the District of Columbia filed the present Motion to Vacate the Dental Order. Plaintiffs filed their Opposition on July 7, 2006, Defendants replied on September 12, 2006, Plaintiffs filed a Sur-Reply on December 14, 2006 and a Supplemental Brief on April 4, 2008. Oral argument was held on January 12, 2007.*fn2

II. ANALYSIS

In its Motion to Vacate, the Defendants argue that the Dental Order is not supported by evidence that the Settlement Order was violated or that the District of Columbia has failed to provide and arrange for appropriate dental services when requested, and that the injunctive relief ordered is not tailored to cure a Constitutional or statutory violation. In addition, the Defendants make the curious argument that by mandating the provision of dental services which are required by the Medicaid statute, the Dental Order is "imping[ing] upon the free will of the Medicaid recipient to force dental care participation. The District cannot and should not be ordered to ensure that every District child who may be eligible for EPSDT services actually receive these services." Mot. to Vacate, at 8.

A. There Is No Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Authorizing Defendants' Motion at this Late Date, More than 19 Months after Entry of the Dental Order

Defendants have failed, in their opening Motion papers, to cite any authority whatsoever under either the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or case law which would authorize the filing of their Motion to Vacate the Dental Order, more than 19 months after its entry. They had numerous opportunities to seek reconsideration, reversal, or modification of the Order and failed to do so. It is now simply too late, because of Defendants' inexplicable delay, to relitigate issues which were fully briefed and decided more than five years ago.

In their Reply to Plaintiffs' procedural arguments, Defendants argue, for the first time, that "resulting orders [from motions to enforce a consent decree] do not take on the character of a judgment" and therefore the Court has "equitable power" to vacate them for reasons not specifically provided in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. There is no legal support for that proposition, nor would the facts justify its application in this instance if such legal support existed.

1. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

An examination of those Federal Rules which might authorize the Motion to Vacate demonstrates why Defendants have failed to cite any of them: Defendants ...


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