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Updated Jul 18, 2013 - 6:45 pm

US court to consider scope of Arizona prison case

PHOENIX — A federal appellate court will consider whether 13 inmates’
lawsuit over health care provided by Arizona prisons and conditions of
confinement should be expanded into broader litigation on behalf of nearly 34,000
fellow prisoners.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to accept a pretrial appeal by
the state, which wants to erase a class-action certification granted by U.S.
District Judge Neil Wake, the Arizona Capitol Times reported.

In asking to be allowed to challenge the certification, the state said the
inmates’ lawyers hadn’t provided evidence of systemwide shortcomings.

Citing lengthy class-action cases over conditions in California’s prison
system, Arizona’s request also urged the appellate court to set a standard for
allowing class-action cases alleging unconstitutional conditions in state prison

A ruling upholding the certification likely would mean many more years of
litigation, the state said in its motion.

Wake certified the suit as a class action in March, saying a case could be made
that the Department of Corrections shows “deliberate indifference to serious
medical needs” and that systemic problems expose all prisoners to a substantial
risk of serious harm.

Wake ruled the class would include prisoners who are not provided access to
necessary and timely care. He also included a subclass of prisoners who are
confined to their cells 22 hours a day.

The state has a total inmate population of approximately 40,500.

Along with agreeing to hear the appeal, the 9th Circuit also ordered that it be
put on a fast track. Written briefs from both parties will be filed by Sept. 18,
and the appeal will be put on the first available calendar for oral argument.

Dan Pochoda, an American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona attorney helping
represent the inmates, expressed confidence in Wake’s ruling, which Pochoda
called well-reasoned.


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