United States v. Commonwealth of P.R., No. 10-1758 (1st Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
In 1994 the federal government filed suit to remedy conditions in Puerto Rican juvenile detention facilities. The court approved a settlement in 1997. A 2007 order terminated some conditions and modified and retained others. The parties continued sparring over failure to achieve specified staff levels; a 2009 order required hiring of 50 staff members per month until the goal was reached. Six months later, the federal government moved for a finding of civil contempt. The district court took no action on either the contempt motion or Puerto Rico's request to modify or terminate the 2009 order before 180 days had passed, and the prospective relief provisions were stayed (18 U.S.C. 3626(a)). The court subsequently denied the motion for contempt. The Third Circuit dismissed, reasoning that there is nothing to enforce because the 2009 order was stayed as a result of the motion to modify or terminate. The two motions involve the same argument: whether Puerto Rico is financially able to comply with the 2009 order. The court urged the district court to decide Puerto Rico's motion promptly.