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Judge: Earlier Rulings Over Inmate Care To Remain In Place

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

A judge who took over supervision of a legal settlement over the quality of health care in Arizona prisons has said the rulings of another judge who previously presided over the lawsuit will remain in place.

Lawyers for the state have argued that U.S. Magistrate Judge David Duncan, who presided over the settlement before retiring in June, should have been pulled off the case because he didn't have jurisdiction.

U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver, who was assigned the case after Duncan, issued an order Thursday saying Duncan had jurisdiction and his rulings would stand.

She wrote that the state had years to object to Duncan's jurisdiction but did nothing about it until proceedings over compliance with the settlement didn't go as it had hoped.

Attorneys for the state had made an unsuccessful attempt this summer to pull Duncan off the case a month before the magistrate found Corrections Director Charles Ryan in contempt of court for failing to make many of the improvements the state promised when settling the lawsuit.

The state's lawyers said they made the argument amid concerns about the legal ramifications of Duncan's retirement.

Before Ryan was found in contempt, attorneys representing prisoners contended the state was trying to derail the contempt proceeding.

Since taking over the case, Silver has raised the possibility of throwing out the settlement over what she called the state's pervasive noncompliance with the deal.

Last week, she appointed an expert to examine the method for determining whether the state is making the changes it promised.

Silver has said evidence has shown the Department of Corrections manipulated the process for monitoring compliance with the settlement.