Case: Van Valkenburg v. County Attorney's Office for Missoula

9:14-cv-00038 | U.S. District Court for the District of Montana

Filed Date: Feb. 11, 2014

Closed Date: 2016

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On May 1, 2012, the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice ("DOJ") and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Montana announced the opening of an investigation into the Missoula County Attorney's Office ("MCAO"), focusing on allegations that the MCAO failed to adequately investigate and prosecute alleged sexual assaults against women. (The DOJ also launched a companion investigation of the University of Montana-Missoula and its Office of Pub…

On May 1, 2012, the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice ("DOJ") and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Montana announced the opening of an investigation into the Missoula County Attorney's Office ("MCAO"), focusing on allegations that the MCAO failed to adequately investigate and prosecute alleged sexual assaults against women. (The DOJ also launched a companion investigation of the University of Montana-Missoula and its Office of Public Safety and a simultaneous investigation of the City of Missoula Police Department. These are listed as related cases, below. The DOJ reached agreements with these agencies on May 9, 2013.)

As the investigation neared a close, on February 11, 2014, Missoula County Attorney brought a declaratory judgment action against the United States in the U.S. District Court for the District of Missouri, arguing that the DOJ lacked the authority to investigate or sue the County Attorney's Office under 42 U.S.C. § 3789d and 42 U.S.C. § 14141. The complaint and docket sheet are included in this case record.

On February 14, 2014, the DOJ issued its findings letter describing the problems found in the MCAO's response to sexual assault, concluding that there was substantial evidence that the County Attorney's response to sexual assault unconstitutionally discriminated against women. The Department's investigation - with which the MCAO did not cooperate - uncovered evidence indicating that the MCAO engaged in gender discrimination in violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as well as relevant federal laws. In particular, the investigation found evidence that the decisions of the MCAO regarding the investigation and prosecution of sexual assaults and rape, particularly non-stranger assaults and rapes, were influenced by gender bias and gender stereotyping thereby adversely affecting women in Missoula. The investigation found that the following, taken together, strongly suggested gender discrimination:

1. despite their prevalence in the community, sexual assaults of adult women were given low priority in the MCAO;

2. the MCAO did not provide Deputy County Attorneys with the basic knowledge and training about sexual assault necessary to effectively and impartially investigate and prosecute these cases, nor did it generally develop evidence in support of sexual assault prosecutions, either on its own or in cooperation with other law enforcement agencies;

3. adult women victims, particularly victims of non-stranger sexual assault and rape, were often treated with disrespect, not informed of the status of their case and revictimized by the process; and

4. the MCAO routinely failed to engage in the most basic communication about its cases of sexual assault with law enforcement and advocacy partners.

The matter settled on June 10, 2014, with an out-of-court settlement agreement between the MCAO and the DOJ, and a separate Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the MCAO and the Montana Attorney General, assigning a substantial oversight role to the Montana AG. Under the agreement, the USDOJ agreed not to sue the MCAO and Missoula County. The MOU gave the Montana Attorney General the sole authority to supervise the MCAO in the handling of any case. It provided for hiring a "Technical Advisor" (at a maximum cost of $150,000 for a period of at least one year). The Technical Advisor would train prosecuting attorneys as well as MCAO's supervisors to meet standards set by the Montana Attorney General for the handling of sexual assault cases. Further, the MCAO agreed to develop sexual assault case policies consistent with the National District Attorneys Association policies and to provide training to appropriate officials regarding the handling of sexual assault cases for every year that the MOU was in effect. The MOU required prosecutors to make "reasonable efforts" to meet with sexual assault complainants and to provide information regarding decisions to charge or not to charge; it also required the MCAO to coordinate with other agencies to reduce the likelihood of discrimination in the handling of sexual assault cases, and to seek funding to provide resources such as expert witnesses to promote prosecution of sexual assault cases. Additionally, the MCAO was required to provide information to the public regarding the criminal justice process.

The Montana Attorney General agreed to supervise the MCAO's policies and compliance with this MOU, including the review of sexual assault cases for which the MCAO declined prosecution for the year following this MOU. The Montana Attorney General was to consult with the USDOJ to select the Technical Advisor, to review and approve MCAO's policies and guidelines for handling sexual assault cases, and to review and approve the MCAO's sexual assault training program. The Montana Attorney General agreed to also obtain and provide, after every six months for a period of two years after the date of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), copies of policies implemented by the MCAO regarding sexual assault cases, as well as general data on sexual assault cases.

Lastly, as part of the settlement, MCAO agreed to dismiss its district court lawsuit against the United States. The case was dismissed with prejudice on June 11, 2014.

On May 11, 2015, the DOJ issued a press release that announced that the Missoula Police Department had fully implemented its agreement to improve its response to reports of sexual assault. The release stated that the agreement between MCAO and DOJ in 2014 had been implemented and had improved MCAO's response to sexual assaults.

The settlement is now complete.

Summary Authors

Heather Turner (5/4/2014)

Maurice Youkanna (6/10/2014)

Jake Parker (7/23/2018)

Related Cases

Department of Education OCR Title IX Investigation of University of Montana-Missoula, No Court (2012)

DOJ Investigation of University of Montana-Missoula's Office of Public Safety, No Court (2012)

DOJ Investigation of Missoula Police Department, No Court (2012)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/6088331/parties/van-valkenburg-v-county-attorneys-office-for-missoula-county-montana/


Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Blumberg, Jeffrey (District of Columbia)

Cotter, Michael W. (Montana)

Jones, Natasha Prinzing (Montana)

Kappelhoff, Mark (District of Columbia)

Leonard, Thomas J (Montana)

Lopez, Christy (District of Columbia)

Mondino, Jennifer L. (District of Columbia)

Samuels, Jocelyn (District of Columbia)

Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)

Tanner, Randy J (Montana)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Blumberg, Jeffrey (District of Columbia)

Cotter, Michael W. (Montana)

Jones, Natasha Prinzing (Montana)

Kappelhoff, Mark (District of Columbia)

Leonard, Thomas J (Montana)

Lopez, Christy (District of Columbia)

Mondino, Jennifer L. (District of Columbia)

Samuels, Jocelyn (District of Columbia)

Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)

Tanner, Randy J (Montana)

Valkenburg, Fred Van (Montana)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Fox, Timothy C. (Montana)

Francis, Victoria L (Montana)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Docket (PACER)

Valkenburg v. United States Department of Justice

June 11, 2014 Docket

Settlement Agreement

Missoula County Attorney’s Office

No Court

Dec. 13, 2013 Settlement Agreement
1

Complaint for Declaratory Judgment

Valkenburg v. United States Department of Justice

Feb. 11, 2014 Complaint

Re: The United States' Investigation of the Missoula County Attorney's Office

DOJ Investigation of Missoula County Attorney’s Office

No Court

Feb. 14, 2014 Findings Letter/Report

Department of Justice Reaches Landmark Agreement to Improve Missoula County Attorney’s Office’s Response to Reports of Sexual Assault

Valkenburg v. United States Department of Justice

No Court

June 10, 2014 Press Release

Memorandum of Understanding Between the Montana Attorney General, The Missoula County Attorney's Office, Missoula County and The United States Department of Justice

DOJ Investigation of Missoula County Attorney’s Office

No Court

June 10, 2014 Settlement Agreement

Re: MOU/Agreement Requirements between the Montana Attorney General, the US Department ofJustice and the Missoula County Attorney's Office

DOJ Investigation of Missoula County Attorney’s Office

No Court

March 1, 2015 Findings Letter/Report

DOJ Press Release: Justice Department Announces Missoula Police Department Has Fully Implemented Agreement to Improve Response to Reports of Sexual Assault

DOJ Investigation of Missoula County Attorney’s Office

No Court

May 11, 2015 Press Release

Re.: MOU/Agreement Requirements between the Montana Attorney General, the US Department of Justice and the Missoula County Attorney's Office

DOJ Investigation of Missoula County Attorney’s Office

No Court

June 1, 2015 Findings Letter/Report

Re: MOU/Agreement Requirements between the Montana Attorney General, the US Department of Justice and the Missoula County Attorney’s Office

DOJ Investigation of Missoula County Attorney’s Office

No Court

Jan. 31, 2016 Findings Letter/Report

Resources

Title Description External URL

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town

Jon Krakauer

From bestselling author Jon Krakauer, a stark, powerful, meticulously reported narrative about a series of sexual assaults at the University of Montana ­— stories that illuminate the human drama behi… April 21, 2015 http://www.amazon.com/Missoula-Rape-Justice-System-College/dp/0385538731/

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/6088331/van-valkenburg-v-county-attorneys-office-for-missoula-county-montana/

Last updated May 12, 2022

ECF Number Description Date Link
1

COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY JUDGMENT filed by Fred Van Valkenburg, County Attorney's Office for Missoula County, Montana. (Attachments: # 1 civil cover sheet) (ASG, ) (Entered: 02/11/2014)

1 civil cover sheet

View on PACER

Feb. 11, 2014 PACER
2

Summons Issued as to Michael W. Cotter, Eric H. Holder, Jr., Jocelyn Samuels, Jonathan M. Smith, United States Department of Justice. Originals mailed to Counsel Jones. (ASG, ) (Entered: 02/11/2014)

Feb. 11, 2014 PACER
3

Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Answer Michael W. Cotter appearing for Defendant Michael W. Cotter (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order) (Cotter, Michael) (Entered: 04/17/2014)

1 Text of Proposed Order

View on PACER

April 17, 2014 PACER
4

ORDER granting 3 Motion for Extension of Time to Answer re 1 Complaint All Defendants. Defendants shall file their response to Complaint no later than 5/21/2014. Signed by Chief Judge Dana L. Christensen on 4/17/2014. (dle) (Entered: 04/17/2014)

April 17, 2014 PACER
5

NOTICE of Appearance by Victoria L. Francis on behalf of All Defendants (Francis, Victoria) (Entered: 04/21/2014)

April 21, 2014 PACER
6

Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Answer Michael W. Cotter appearing for Defendant Michael W. Cotter (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order) (Cotter, Michael) (Entered: 05/20/2014)

1 Text of Proposed Order

View on PACER

May 20, 2014 PACER
7

ORDER granting 6 Motion for Extension of Time to Answer 6 . Response to complaint due 6/11/2014. Signed by Judge Dana L. Christensen on 5/20/2014. (ASG, ) (Entered: 05/20/2014)

May 20, 2014 RECAP
8

Unopposed MOTION to Dismiss Natasha Prinzing Jones appearing for Plaintiffs County Attorney's Office for Missoula County, Montana, Fred Van Valkenburg (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order) (Jones, Natasha) (Entered: 06/10/2014)

June 10, 2014
9

ORDER granting 8 Motion to Dismiss. This matter is dismissed with prejudice. Signed by Judge Dana L. Christensen on 6/11/2014. (ASG, ) (Entered: 06/11/2014)

June 11, 2014

State / Territory: Montana

Case Type(s):

Criminal Justice (Other)

Key Dates

Filing Date: Feb. 11, 2014

Closing Date: 2016

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

The DOJ, investigating allegations of a systematic failure to protect women victims of sexual assault in Missoula. In a related case, the District Attorney of Missoula.

Plaintiff Type(s):

U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Missoula County Attorney's Office (Missoula, Missoula), County

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

34 U.S.C. § 12601 (previously 42 U.S.C. § 14141)

Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201

Constitutional Clause(s):

Equal Protection

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

None of the above

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Private Settlement Agreement

Order Duration: 2014 - 2016

Content of Injunction:

Hire

Develop anti-discrimination policy

Provide antidiscrimination training

Implement complaint/dispute resolution process

Reporting

Monitor/Master

Recordkeeping

Monitoring

Required disclosure

Training

Issues

General:

Access to lawyers or judicial system

Disparate Impact

Disparate Treatment

Failure to train

Inadequate citizen complaint investigations and procedures

Incident/accident reporting & investigations

Pattern or Practice

Quality of representation

Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)

Timeliness of case assignment

Discrimination-basis:

Sex discrimination

Affected Gender:

Female