Case: DOJ Investigation of Missoula County Attorney's Office

No Court

Filed Date: May 1, 2012

Closed Date: 2016

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On May 1, 2012, the Department of Justice began a series of investigations stemming from allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment at the University of Montana and in the greater Missoula, Mont., community. These investigations sought to determine whether the Missoula County Attorney's Office (MCAO), as well as the Missoula Police Department and the University of Montana's Office of Public Safety, engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful gender discrimination in violation of the F…

On May 1, 2012, the Department of Justice began a series of investigations stemming from allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment at the University of Montana and in the greater Missoula, Mont., community. These investigations sought to determine whether the Missoula County Attorney's Office (MCAO), as well as the Missoula Police Department and the University of Montana's Office of Public Safety, engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful gender discrimination in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Safe Streets Act, and the regulations implementing the Safe Streets Act. In May 2013, the Civil Rights Division reached agreements with the University and the Police Department, not present in this Clearinghouse.

The Attorney’s Office however refused to provide requested documents, information, or access to staff for interviews. Instead, on February 2014, MCAO filed a complaint for declaratory judgment against the Department under [the Declaratory Judgment act in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana]. As a result of their refusal to cooperate, the DOJ gathered information by reviewing documents available from other sources and by interviewing persons knowledgeable about the policies, training, and practices related to MCAO's investigation and prosecution of sexual assault.

The investigation revealed substantial evidence suggesting that MCAO's response to allegations of sexual assault and rape discriminates against women and that this discrimination is fueled, at least in part, by gender bias. The investigation indicated that the County Attorney's Office often failed to take the steps necessary to develop sexual assault cases. For instance, the County Attorney 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; 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.

As a result, the DOJ alleged that female sexual assault victims in Missoula were deprived of fundamental legal protections and often re-victimized by Attorney's Office's response to their reports of abuse. These evidences suggested that the Attorney's Office engaged in a pattern or practice of gender discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

On June 10, 2014, DOJ reached a comprehensive agreement with the MCAO to resolve the department’s investigation of alleged gender bias in the prosecution of sexual assaults. Under the agreement, MCAO and the county agreed to take a number of significant steps to improve MCAO’s response to allegations of sexual assault and eliminate discrimination and gender bias.

Specifically, MCAO agreed to address gender bias in response to sexual assault and help to restore community confidence in the criminal justice system by developing and implementing sexual assault policies and training for prosecutors and supervisors; improving treatment of individuals who report sexual assault, including in-person interviews and improved communication

This agreement completed the Civil Rights Division’s investigation. MCAO agreed to dismiss with prejudice the declaratory judgment action, and the Justice Department agreed not to file suit regarding its allegations that the MCAO’s response to sexual assault violated federal law. The declaratory judgment case was dismissed on June 11, 2014.

The MCAO agreed to provide public quarterly reports to the Attorney General of Montana through June 2016 regarding whether the requirements of this Agreement have been

implemented.

On August 16, 2016, Attorney General of Montana announced that the MCAO was in full compliance with the 2014 agreement. Since the agreement, the MCAO has developed clear policies and guidelines for prosecuting sexual assault cases; participated in special training for sexual assault investigation, prosecution, and victim treatment; hired a victim-witness coordinator, investigator and trauma counselor to assist with sexual assault cases and address the effects of secondary trauma on staff; formed a Special Victims Unit; improved communication and coordination with law enforcement agencies and community partners; and engaged in community outreach.

The investigation is now closed.

Summary Authors

Ginny Lee (2/12/2017)


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)

Perez, Thomas E. (District of Columbia)

Samuels, Jocelyn (District of Columbia)

Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)

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)

Perez, Thomas E. (District of Columbia)

Samuels, Jocelyn (District of Columbia)

Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)

Tanner, Randy J (Montana)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Fox, Timothy C. (Montana)

Francis, Victoria L (Montana)

Valkenburg, Fred Van (Montana)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Docket [PACER]

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

U.S. District Court for the District of Montana

June 11, 2014 Docket

Justice Department Announces Investigations of the Handling of Sexual Assault Allegations by the University of Montana, the Missoula, Mont., Police Department and the Missoula County Attorney’s Office

[Missoula County Attorney's Office]

May 1, 2012 Press Release

Findings Letter

Feb. 14, 2014 Findings Letter/Report

Justice Department Finds Substantial Evidence of Gender Bias in Missoula County Attorney’s Office

[Missoula County Attorney's Office]

Feb. 14, 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

June 10, 2014 Settlement Agreement

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

[Missoula County Attorney's Office]

June 10, 2014 Press Release

Semi-Annual Report December 2014

Dec. 9, 2014 Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

Quarterly Report For Period Ending June 2015

June 4, 2015 Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

Final Quarterly Report For Period Ending January 31, 2016

Jan. 31, 2016 Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

Quarterly Report March 2015

DOJ investigation of Missoula County Attorney's Office

March 15, 2016 Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

Docket

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)

Feb. 11, 2014

Filing fee: $400.00 paid, receipt number 0977−1360063. (ASG, ) (Entered: 02/11/2014)

Feb. 11, 2014
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)

April 17, 2014
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
5

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

April 21, 2014
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)

May 20, 2014
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
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):

Policing

Key Dates

Filing Date: May 1, 2012

Closing Date: 2016

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

The U.S. DOJ Civil Rights Division

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 (Missoula), County

Defendant Type(s):

Law-enforcement

Case Details

Causes of Action:

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

Constitutional Clause(s):

Equal Protection

Special Case Type(s):

Out-of-court

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Private Settlement Agreement

Amount Defendant Pays: 780

Order Duration: 2014 - 2016

Content of Injunction:

Discrimination Prohibition

Develop anti-discrimination policy

Reporting

Monitoring

Goals (e.g., for hiring, admissions)

Required disclosure

Issues

General:

Disparate Treatment

Failure to supervise

Failure to train

Pattern or Practice

Discrimination-basis:

Sex discrimination

Affected Gender:

Female