Health And Public Safety

McClendon Lawsuit Settlement Agreement Approved


A federal judge has approved a major agreement which could help resolve the 21-year-old class action lawsuit against the county over living conditions at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

Senior U.S. District Judge James A. Parker approved a settlement agreement in the McClendon case earlier this week. The agreement outlines how the county’s significant progress will be monitored in the areas of population, mental health and medical services. Experts in these areas will continue to provide oversight.

Bernalillo County’s successes to improve living conditions and provide better services at the jail were cited throughout the newly-approved agreement.

“The settlement agreement provides a way to solidify improvements at the MDC and eventually end this decades-old lawsuit,” Judge Parker wrote. “It is the court’s sincerest hope that the parties will achieve these goals.”

Wednesday’s jail population was 1,367 inmates, down from a high of more than 3,000 several years ago. The current cap on the jail population is 1,950 inmates, according to the agreement.

“Bernalillo County has worked long and hard to improve living conditions, provide better services and appropriately manage the population at the Metropolitan Detention Center,” Commission Chair Art De La Cruz says. “I want to congratulate County Manager Julie Morgas Baca, County Attorney Ken Martinez and the entire county team for their dedication to resolve this issue, including my colleagues on the County Commission.”

Bernalillo County’s team pushed for significant changes intended to reduce the jail population, including the creation of a new prosecutor position to negotiate plea agreements, a judge to preside over preliminary hearings and the creation of a new case management system designed “to move criminal cases through the courts at a faster pace and to address the backlog of cases,” according to the agreement.

The lawsuit was filed in 1995.

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