On February 22, 2007, plaintiffs filed a class action complaint for prospective declaratory and injunctive relief in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, basing their lawsuit upon alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794; 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and federal common law. They also claimed violations of numerous state constitution provisions, statutes, and regulations governing services for handicapped persons, public accommodations, public assistance programs, health care, and due process. The plaintiffs, also seeking an award of attorney's fees and litigation expenses, were represented by private counsel and attorneys from The Legal Aid Society (New York City) and the Urban Justice Center.
The plaintiffs, indigent New York City residents with psychiatric disabilities who are under the supervision of the New York State Division of Parole ("DOP"), or who are soon to be released to New York City from a New York State prison under DOP supervision, alleged that their psychiatric disabilities' symptoms interfere with major life activities such as thinking, concentrating, interacting with others, caring for oneself, working, and remembering and processing information. Qualified to participate in the parole, conditional release or post-release supervision programs (collectively referred to as "the parole program"), the plaintiffs asserted that they require disability accommodations in the form of pre-release planning and appropriate transitional services in order to be successful in the parole program and have access to the services it offers. Due to their lack of financial resources, the plaintiffs qualified for one or more public benefits programs, but stated that they required accommodations for their disability in the form of assistance with pre-release applications and post-release services to obtain and maintain access to these benefits programs. The defendants consisted of the DOP, additional state agencies responsible for mental health and benefits programs, and various state officials administering these agencies.
The plaintiffs alleged that the release from prison of members of their class without having been provided appropriate pre-release planning services results in a "revolving door" system in which they are likely return to prison because they fail while on parole supervision, the state not having accommodated their disabilities. In this regard, plaintiffs stated that adequate pre-release planning for prisoners with psychiatric disabilities includes assisting them in completing, submitting, and monitoring the processing of applications for public benefits such as Medicaid, Social Security disability benefits, Family Assistance and Safety Net Assistance (collectively referred to as "Temporary Assistance"), and Food Stamps, such that those benefits are available to the prisoners promptly upon their release from prison into the Parole Program. Adequate pre-release planning also, they alleged, includes helping prisoners secure community mental health services, supportive housing, and enrollment in vocational, educational and/or substance abuse programs. Their complaint added that parolees with psychiatric disabilities also need continued assistance throughout their time in the parole program with securing benefits, programs and services not secured prior to release, with implementing a coordinated plan of mental health care, and with addressing additional needs or problems that arise while on parole.
The case was assigned to District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum. On several occasions in the ensuing months, she extended the period of time for the defendants to file answers and motions in response to the complaint. The PACER docket entries for the case reflect that these extensions result from settlement discussions between the parties. Also, due to the settlement negotiations, the plaintiffs withdrew on April 23, 2007, their motion for class certification without prejudice to the right to re-file it, should no settlement occur.
On February 14, 2011, after many years of extensions on the defendants' time to answer the complaint, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the case without prejudice. Kristen Sagar - 04/28/2009
Anjali Biala - 01/07/2014