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Case Name Charlie and Nadine H. v. Corzine CW-NJ-0002
Docket / Court 2:99-cv-03678 ( D.N.J. )
State/Territory New Jersey
Case Type(s) Child Welfare
Attorney Organization Children's Rights, Inc.
Case Summary
On August 4, 1999, a group of children in the legal and/or physical custody of the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) filed this lawsuit against the State of New Jersey and DYFS in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. Represented in part by Children's Rights, ... read more >
On August 4, 1999, a group of children in the legal and/or physical custody of the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) filed this lawsuit against the State of New Jersey and DYFS in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. Represented in part by Children's Rights, Inc., the plaintiffs alleged that DYFS failed to protect them from abuse, failed to provide them with services such as medical care, and failed to provide DYFS caseworkers with adequate resources and training. The plaintiffs claimed these actions violated federal common law and federal statutes. They named, in particular, the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, as amended by the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, 42 U.S.C. §§ 620-27, 670-679; Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994, as amended by the Interethnic Adoption Provisions of 1996; Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act; Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment Program, 42 U.S.C. § 1396 et seq; the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12131; and the Rehabilitation Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. § 794. Additionally, the plaintiffs claimed that New Jersey and DYFS’s actions violated the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the rights to association, privacy and family integrity under the First and Ninth Amendments. With the complaint, the plaintiffs also moved for class certification.

On October 12, 1999, the defendants moved to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim. On January 27, 2000, U.S. District Judge Garrett E. Brown granted the motion with respect to the plaintiffs’ substantive due process cause of action. The court dismissed the substantive due process claim to the extent it was alleged on behalf of children who were voluntarily in state custody. The court held there was no substantive due process right to “not remain in state custody unnecessarily” or “to be housed in the least restrictive, most appropriate and family-like placement while in state custody.” The court also dismissed the plaintiffs’ cause of action under the Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994 because the plaintiffs failed to allege that they were denied the opportunity to become an adoptive or foster parent on the basis of race, color, or national origin.. The court denied the motion for all the other asserted causes of action, and noted that "[t]here [was] no term other than tragic to summarize the facts" alleged in this case. Charlie H. v. Whitman, 83 F. Supp. 2d 476 (D.N.J. 2000).

After some procedural wrangling, in October 2000, the plaintiffs submitted an amended complaint as well as a modified motion to certify class action. By March 2001, the plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction to prevent the defendants from conducting an audit of DYFS case records. The court then ordered the defendants to show cause why a preliminary injunction should not be entered. On June 28, 2001, the court again denied the plaintiffs' motion to certify class action, concluding that the plaintiffs’ class definition was overly broad. On July 30, 2001, the plaintiffs again filed a third motion for class certification, which the court granted on March 7, 2002. During this time, on September 28, 2001, the court denied the plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction after determining that the plaintiffs failed to show irreparable harm and that injunctive relief was warranted. The parties proceeded towards trial and commenced discovery.

Meanwhile, on January 27, 2003, the New York Times and other newspapers moved to intervene in the case in order to modify the confidentiality orders. The court granted the motions in part for purposes of reporting to the public about the state of the child welfare system. Charlie H. v. Whitman, 213 F.R.D. 240 (D.N.J. 2003). The New York Times published a series of articles focused on the New Jersey child welfare system, including several pieces about the death of Faheem Williams, a seven-year-old boy whose case had been closed by DYFS even though there were outstanding issues of abuse.

Once discovery concluded, on February 27, 2003, the court entered an order referring the parties to mediation and appointed former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Stewart G. Pollack. Through mediation, the parties reached a settlement agreement in July 2003. After a fairness hearing, the court approved the settlement agreement on September 2, 2003. Under the core principles that the foster care placements be as temporary an arrangement as possible, with its goal being to provide to children in out-of-home environment safe permanent placements, the settlement agreement mandated the creation of an expert panel (the New Jersey Child Welfare Panel) which was tasked to begin the planning process for improvements in the child welfare system and overall supervision and technical assistance during the 18 month period. The agreement also set out planning procedures, definition of improved outcomes for children, and review process. Areas of immediate mandates included securing funds ($14.3 million) to hire additional man power, conducting safety assessments, reviewing high-risk facilities individually, reviewing standards for licensing, reviewing hiring processes, among others. The agreement also mandated the appointment of a monitor.

On February 26, 2004, the plaintiffs moved to appoint a guardian ad litem on behalf of three class members, currently in DYFS custody, to protect their interests in any claims for damages they may have against DYFS. On April 5, 2004, after oral argument on this motion, the court denied the plaintiffs’ motion to appoint a guardian ad litem. The plaintiffs then moved for $150,000 in attorneys’ fees and expenses on September 27, 2004. The court granted that motion on November 5, 2004.

In October 2005, the court-appointed monitor found that the state was making "seriously inadequate progress" in implementing the terms of the settlement agreement. During this time, the Communication Workers of America, AFL-CIO (CWA) were granted leave to appear as amicus curiae.

After unsuccessful negotiations between the parties to improve progress levels, in December 2005, the plaintiffs moved to hold the defendants in contempt for noncompliance with the consent decree. However, the newly elected governor created a new cabinet-level children's agency and began new negotiations with the plaintiffs. As a result, the parties modified the settlement agreement in July 2006.

The modified settlement agreement provided for phased implementation. In Phase 1, lasting from July 2006 to December 2008, the state committed to working in collaboration with the Monitor to develop a case practice model that addresses issues of regular case planning, development of individualized service plans, and training for caseworkers. Among the increased services for youth are mental health services, services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth, and regular medical examinations.

Phase II, from January 2009 until termination of the agreement, required completion of certain outcomes based on numerous indicators—e.g., that all children are safe from abuse and that siblings are placed together. The settlement provided for bi-annual reports by a monitor and established a dispute resolution process. Until November 2015, the monitor filed reports in accordance with the modified agreement.

On November 4, 2015, the second modified settlement agreement was entered. The 2015 agreement identified as areas to be achieved: timely and quality completion of investigations on alleged child abuse and neglect, timely execution of initial and subsequent family team meetings, proper needs assessment, timely and quality planning of cases, proper management of intake/adoption workers' caseloads, proper parent-child/siblings visitations, stable placements (with siblings, where possible), prevention of repeat maltreatment and re-entry to placement, timely discharge to permanent placement, provision of services to support transition and independent living assessment of older youth. The agreement stipulated that once defendants demonstrated compliance during a period longer than 12 months, the court would terminate its jurisdiction over the case. The first monitor’s report for the new agreement was filed in June 2016.

Enforcement of the settlement agreement is ongoing.

Elizabeth Homan - 12/16/2012
Soojin Cha - 07/03/2016


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Benefit Source
Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Access to public accommodations - governmental
Adoption
Assault/abuse by staff
Classification / placement
Commitment procedure
Conditions of confinement
Counseling
Discharge & termination plans
Disciplinary procedures
Education
Emergency shelter
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
Family abuse and neglect
Foster care (benefits, training)
Gay/lesbian/transgender
Incident/accident reporting & investigations
Individualized planning
Juveniles
Language/ethnic/minority needs
Neglect by staff
Parents (visitation, involvement)
Placement in mental health facilities
Placement in shelters
Relative caretakers
Siblings (visitation, placement)
Special education
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Timeliness of case assignment
Totality of conditions
Visiting
Youth / Adult separation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Title XIX of the Social Security (Medicaid) Act, 42 U.S.C §1396
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, 42 U.S.C. § 5101 et seq.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Adoption Assistance Program, 42 U.S.C. § 670 et seq.
Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (AACWA), 42 U.S.C. § 620 et seq.
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) New Jersey
Plaintiff Description Children in the legal and/or physical custody of the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS)
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Children's Rights, Inc.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2006 - n/a
Case Closing Year 2012
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Legal Accountability in the Service-Based Welfare State: Lessons from Child Welfare Reform
By: Kathleen G. Noonan, Charles F. Sabel, William H. Simon (Center for High Impact Philanthropy , Columbia Law School and Stanford Law School)
Citation: 34 Law & Soc. Inquiry 523 (Summer 2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Making Child Welfare Work: How the R.C. Lawsuit Forged New Partnerships to Protect Children and Sustain Families
By: Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law (Bazelon Center)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
2:99−cv−03678 (D.N.J.) 06/02/2016
CW-NJ-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Order 01/27/2000 (83 F.Supp.2d 476) (D.N.J.)
CW-NJ-0002-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief 09/29/2000
CW-NJ-0002-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Memorandum Opinion 03/20/2003 (213 F.R.D. 240) (D.N.J.)
CW-NJ-0002-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Approving Final Settlement of Class Action 09/02/2003 (D.N.J.)
CW-NJ-0002-0009.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Modified Settlement Agreement 07/18/2006
CW-NJ-0002-0002.pdf | External Link | Detail
Period One Monitoring Report 02/26/2007
CW-NJ-0002-0003.pdf | External Link | Detail
Period Two Monitoring Report 10/22/2007
CW-NJ-0002-0004.pdf | External Link | Detail
Period Three Monitoring Report 04/16/2008
CW-NJ-0002-0005.pdf | External Link | Detail
State Central Registry: An Assessment 07/30/2008
CW-NJ-0002-0006.pdf | External Link | Detail
Stipulated Amendments to the Modified Settlement Agreement 08/07/2012
CW-NJ-0002-0010.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Monitoring Report Period XIII (July 2012 - March 31, 2013) 10/03/2013
CW-NJ-0002-0011.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Monitoring Report Period XIV (April 1 - December 31, 2013) 07/17/2014
CW-NJ-0002-0012.pdf | Detail
Status Report [by Chris Christie] 01/22/2015
CW-NJ-0002-0015.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Monitoring Report Period XV (January 1 - June 30, 2013) 01/23/2015
CW-NJ-0002-0013.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Modified Settlement Agreement 11/04/2015
CW-NJ-0002-0014.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Brown, Garrett E. Jr. (D.N.J.)
CW-NJ-0002-0007
Chesler, Stanley R. (D.N.J.) [Magistrate]
CW-NJ-0002-0002 | CW-NJ-0002-0009 | CW-NJ-0002-0010 | CW-NJ-0002-0014 | CW-NJ-0002-9000
Hughes, John J. (D.N.J.) [Magistrate]
CW-NJ-0002-0008
Shipp, Michael Andre (D.N.J.) [Magistrate]
CW-NJ-0002-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Burt, Jessica Ann (New Jersey)
CW-NJ-0002-9000
Cooper, Marion B. (New Jersey)
CW-NJ-0002-0010 | CW-NJ-0002-9000
Cullen, Patricia A. (New Jersey)
CW-NJ-0002-0002 | CW-NJ-0002-9000
Halper, Jason E. (New Jersey)
CW-NJ-0002-9000
Harris, David L. (New Jersey)
CW-NJ-0002-0001 | CW-NJ-0002-9000
Johnson, Marion B. (New Jersey)
CW-NJ-0002-9000
Lowry, Marcia Robinson (New York)
CW-NJ-0002-0014
Rinschler, Joshua David (New Jersey)
CW-NJ-0002-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Arnold, Christian A. (New Jersey)
CW-NJ-0002-0015 | CW-NJ-0002-9000
Brand, Stefanie A. (New Jersey)
CW-NJ-0002-0002 | CW-NJ-0002-9000
Carlton, Lauren F. (New Jersey)
CW-NJ-0002-9000
Huber, Ann A. (New Jersey)
CW-NJ-0002-9000
McCoach, Howard J. (New Jersey)
CW-NJ-0002-9000
Miller, Jeffrey John (New Jersey)
CW-NJ-0002-9000
Other Lawyers PINARSKI, ANNMARIE (New Jersey)
CW-NJ-0002-9000
Robinson, Donald A. (New Jersey)
CW-NJ-0002-9000
Rosen, Bruce S. (New Jersey)
CW-NJ-0002-9000

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