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Case Name Joseph v. Hartz CW-NM-0001
Docket / Court 80-0623 ( D.N.M. )
State/Territory New Mexico
Case Type(s) Child Welfare
Attorney Organization Children's Rights, Inc.
Case Summary
This class action involving neglected and dependent children placed in New Mexico's foster care system was filed on July 25, 1980, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel and Children's Rights, Inc., sought class action certification ... read more >
This class action involving neglected and dependent children placed in New Mexico's foster care system was filed on July 25, 1980, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel and Children's Rights, Inc., sought class action certification as well as declaratory and injunctive relief against the New Mexico Department of Human Services, claiming that the state violated the plaintiffs' civil rights by failing to develop permanent plans for their placement. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that they were denied a state benefit without due process, that they were deprived of their rights to liberty, privacy, and family integrity, that the lack of foster care review violated their rights to due process, that failing to seek adoptive homes for qualified children violated their rights to liberty and placement in the least restrictive setting, and that these failures amounted to violations of Titles IV and XX of the Social Security Act and other federal regulations.

On March 4, 1982, the court certified the action as a class action. Shortly after the complaint was filed, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which was denied by the court. On February 7, 1983, the defendants filed a motion for partial summary judgment based on the then-recent change in good faith immunity law (Harlow v. Fitzgerald 457 U.S. 800, 102 S.Ct. 2727 (1982)), which the court also denied.

On September 23, 1983, a Consent Decree was reached and ordered by the court, in which the defendants agreed to: include a permanency planning component in its social services training program, provide training for all child welfare services supervisors and managers, provide mandatory permanency planning training for all new social services caseworkers hired by the defendants, maintain records of caseworkers and supervisors, set a maximum caseload for supervisors and caseworkers, provide prompt preliminary conferences that also include timetables, encourage parental involvement in conferences when possible, maintain aggregate records on each child in its custody, send home studies of appropriate prospective adoptive families to the child's worker, and develop specific adoption recruitment plans. Additionally, all child welfare services caseworkers and supervisors hired after the effective date were required to have requisite training, experience, and degrees. Lastly, Citizen Review Boards were assigned authority and responsibility to review case plans of children and to report findings and recommendations to the defendants.

The Consent Decree was set to remain in force for five years from the date of entry unless otherwise extended, and the defendants agreed to enter into a contract with a compliance monitor agreed upon by both parties, at the state's expense.

According to the National Center for Youth Law, the defendants increased compliance and sought to be relieved from court supervision in 1988; however, the monitor's report in January of 1991 revealed noncompliance in several crucial areas. The court held a hearing on two contempt motions just two months later, and ruled that monitoring would continue until the defendants institutionalized the reforms in the state's child welfare system.
Both parties submitted their findings to the Special Master in late 1992. In early 1993, the Special Master found that the defendants had substantially complied with the Consent Decree. Shortly thereafter, the court adopted the findings and terminated the Decree.

On July 18, 1994, the plaintiffs appealed the termination decision to the Tenth Circuit. On November 9, 1995, the court of appeals vacated the district court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings, finding that the Special Master's report failed to make specific and clear findings. 69 F.3d 1081 (10th Cir. 1995).

Although we do not have the full details, the docket sheet demonstrates that the court entered a stipulated exit plan in February 1998. According to the plaintiff's website and the docket sheet, the court dismissed the case in 2002, but the decision was, again, reversed by the Tenth Circuit that same year.

In late November of 2003, the court order the parties' revised stipulated exit plan, which focused on permanency planning for children placed in the state's custody. The defendants agreed to independently contract with at least two expert consultants to staff at least two "Adoption Resource Teams," each consisting of one external expert and one of the defendant's team members. Both parties were to select a Neutral Third Party to prepare a monitoring plan. Additionally, the revised plan detailed how the defendants would proceed in: the assessment and initial placement process, reviewing cases with plan changes to adoption, reviewing cases with a goal of adoption for 12 months or more, review of cases whose adoptive placements disrupt or for whom the adoption has not been finalized within 12 months of the signed placement agreement, and review of certain reunification, permanent planned living arrangement cases.

On February 24, 2005, the court ordered the stipulated motion to dismiss the case without prejudice. A year later, the court granted the parties motion to dismiss with prejudice.

Alice Liu - 03/06/2013

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Crowding / caseload
Classification / placement
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
Family reunification
Foster care (benefits, training)
Individualized planning
Parents (visitation, involvement)
Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Timeliness of case assignment
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Social Security (Title XX), 42 U.S.C. § 1397 et seq.
Defendant(s) Children, Youth and Families Department
New Mexico Department Of Human Services
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are neglected and dependent children placed in New Mexico’s foster care system.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Children's Rights, Inc.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1983 - 2006
Case Closing Year 2006
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 ]

1:80−cv−00623 (D.N.M.) 02/14/2006
CW-NM-0001-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
On Motion for Summary Judgment and Consent Decree (denying defendant's motion to dismiss, granting plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, and approving consent decree) 09/23/1983 (575 F.Supp. 346)
CW-NM-0001-0001 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Opinion 11/09/1995 (69 F.3d 1081)
CW-NM-0001-0004 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Revised Stipulated Exit Plan 09/27/2003 (D.N.M.)
CW-NM-0001-0002 PDF | Detail
Stipulated Order of Dismissal 02/24/2005 (D.N.M.)
CW-NM-0001-0003 PDF | Detail
Judges Burciaga, Juan Guerrero (D.N.M.)
Conway, John Edwards (FISC, D.N.M.)
CW-NM-0001-0002 | CW-NM-0001-0003 | CW-NM-0001-9000
Ebel, David M. (Tenth Circuit)
Porfilio, John Carbone (Tenth Circuit, D. Colo.)
Seymour, Stephanie Kulp (Tenth Circuit)
Torgerson, Alan C. (D.N.M.) [Magistrate]
Monitors/Masters Zinn, Frank B. (New Mexico)
Plaintiff's Lawyers Conway, Susan M. (New Mexico)
CW-NM-0001-0003 | CW-NM-0001-9000
Dahlberg, Robin L. (New York)
deLone, Madeline H. (New York)
Kannar, George (New York)
CW-NM-0001-0001 | CW-NM-0001-9000
Lambiase, Susan (New York)
CW-NM-0001-0003 | CW-NM-0001-9000
Levy, Robert D. (New Mexico)
CW-NM-0001-0002 | CW-NM-0001-0003 | CW-NM-0001-9000
Lowry, Marcia Robinson (New York)
CW-NM-0001-0002 | CW-NM-0001-0003 | CW-NM-0001-9000
Schowers, Raymond W. (New Mexico)
Defendant's Lawyers Becker, Robert W. (New Mexico)
Bingham, Wayne E. (New Mexico)
Booms, Robert Tabor (New Mexico)
Bryan, George R. III (New Mexico)
Bunch, Steven L. (New Mexico)
Clough, John H. (New Mexico)
Cohn, Bennett S. (New Mexico)
Coppin, Chris (New Mexico)
CW-NM-0001-0003 | CW-NM-0001-9000
Flynn-O'Brien, Timothy V. (New Mexico)
CW-NM-0001-0002 | CW-NM-0001-0003 | CW-NM-0001-9000
Forney, Paula I. (New Mexico)
Fuqua, Constance T. (Arizona)
Hoffman, Robyn B. (New Mexico)
Looney, Steven Douglas (New Mexico)
Lyle, James P. (New Mexico)
Martinez, Damon P. (New Mexico)
Pearlman, Daniel J. (New Mexico)
Taylor, Nancy Alma (New Mexico)
Udall, Tom (New Mexico)
Other Lawyers None on record

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