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Case Name Brian A. v. Sundquist CW-TN-0001
Docket / Court 3:00-cv-00445 ( M.D. Tenn. )
State/Territory Tennessee
Case Type(s) Child Welfare
Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Special Collection Court-ordered receiverships
Attorney Organization Children's Rights, Inc.
Case Summary
On May 10, 2000, the children in the custody of Tennessee's Department of Children's Services (including a subclass of African-American foster care children) filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee against the state of Tennessee. The ... read more >
On May 10, 2000, the children in the custody of Tennessee's Department of Children's Services (including a subclass of African-American foster care children) filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee against the state of Tennessee. The plaintiffs, represented by Children's Rights and a team of Tennessee firms and attorneys, asked the court to enjoin the defendants from subjecting the members of class to practices that violate their rights.

The plaintiffs alleged that the state violated their Substantive and Procedural Due Process rights arising from the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, as amended by the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, and relevant regulations; the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"); the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("Rehabilitation Act"); and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and its implementing regulations, 42 C.F.R § 80.3 et~ (as to the African-American Subclass only).

Specific violations included placement in restrictive institutional settings, placement in emergency shelters for long periods of time, large caseloads and inadequately trained caseworkers, inappropriate and many foster placements. In sum, the actions (or inaction) of the state endangered the health and well-being of the plaintiff class.

In 2000, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss. The district court (Judge Todd J. Campbell) denied the motion. 149 F.Supp.2d 941 (M.D. Tenn. 2000. The court urged negotiation of a settlement agreement, which was later approved in July 2001. The settlement agreement called for DCS to hire more caseworkers and to provide better training for them; develop new placements; improve the computerized management system. It also required better review systems measuring the percentage of outcomes in different areas impacting foster care and an assessment for disparities related to African-American children in care. Finally, an independent monitor was created to report on compliance.

Following a monitor report that documented DCS's substantial failure to comply with the agreement, the plaintiffs filed a contempt motion on November 4, 2003. At that point, DCS was in full compliance with only 24 of 136 provisions. The plaintiffs requested an independent administrator to create a plan for implementing the remaining terms.

In December 2003, the parties settled the contempt motion. They agreed that DCS would collaborate with a technical assistance committee of five child welfare experts to develop a new implementation plan, which was later approved by the court in August 2004.

Although the progress of the implementation plan was slow at first, DCS improved in areas such as staffing and data reporting. The settlement agreement was modified in May 2007, October 2008, and December 2009. The plaintiff reports that the new DCS leadership team had made strides in many areas including placing more foster children with families and reducing institution placements. However, Children's Rights also reported that they would remain in place as a watchdog to hold the agency accountable until all court-ordered reforms are implemented. Periodically, the parties filed modified settlement agreements and exit plans, which recognized the state's progress and set out the specific requirements needed in order for the state to successfully complete the court-ordered improvements and end court involvement.

On April 11, 2016, the district court ruled that the DCS had reached all of the mandated goals to overhaul its foster care system. The state then entered a yearlong holding period, during which it had to sustain its performance on every measure, before requesting an end to the court oversight.

Ariana Fink - 12/01/2012
Jessica Kincaid - 04/19/2016


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Benefit Source
Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act
Medicaid
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Content of Injunction
Goals and Timekeeping
Hire
Monitor/Master
Monitoring
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Receivership
Recordkeeping
Reporting
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Disability
disability, unspecified
Least restrictive environment
Mental impairment
General
Adoption
Assault/abuse by residents/inmates/students
Classification / placement
Education
Emergency shelter
Failure to train
Family abuse and neglect
Family reunification
Foster care (benefits, training)
Funding
Grievance Procedures
Housing assistance
Individualized planning
Parents (visitation, involvement)
Placement in mental health facilities
Placement in shelters
Poverty/homelessness
Siblings (visitation, placement)
Special education
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Timeliness of case assignment
Visiting
Wait lists
Youth / Adult separation
Medical/Mental Health
Mental health care, general
Mental health care, unspecified
Mental Disability
Mental Illness, Unspecified
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (AACWA), 42 U.S.C. § 620 et seq.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Title VI, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.
Defendant(s) Tennessee Department of Children's Services
Plaintiff Description All foster children who are or will be in the custody of DCS in Tennessee; subclass of children in the Class who are African-American
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 2001 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
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)
3:00−cv−00445 (M.D. Tenn.) 04/11/2016
CW-TN-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
2010 Modified Settlement Agreement and Exit Plan
CW-TN-0001-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
July 2011 Modified Settlement Agreement and Exit Plan
CW-TN-0001-0008.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Complaint - Class Action - for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief 05/10/2000
CW-TN-0001-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Opinion 10/26/2000 (149 F.Supp.2d 941) (M.D. Tenn.)
CW-TN-0001-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Settlement Agreement 07/27/2001
CW-TN-0001-0002.pdf | External Link | Detail
Plaintiff's Motion for Contempt of Consent Decree and Further Remedial Relief 11/20/2003
CW-TN-0001-0003.pdf | External Link | Detail
Monitoring Report 01/19/2007
CW-TN-0001-0004.pdf | External Link | Detail
Modified Settlement Agreement 05/11/2007
CW-TN-0001-0018.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulated Modifications to the Settlement Agreement and Request for Court approval of the 2008 modified Settlement Agreement 09/01/2008
CW-TN-0001-0017.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
STIPULATED MODIFICATIONS TO THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT AND REQUEST FOR COURT APPROVAL OF THE JANUARY 2009 MODIFIED SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT 01/11/2009
CW-TN-0001-0016.pdf | Detail
SUPPLEMENTAL COMPLAINT FOR INJUNCTIVE AND DECLARATORY RELIEF 11/09/2009
CW-TN-0001-0015.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Supplemental Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief 11/12/2009
CW-TN-0001-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
SECOND SUPPLEMENTAL COMPLAINT FOR INJUNCTIVE AND DECLARATORY RELIEF 11/12/2009
CW-TN-0001-0014.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 02/23/2010 (M.D. Tenn.)
CW-TN-0001-0007.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 02/23/2010 (M.D. Tenn.)
CW-TN-0001-0013.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
ORDER 03/30/2010 (M.D. Tenn.)
CW-TN-0001-0012.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
JOINT STIPULATION EXTENDING MONITORING 06/29/2010 (M.D. Tenn.)
CW-TN-0001-0011.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint stipulation seeking court approval of proposed 2010 modified settlement agreement and exit plan 11/10/2010
CW-TN-0001-0010.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 02/08/2013 (M.D. Tenn.)
CW-TN-0001-0019.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulated One-Time Modification of Section XC.A of the October 2012 Modified Settlement Agreement and Exit Plan and Request for Court Approval 09/16/2013
CW-TN-0001-0021.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
September 2013 Modified Settlement Agreement and Exit Plan 09/19/2013
CW-TN-0001-0020.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 02/11/2014 (M.D. Tenn.)
CW-TN-0001-0022.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulated One-Time Modification of Section XV.A of the September 2013 Modified Settlement Agreement and Exit Plan and Request for Court Approval 09/02/2014
CW-TN-0001-0023.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Stipulation Seeking Court Approval of Proposed September 2014 Modified Settlement Agreement and Exit Plan 09/02/2014
CW-TN-0001-0024.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Corrected Proposed Joint Stipulated Modification of Setember 19, 2014 Order and Request for Court Approval 12/18/2014
CW-TN-0001-0025.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Corrected Proposed Joint Stipulated Modification of September 19, 2014 Order and Request for Court Approval 12/18/2014
CW-TN-0001-0026.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
September 2015 Modified Settlement Agreement and Exit Plan 10/05/2015
CW-TN-0001-0027.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
April 2016 Modified Settlement Agreement and Exit Plan 04/11/2016
CW-TN-0001-0028.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Brown, Joe B. (M.D. Tenn.) [Magistrate]
CW-TN-0001-9000
Campbell, Todd J. (M.D. Tenn.)
CW-TN-0001-0002 | CW-TN-0001-0005 | CW-TN-0001-0007 | CW-TN-0001-0008 | CW-TN-0001-0009 | CW-TN-0001-0010 | CW-TN-0001-0011 | CW-TN-0001-0012 | CW-TN-0001-0013 | CW-TN-0001-0016 | CW-TN-0001-0017 | CW-TN-0001-0018 | CW-TN-0001-0019 | CW-TN-0001-0020 | CW-TN-0001-0021 | CW-TN-0001-0022 | CW-TN-0001-0023 | CW-TN-0001-0024 | CW-TN-0001-0026 | CW-TN-0001-0027 | CW-TN-0001-0028 | CW-TN-0001-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Almonrode, Patrick S. (New York)
CW-TN-0001-0006 | CW-TN-0001-0014 | CW-TN-0001-0015 | CW-TN-0001-9000
Cohen, Melissa A. (New York)
CW-TN-0001-0008 | CW-TN-0001-0021 | CW-TN-0001-9000
Davies, Wade V. (Tennessee)
CW-TN-0001-0005 | CW-TN-0001-0006 | CW-TN-0001-0008 | CW-TN-0001-0010 | CW-TN-0001-0011 | CW-TN-0001-0014 | CW-TN-0001-0015 | CW-TN-0001-0016 | CW-TN-0001-0017 | CW-TN-0001-0018 | CW-TN-0001-0020 | CW-TN-0001-0021 | CW-TN-0001-0023 | CW-TN-0001-0024 | CW-TN-0001-0025 | CW-TN-0001-0026 | CW-TN-0001-0027 | CW-TN-0001-0028
Dixon, Jacqueline (Tennessee)
CW-TN-0001-0001 | CW-TN-0001-0005 | CW-TN-0001-0006 | CW-TN-0001-0008 | CW-TN-0001-0010 | CW-TN-0001-0011 | CW-TN-0001-0014 | CW-TN-0001-0015 | CW-TN-0001-0016 | CW-TN-0001-0017 | CW-TN-0001-0018 | CW-TN-0001-0020 | CW-TN-0001-0021 | CW-TN-0001-0023 | CW-TN-0001-0024 | CW-TN-0001-0025 | CW-TN-0001-0026 | CW-TN-0001-0027 | CW-TN-0001-0028 | CW-TN-0001-9000
Fields, Richard (Tennessee)
CW-TN-0001-0005 | CW-TN-0001-0006 | CW-TN-0001-0008 | CW-TN-0001-0010 | CW-TN-0001-0011 | CW-TN-0001-0014 | CW-TN-0001-0015 | CW-TN-0001-0016 | CW-TN-0001-0017 | CW-TN-0001-0018
Gray, Douglas C. (New York)
CW-TN-0001-9000
Grewal-Kok, Yasmin (New York)
CW-TN-0001-0006 | CW-TN-0001-0014 | CW-TN-0001-0015 | CW-TN-0001-9000
Guth, Michael A. (Tennessee)
CW-TN-0001-9000
Hutton, Robert L. (Tennessee)
CW-TN-0001-0005 | CW-TN-0001-0006 | CW-TN-0001-0008 | CW-TN-0001-0010 | CW-TN-0001-0014 | CW-TN-0001-0015 | CW-TN-0001-0016 | CW-TN-0001-0017 | CW-TN-0001-0018 | CW-TN-0001-0020 | CW-TN-0001-0021 | CW-TN-0001-0023 | CW-TN-0001-0024 | CW-TN-0001-0025 | CW-TN-0001-0026 | CW-TN-0001-0027 | CW-TN-0001-0028
Kendrick, Corene (New York)
CW-TN-0001-9000
Lowry, Marcia Robinson (New York)
CW-TN-0001-0001 | CW-TN-0001-0002 | CW-TN-0001-0003 | CW-TN-0001-0005 | CW-TN-0001-0006 | CW-TN-0001-0008 | CW-TN-0001-0010 | CW-TN-0001-0011 | CW-TN-0001-0014 | CW-TN-0001-0015 | CW-TN-0001-0016 | CW-TN-0001-0017 | CW-TN-0001-0018 | CW-TN-0001-0020 | CW-TN-0001-0021 | CW-TN-0001-9000
Lustbader, Ira P. (New York)
CW-TN-0001-0001 | CW-TN-0001-0005 | CW-TN-0001-0006 | CW-TN-0001-0008 | CW-TN-0001-0011 | CW-TN-0001-0014 | CW-TN-0001-0015 | CW-TN-0001-0016 | CW-TN-0001-0017 | CW-TN-0001-0018 | CW-TN-0001-0021 | CW-TN-0001-0023 | CW-TN-0001-0024 | CW-TN-0001-0025 | CW-TN-0001-0026 | CW-TN-0001-0027 | CW-TN-0001-0028 | CW-TN-0001-9000
Pierotti, John W. (Tennessee)
CW-TN-0001-0006 | CW-TN-0001-0011 | CW-TN-0001-0014 | CW-TN-0001-0015 | CW-TN-0001-0016 | CW-TN-0001-0017 | CW-TN-0001-0018
Powell, Jeffrey K. (New York)
CW-TN-0001-9000
Raybin, David Louis (Tennessee)
CW-TN-0001-0001 | CW-TN-0001-0002 | CW-TN-0001-0005 | CW-TN-0001-0006 | CW-TN-0001-0008 | CW-TN-0001-0010 | CW-TN-0001-0011 | CW-TN-0001-0014 | CW-TN-0001-0015 | CW-TN-0001-0016 | CW-TN-0001-0017 | CW-TN-0001-0018 | CW-TN-0001-0020 | CW-TN-0001-0021 | CW-TN-0001-0023 | CW-TN-0001-0024 | CW-TN-0001-0025 | CW-TN-0001-0026 | CW-TN-0001-0027 | CW-TN-0001-0028 | CW-TN-0001-9000
Russo, Sarah (New York)
CW-TN-0001-0023 | CW-TN-0001-0024 | CW-TN-0001-0025 | CW-TN-0001-0026 | CW-TN-0001-0028 | CW-TN-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Appiah, Lindsey O. (Tennessee)
CW-TN-0001-0008 | CW-TN-0001-9000
Campbell, Martha A. (Tennessee)
CW-TN-0001-0020 | CW-TN-0001-0021 | CW-TN-0001-0023 | CW-TN-0001-0024 | CW-TN-0001-0025 | CW-TN-0001-0026 | CW-TN-0001-0027 | CW-TN-0001-0028 | CW-TN-0001-9000
Dimond, Douglas Earl (Tennessee)
CW-TN-0001-0002 | CW-TN-0001-0005 | CW-TN-0001-0010 | CW-TN-0001-0011 | CW-TN-0001-0016 | CW-TN-0001-0017 | CW-TN-0001-0018 | CW-TN-0001-9000
Driver, Elizabeth C. (Tennessee)
CW-TN-0001-0002 | CW-TN-0001-0005 | CW-TN-0001-0011 | CW-TN-0001-0016 | CW-TN-0001-0017 | CW-TN-0001-0018 | CW-TN-0001-9000
Dycus, Dianne Stanley (Tennessee)
CW-TN-0001-9000
Ferrara, Mary Byrd (Tennessee)
CW-TN-0001-9000
Lakey, Jonathan P. (Tennessee)
CW-TN-0001-0020 | CW-TN-0001-0021 | CW-TN-0001-0023 | CW-TN-0001-0024 | CW-TN-0001-0025 | CW-TN-0001-0026 | CW-TN-0001-0027 | CW-TN-0001-0028 | CW-TN-0001-9000
Other Lawyers Murray, Shanta J. (Tennessee)
CW-TN-0001-9000
Thompson, John Michael Rettew (Tennessee)
CW-TN-0001-9000

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