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Case Name Bates v. Johnson CW-IL-0005
Docket / Court 84-10054 ( N.D. Ill. )
State/Territory Illinois
Case Type(s) Child Welfare
Case Summary
On November 20, 1984, parents and guardians of children in custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) filed a class action lawsuit against DCFS under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Social Security Act in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, ... read more >
On November 20, 1984, parents and guardians of children in custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) filed a class action lawsuit against DCFS under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Social Security Act in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. Plaintiffs, represented by attorneys from the Loyola Childlaw Clinic, the Family Defense Center, the Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago asked the court for injunctive relief, challenging Defendants' one hour per month visitation limit as a violation of the Social Security Act and the First, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.

Just prior to a determination on Defendant's motion to dismiss, the parties entered into a consent decree which expanded the visitation policy. Under the consent decree, entered June 5, 1986, Defendant agreed to allow weekly visits between Plaintiffs and their children, to provide Plaintiffs' counsel with statistical information regarding visitation plans, to provide notice to class members regarding the visitation policy, and to periodically remind caseworkers of the updated visitation policy. The decree was to remain in effect for a two year period.

On March 16, 1987, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Contempt alleging that Defendant had violated virtually every provision of the decree. Defendants did not deny the allegations, and in February of 1989 refused to agree to a new consent decree to resolve the contempt motion.

Plaintiffs next asked the court to enter an emergency order establishing a six-year period during which Defendant would be required to implement weekly visitation. Plaintiffs also sought the appointment of a special master to monitor Defendant's compliance with the decree and to submit periodic reports to the court, imposition of various penalty payments for any future non-compliance, and reimbursement of Plaintiffs' attorney fees and costs.

Defendant agreed that Plaintiffs were entitled to attorney's fees incurred in bringing the contempt motion, but argued that because DCFS had a unilateral right to abandon its visitation policy and adopt a new rule, its principal obligation under the decree was terminated. Plaintiffs' only option was to file a new action. Defendant further argued that compliance with Plaintiffs' proposed new consent order was beyond its capability, and would interfere with DCFS's management of its limited resources and with its potential obligations under other pending litigation. Defendant also argued that imposition of the Proposed Order would be an impermissible modification of the terms of the decree. The Court rejected Defendant's arguments and specifically found that Defendant had acted in bad faith. Nevertheless, the court was unwilling to impose the detailed order suggested by Plaintiffs.

On June 29, 1989, the District Court (Judge Paul E. Plunkett) devised and imposed its own sanctions. These required Defendant to reimburse Plaintiffs for all reasonable attorney fees and costs incurred in all of Plaintiffs' efforts to implement the consent decree, extended the original decree for a period of two years, required Defendant to report to the court within 60 days, and required Defendant to designate a liaison whom Plaintiffs could contact regarding any problems in securing Defendant's compliance with the decree. The case ended upon expiration of the extended decree.

Gregory Pitt - 07/09/2012

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Content of Injunction
Parents (visitation, involvement)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Illinois Department of Children and Family Services
Plaintiff Description Parents and guardians of children in custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
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 Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration 1989 - 1991
Case Closing Year 1997
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 ]

1:84−cv−10054 (N.D. Ill.) 02/13/1997
CW-IL-0005-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Memorandum Opinion and Order 06/29/1989 (1989 WL 75954 / 1989 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 7658) (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0005-0001 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Judges Plunkett, Paul Edward (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0005-0001 | CW-IL-0005-9000
Monitors/Masters Greene, Brandon F. (Illinois)
Plaintiff's Lawyers Boyer, Bruce A. (Illinois)
Heybach, Laurene Marie (Illinois)
Katz, Nancy (Illinois)
Redleaf, Diane L. (Illinois)
Wheelock, Richard M. (Illinois)
Defendant's Lawyers Coughlan, Margaret E. (Illinois)
Getzendanner, Susan Christine O'Meara (Illinois)
Giroux, Paula J. (Illinois)
Greenspan, Barbara Lynn (Illinois)
Griffin, Gary Michael (Illinois)
Hall-Walker, Nancy K. (Illinois)
Krane, Hilary K. (Illinois)
Smith, Charles F. Jr. (Illinois)
Steimel, Danielle J. (Illinois)
Tchen, Christina M. (Illinois)
Other Lawyers None on record

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