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