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Case Name L.J. v. Massinga CW-MD-0001
Docket / Court 1:84-cv-04409 ( D. Md. )
State/Territory Maryland
Case Type(s) Child Welfare
Case Summary
This class action involving children placed in Maryland's foster care program was filed on December 5, 1984, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (Baltimore). The plaintiffs were represented by private counsel and Public Justice Center; they sought broad interim and permanent ... read more >
This class action involving children placed in Maryland's foster care program was filed on December 5, 1984, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (Baltimore). The plaintiffs were represented by private counsel and Public Justice Center; they sought broad interim and permanent injunctive relief as well as monetary damages against the state to redress deficiencies in the foster care program, claiming that the state violated Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act, Title IV-E and IV-B of the Social Security Act, the Fourteenth Amendment, and 42 U.S.C. 1983.

On January 2, 1987, the court certified a class of all current, former, and future children who are, have been, or will be placed in foster home by the Baltimore City Department of Social Services (BCDSS) and are or will be in BCDSS custody either through voluntary placement or court order. The next month, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction. In April, the court found overwhelming evidence of systematic deficiencies in Baltimore's foster care system. Specifically, the court found that satisfactory homes were lacking, that the defendants did not remove children away from abusive or neglectful homes, that homes were licensed to foster parents unable to care for the children, that foster children received inadequate medical care, and that the defendants did not make the improvements suggested previously.

The court granted the preliminary injunction on July 27, 1987, in which the defendants were ordered to review the status of each foster home reported for maltreatment, visit each child in BCDSS foster home monthly, visit each child subject to a maltreatment report weekly, ensure appropriate medical care is provided for each child, and provide written copies of any maltreatment complaint of a foster child to the juvenile court as well as the child's attorney.

On February 1, 1988, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the preliminary injunction, holding that foster children in BCDSS custody were entitled to preliminary relief from administration deficiencies in the foster children program, and that city and state officials administrating the state's federally funded foster care program were not immune from damages for failing to protect foster children in foster homes. 838 F. 2d 118.

On April 26, 1988, the parties submitted a settlement agreement embodying the measures from the preliminary injunctive order, as well as new proposals to make substantial improvements of the foster care system. Specifically, it states that the defendants will limit the caseload amount per caseworker, improve the system for providing medical care to foster children, provide assistance to natural parents to avoid foster care when possible, and seek new foster homes. All these improvements were to made within two years. The court approved the notice for class action settlement to be sent in May. (Attorneys' fees were to be addressed separately from the decree.) The Consent Decree was approved on September 27, 1988, and was later modified in 1991 to extend its protection to children in BCDSS custody who are placed in unlicensed placements with relatives. 699 F.Supp. 508.

For several years, Plaintiffs monitored the decree; however, compliance has been difficult to obtain. On April 13, 2007, the plaintiffs sent a status report to the court regarding failed mediation sessions and the plaintiffs' intent to prepare contempt papers. The defendants responded by sending a letter to the court expressing their disappointment with the plaintiffs' desire to file a motion for contempt. The defendants stated their interest in working together, and that the new Secretary of Maryland Department of Human Resources, who started working with this case a few months ago, has taken a hands-on approach with the intent to implement the provisions of the decree. Although the defendants would not agree to an expanded court monitor during previous negotiations, the defendant stated their willingness to explore options regarding the use of a monitor with the governor's office and to implement a plan with enforceable benchmarks.

About 7 months later, the plaintiffs filed a petition for order of enforcement and to show cause why the defendants should not be held in contempt of consent decree, and also a motion to modify the consent decree. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants violated over 90 provisions of the decree, and requested that the defendants establish a monitor. Alternatively, the plaintiffs stated that, if the defendants did not establish a monitor, the defendants should be required to provide the plaintiffs' counsel with full access to relevant databases and case files.

Negotiations ensued, and the parties agreed to a Modified Consent Decree; the court approved it on October 9, 2009. The decree states that the goal is to provide a safe, nurturing, permanent home for children as quickly as possible, and that family involvement in decision-making is critical. Specifically, the decree states that:

  • The parties will agree to a contractor(s), the "Independent Verification Agent" (IVA), retained at the defendants' expense, to verify independently that the defendants' reports of compliance with several provisions of the decree are accurate, valid, and reliable, and to provide feedback to the defendants for self-correcting and quality improvement purposes.
  • The defendants will provide the IVA with timely and reasonable access to information deemed relevant to its work, and the plaintiffs' counsel will have access to such information to ensure and enforce compliance with the decree.
  • The defendants will submit a report addressing their performance and compliance every six months to both the court and the plaintiffs.
  • By the end of 2009, the defendants will establish a standardized process for resolving issues regarding individual class members.
  • If a dispute between the parties arise, the plaintiff will notify the defendants prior to seeking judicial relief.
  • The defendants will continue to report on their compliance until the court vacates the decree.
  • Regarding substantive measures, the defendants will ensure that each child has a permanency plan and that its implementation is achieved quickly; that each family of a child at risk of removal will be provided with assistance; that placements will be reasonably calculated to ensure each child is placed in the least restrictive placement; that the children will be provided with appropriate, necessary, and timely healthcare; that the children will be provided with appropriate assistance to attend and succeed in school; that a permanency caseworker's case load should not exceed 15 children and a supervisor's caseload should not exceed 6 caseworkers.

    However, a month later, the defendants appealed to the Fourth Circuit, seeking to vacate the 1988 consent decree and deny the entry of the modified decree on the basis of Horne v. Flores (129 S. Ct. 2579 (2009), a then-recent Supreme Court ruling regarding the application of Rule 60(b)(5). On January 26, 2011, the Fourth Circuit denied the appeal and affirmed the Court's orders approving and entering the MCD. 633 F.3d 297.

    Plaintiffs' contempt motion from 2007 was still pending, but in January 2012, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed that motion. Compliance reports were apparently still being filed every six months as of March 2012, but that is so far the final such report.

    Alice Liu - 12/09/2012


    compress summary

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
Benefit Source
Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Monitor/Master
Monitoring
Preliminary relief granted
Recordkeeping
Reporting
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Access to public accommodations - governmental
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
Family abuse and neglect
Family reunification
Foster care (benefits, training)
Individualized planning
Juveniles
Neglect by staff
Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)
Records Disclosure
Relative caretakers
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Timeliness of case assignment
Youth / Adult separation
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Social Security (Title XX), 42 U.S.C. § 1397 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) Baltimore City Department of Social Services
Maryland Department of Human Resources
Plaintiff Description All children who are, have been, or will be placed in foster home by the Baltimore City Department of Social Services (BCDSS) and are or will be in BCDSS custody either through voluntary placement or court order.
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 Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1988 - 2011
Case Closing Year 2011
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)
1:84−cv−04409 (D. Md.) 03/27/2012
CW-MD-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Opinion 02/01/1988 (838 F.2d 118)
CW-MD-0001-0021.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum 09/27/1988 (699 F.Supp. 508) (D. Md.)
CW-MD-0001-0020.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Re: L.J., et al. v. Massinga, et al. Civil Action No. JFM-84-4409 04/13/2007
CW-MD-0001-0017.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Correspondence 04/13/2007
CW-MD-0001-0018.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Petition for Orders of Enforcement and to show cause why defendants should not be held in contempt of consent decree, and motions to modify consent decree and monitoring order 11/05/2007
CW-MD-0001-0019.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Modified Consent Decree 06/22/2009 (D. Md.)
CW-MD-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Circular Letter SSA 06/22/2009
CW-MD-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum In Support Of Join Motion For Preliminary Approval Of Modified Consent Decree, For An Order Of Proposed Modified Consent Decree And Scheduling Of A Fairness Hearing, And For Final Approval Of Modified Consent Decree 06/22/2009 (D. Md.)
CW-MD-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Modified Consent Decree 10/09/2009 (D. Md.)
CW-MD-0001-0015.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Notice of Appeal 11/03/2009
CW-MD-0001-0016.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion 01/26/2011 (633 F.3d 297)
CW-MD-0001-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 02/08/2011
CW-MD-0001-0010.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stay of Mandate Under FED. R. APP. P. 41(d)(1) 02/10/2011
CW-MD-0001-0011.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 02/23/2011
CW-MD-0001-0012.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 03/03/2011
CW-MD-0001-0013.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Mandate 03/03/2011
CW-MD-0001-0014.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Motion to Amend Modified Consent Decree 08/19/2011
CW-MD-0001-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Memorandum in Support of Joint Motion to Amend Modified Consent Decree 08/19/2011
CW-MD-0001-0007.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 08/19/2011 (D. Md.)
CW-MD-0001-0008.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Motion By Plaintiffs To Dismiss Voluntarily Plaintiffs’ Consolidated Petition For Orders Of Enforcement And To Show Cause Why Defendants Should Not Be Held In Contempt Of Consent Decree And Motion For Modification Of Consent Decree 01/12/2012
CW-MD-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Plaintiffs’ Response To Defendants’ 44th And 45th Six-Month Compliance Reports 01/23/2012
CW-MD-0001-0005.pdf | Detail
Judges Blake, Catherine C. (D. Md.) [Magistrate]
CW-MD-0001-9000
Duncan, Allyson Kay (Fourth Circuit)
CW-MD-0001-0009 | CW-MD-0001-0010
Howard, Joseph Clemens (D. Md.)
CW-MD-0001-0020
King, James Lawrence (S.D. Fla.)
CW-MD-0001-0009
Motz, J. Frederick (D. Md.)
CW-MD-0001-0001 | CW-MD-0001-0008 | CW-MD-0001-0015 | CW-MD-0001-0017 | CW-MD-0001-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Gardner, Debra (Maryland)
CW-MD-0001-9000
Lipkin, Rhonda B (Maryland)
CW-MD-0001-0001 | CW-MD-0001-0003 | CW-MD-0001-0015 | CW-MD-0001-0017 | CW-MD-0001-0019 | CW-MD-0001-9000
Mirviss, Mitchell Y (Maryland)
CW-MD-0001-0001 | CW-MD-0001-0003 | CW-MD-0001-0004 | CW-MD-0001-0005 | CW-MD-0001-0006 | CW-MD-0001-0007 | CW-MD-0001-0009 | CW-MD-0001-0010 | CW-MD-0001-0015 | CW-MD-0001-0017 | CW-MD-0001-0019 | CW-MD-0001-9000
Posner, Gary Steven (Maryland)
CW-MD-0001-0017 | CW-MD-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Beller, David E (Maryland)
CW-MD-0001-0001 | CW-MD-0001-0003 | CW-MD-0001-0006 | CW-MD-0001-0007 | CW-MD-0001-0015 | CW-MD-0001-0016 | CW-MD-0001-0017 | CW-MD-0001-9000
Bernhardt, Julia Doyle (Maryland)
CW-MD-0001-0001 | CW-MD-0001-0003 | CW-MD-0001-0006 | CW-MD-0001-0007 | CW-MD-0001-0009 | CW-MD-0001-0010 | CW-MD-0001-0016 | CW-MD-0001-9000
Gordon, Millicent D Edwards (Maryland)
CW-MD-0001-0001 | CW-MD-0001-0003 | CW-MD-0001-0015 | CW-MD-0001-0017 | CW-MD-0001-0018 | CW-MD-0001-9000
Howard, John Burnside Jr. (Maryland)
CW-MD-0001-0016 | CW-MD-0001-9000
Shultz, Catherine M. (Maryland)
CW-MD-0001-9000
Smith, Carol A. (Maryland)
CW-MD-0001-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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