University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Dwayne B. v. Snyder CW-MI-0001
Docket / Court 2:06-cv-13548-NGE-DAS ( E.D. Mich. )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Child Welfare
Attorney Organization Children's Rights, Inc.
Case Summary
A class of children in foster care custody in Michigan, represented by Children's Rights, filed this class action suit against the state of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on August 8, 2006. They alleged ... read more >
A class of children in foster care custody in Michigan, represented by Children's Rights, filed this class action suit against the state of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on August 8, 2006. They alleged violations of the U.S. Constitution's First, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments; federal law including the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, 42 U.S.C. § 670 et seq.; and state law. The complaint alleged maltreatment and neglect of foster children in state custody, a lack of basic physical and mental health services for foster children, excessive lengths of stay in state custody, and frequent moves among multiple foster placements. The plaintiffs attributed these violations to a severe shortage of foster homes, high casework caseload, poor monitoring and planning of child services, and inadequate funding resources.

In November 2006, the defendants moved to dismiss the case, but the court denied the motion on April 11, 2007. Meanwhile, in February 2007, Judge Nancy G. Edmunds had certified the class of plaintiffs as children who are now or will be in the foster care custody of Michigan's DHS in in-home or out-of-home placements. The parties entered discovery, and in August 2007, the court appointed the Children's Research Center, a division of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, as an independent expert to report on the Michigan foster care system's case practice and compliance with standards.

After several months of vigorously contested discovery, the defendants again moved for partial dismissal, but subsequently withdrew the motions. The parties had attempted settlement negotiations between September 2006 and March 2007, prior to discovery. After extensive discovery, the parties engaged in a second round of settlement negotiations in early 2008. When the parties could not reach an agreement, the court finally set a trial date of July 7, 2008. The parties proposed a joint settlement agreement on July 3, 2008.

The settlement agreement established standards and outcome measures that the defendants must meet over a five-year implementation period under the supervision of an independent monitor who would review and report on the defendants' compliance with the settlement agreement. On October 24, 2008, the court approved the settlement agreement.

The Settlement Agreement provided for increased services for children in foster care; organizational changes in DHS; and increased training and supervision for caseworkers. The independent monitor provided reports on the state's compliance before the court every three months.

After election of a new Michigan governor in January 2011, who appointed new DHS management, the parties entered into discussions to update the original settlement agreement. On July 18, 2011, the court approved a modified settlement agreement (MSA). Monitoring has continued since the MSA was entered.

On December 30, 2014, the defendants moved to dissolve or modify the MSA. The defendants argued that, under Horne v. Flores, 557 U.S. 443 (2009), the consent decree should be vacated because plaintiffs could not prove that defendants were currently violating federal law in their administration of Michigan’s child welfare system. Nearly one month later, however, defendants withdrew their motion.

As of the date of this summary, monitoring continues.

Elizabeth Homan - 12/20/2012
Dan Whitman - 11/29/2015


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Benefit Source
Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Auditing
Hire
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Monitor/Master
Monitoring
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Access to public accommodations - governmental
Adoption
Aggressive behavior
Assault/abuse by residents/inmates/students
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Counseling
Education
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
Family abuse and neglect
Family reunification
Foster care (benefits, training)
Incident/accident reporting & investigations
Individualized planning
Juveniles
Neglect by staff
Placement in shelters
Record-keeping
Sanitation / living conditions
Sex w/ staff; sexual harassment by staff
Sexual abuse by residents/inmates
Siblings (visitation, placement)
Special education
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Timeliness of case assignment
Wait lists
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (AACWA), 42 U.S.C. § 620 et seq.
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Adoption Assistance Program, 42 U.S.C. § 670 et seq.
Defendant(s) Michigan
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are a class of children who are now or will be in the foster care custody of Michigan's Department of Human Services in-home or out-of-home placement.
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 Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2008 - 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)
2:06-CV-13548-NGE-DAS (E.D. Mich.) 10/01/2015
CW-MI-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint 08/08/2006
CW-MI-0001-0006.pdf | Detail
Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Action Certification and Appointment of Class Counsel 02/15/2007 (E.D. Mich.)
CW-MI-0001-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order Denying Defendant's Motion to Dismiss 04/17/2007 (2007 WL 1140920) (E.D. Mich.)
CW-MI-0001-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Analysis of Case Practice and Compliance with Standards in Michigan Foster Care 02/05/2008
CW-MI-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Order Entering Consent Decree 10/24/2008 (E.D. Mich.)
CW-MI-0001-0008.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Joint Motion for Approval of Settlement Regarding Plaintiffs' Attorneys' Fees and Non-taxable Expenses 01/22/2009 (E.D. Mich.)
CW-MI-0001-0010.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Progress of The Michigan Department of Human Services 09/30/2009
CW-MI-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Period Two Monitoring Report 03/09/2010
CW-MI-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Order 04/07/2011
CW-MI-0001-0009.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Modified Settlement Agreement and Consent Order 07/18/2011 (E.D. Mich.)
CW-MI-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Edmunds, Nancy Garlock (E.D. Mich.)
CW-MI-0001-0001 | CW-MI-0001-0005 | CW-MI-0001-0007 | CW-MI-0001-0008 | CW-MI-0001-0010 | CW-MI-0001-9000
Scheer, Donald A. (E.D. Mich.) [Magistrate]
CW-MI-0001-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bartosz, Sara Michelle (New York)
CW-MI-0001-0001 | CW-MI-0001-0006 | CW-MI-0001-0008 | CW-MI-0001-9000
Boger, Jay C. (Michigan)
CW-MI-0001-0001 | CW-MI-0001-0008 | CW-MI-0001-9000
Damren, Samuel C. (Michigan)
CW-MI-0001-9000
Hardy, Elizabeth Phelps (Michigan)
CW-MI-0001-0001 | CW-MI-0001-0008 | CW-MI-0001-9000
Hendler, Elissa (New York)
CW-MI-0001-0006 | CW-MI-0001-0008 | CW-MI-0001-9000
Lambiase, Susan (New York)
CW-MI-0001-0001 | CW-MI-0001-0006 | CW-MI-0001-0008 | CW-MI-0001-9000
Landau, Richard (Michigan)
CW-MI-0001-0006 | CW-MI-0001-9000
Leibensperger, Edward P. (Massachusetts)
CW-MI-0001-0008 | CW-MI-0001-9000
Lowry, Marcia Robinson (New York)
CW-MI-0001-0001 | CW-MI-0001-0006 | CW-MI-0001-0008 | CW-MI-0001-9000
Massie, Noel D. (Michigan)
CW-MI-0001-0001 | CW-MI-0001-0008 | CW-MI-0001-9000
Naasko, Heidi (Michigan)
CW-MI-0001-0006 | CW-MI-0001-9000
Wiltsek, Gena E. (New York)
CW-MI-0001-0008 | CW-MI-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bargy, Dari C. (Michigan)
CW-MI-0001-9000
Bolan, Kevin M. (Massachusetts)
CW-MI-0001-0008
Brya, Michelle M. (Michigan)
CW-MI-0001-9000
Bursch, John J. (Michigan)
CW-MI-0001-9000
Faison, W. Mack (Michigan)
CW-MI-0001-9000
Frezza, Michael G. (Michigan)
CW-MI-0001-0008 | CW-MI-0001-9000
Heyse, Kristin M. (Michigan)
CW-MI-0001-9000
McCamman, Kurt P. (Michigan)
CW-MI-0001-9000
Morris, William R. (Michigan)
CW-MI-0001-9000
Potchen, Joseph E. (Michigan)
CW-MI-0001-9000
Schochet, P. Rivka (Michigan)
CW-MI-0001-9000
Sysol, Brad H. (Michigan)
CW-MI-0001-0008 | CW-MI-0001-9000
Yelton, B. Jay (Michigan)
CW-MI-0001-0008 | CW-MI-0001-9000
Other Lawyers Cheeks, Charleszetta (Michigan)
CW-MI-0001-9000
Snyder-Varns, Pamela (Montana)
CW-MI-0001-0001

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