On December 17, 1992, twenty-three school-aged pretrial detainees in the Cook County Jail in Illinois filed this class action lawsuit under the Fourteenth Amendment, Due Process Clause, Equal Protection Clause, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The plaintiffs filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, on behalf of all current and future pretrial detainees confined in the divisions of the Cook County Jail who were or would be entitled under state or federal law to free regular or special education services (approximately 2274 students). The lawsuit was brought against the city of Chicago, Cook County, and the state of Illinois. Named defendants included the Illinois State Board of Education of the City of Chicago and the Superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools.
The plaintiffs, represented by counsel from the Northwestern University School of Law Legal Clinic and the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, sought injunctive and declaratory relief and attorney's fees. They alleged that the defendants had denied the plaintiffs' rights to educational services by (1) completely denying special education to those educationally disabled plaintiffs whose needs for such services the defendants failed to identify; (2) denying special education needed by plaintiffs who had been identified as needing such services because of failure to provide sufficient teachers, programs and related services among the population; (3) denying appropriate, individualized special education services to disabled students; (4) denying regular education services to the majority of eligible plaintiffs; and (5) denying to those plaintiffs who were eligible and received regular education services, such services as were equal to eligible children who were not pretrial detainees.
On August 20, 1993, the District Court (Judge John A. Nordberg) denied the state defendants' motion to dismiss, ruling that the plaintiffs had stated valid claims under both the Equal Protection clause and the substantive component of the Due Process clause. Donnell v. Illinois State Bd. of Educ., 829 F.Supp. 1016 (N.D.Ill. 1993).
In May 1994, the United States filed a Complaint in Intervention seeking to enforce a settlement agreement which had been entered into by the City Defendants and the U.S. Department of Education in August 1992. The City Defendants had failed to (1) make available free education to all detainees under 21 who did not have a high school diploma, were in need of special education services, and had been given permission to participate by prison officials; and (2) implement procedures for screening and evaluation. The United States and the plaintiffs apparently reached a tentative settlement agreement with the defendants regarding liability and attorney's fees and court costs. The State and Chicago defendants acknowledged liability for fees and costs, but the County Defendants asserted that they were not liable for fees and costs. The County defendants moved for partial summary judgement on the issue of monetary liability.
On April 25, 1995, the District Court (Judge Nordberg) granted the County defendants' motion for partial summary judgment, holding that the County defendants were not liable for the plaintiffs' attorney's fees and costs or for the cost of the court expert appointed to monitor the settlement. Donnell v. Illinois State Bd. of Educ., No. 92 C. 8230, 1995 WL 248111 (N.D. Ill. April 25, 1995).
On August 10, 1995, the parties entered into a settlement agreement. The agreement included a monitor who reported on the defendants' compliance with the settlement agreement.
On November 8, 2000, Judge John A. Nordberg dismissed the case with leave to reinstate within thirteen months. In 2002, the plaintiffs and the US moved to reinstate the case. In 2003, the plaintiffs agreed to withdraw their motion for reinstatement and the parties reached a private settlement agreement. According to the terms of the agreement, the court retained jurisdiction for 14 months in case one of the plaintiffs moved to reinstate the case. None of the plaintiffs did, and on October 21, 2004, the court finally dismissed the case. Kristen Sagar - 11/03/2007
Jessica Kincaid - 02/13/2016