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Case Name J.L. v. Miller MH-VT-0002
Docket / Court 418-84 ( State Court )
State/Territory Vermont
Case Type(s) Mental Health (Facility)
Case Summary
In 1984, individuals with mental illness confined at the Vermont State Hospital (VSH) in Waterbury, Vermont, filed a class action lawsuit in the Superior Court for the State of Vermont for Washington County against Vermont's Commissioner of Mental Health and Mental Retardation and various VSH ... read more >
In 1984, individuals with mental illness confined at the Vermont State Hospital (VSH) in Waterbury, Vermont, filed a class action lawsuit in the Superior Court for the State of Vermont for Washington County against Vermont's Commissioner of Mental Health and Mental Retardation and various VSH officials. The plaintiffs, represented by Vermont Legal Aid, sought equitable relief for alleged violations of their Fourteenth Amendment Due Process rights. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that VSH subjected plaintiffs to involuntary, non-emergency medication.

On May 28, 1985, the parties entered into a consent decree, which the court approved. VSH agreed to implement policies and procedures to govern involuntary medication of patients. Under the new system, the interdisciplinary treatment team would recommend involuntary medication when such intervention would be in keeping with professional standards. Even then, patients could not be involuntarily medicated without a hearing at which they were entitled to representation.

In November 1990, the defendants asked the court to dissolve the consent decree, but the court (Judge Alan W. Cheever) refused. When the court denied the defendants' petition for rehearing, the defendants appealed. On May 28, 1992, the Supreme Court of Vermont (Justice Fredric Allen) affirmed, reasoning that the defendants had failed to show either (1) a significant and unforeseeable change of law, constitutional and statutory, or fact or (2) full achievement of the goals of the consent decree. J.L. v. Miller, 614 A.2d 808 (Vt. 1992).

In 1998, Vermont enacted legislation with the purpose of supplanting the 1985 consent decree.

The defendants subsequently asked the court to vacate the consent decree on the grounds that the law had materially changed. The trial court (Judge Mary Miles Teachout) refused to grant relief from judgment. On October 18, 2002, the Vermont Supreme Court (Justice James L. Morse) vacated the lower court's ruling and granted relief from the consent decree. J.L. v. Miller, 817 A.2d 1 (Vt. 2002). The court held that, despite the differences between the consent decree and the new legislation, clear legislative intent required the dissolution of the consent decree.

We have no information on subsequent litigation.

Elizabeth Chilcoat - 06/30/2006


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
General
Informed consent/involuntary medication
Medical/Mental Health
Medication, administration of
Mental health care, general
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) V.T. Dept. of Developmental and Mental Health
Plaintiff Description Individuals with mental illness confined at the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury, Vermont
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1985 - 2002
Case Closing Year 2002
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Reported Opinion 07/02/1992 (614 A.2d 808)
MH-VT-0002-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Reported Opinion 10/18/2002 (817 A.2d 1)
MH-VT-0002-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Judges Allen, Frank Orlando (State Supreme Court)
MH-VT-0002-0001 | MH-VT-0002-0002
Dimauro, Theresa S. (State Supreme Court)
MH-VT-0002-0002
Dooley, John A. (State Supreme Court)
MH-VT-0002-0001
Gibson, Ernest W. III (State Supreme Court)
MH-VT-0002-0001 | MH-VT-0002-0002
Morse, James L. (State Supreme Court)
MH-VT-0002-0002
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Appel, Robert (Vermont)
MH-VT-0002-0002
Avildsen, Eric (Vermont)
MH-VT-0002-0001
Casey, Jacquelyn C (Vermont)
MH-VT-0002-0001
McCullough, John J (Vermont)
MH-VT-0002-0002
Smith, O. Whitman (Vermont)
MH-VT-0002-0002
Defendant's Lawyers Amestoy, Jeffrey L. (Vermont)
MH-VT-0002-0001
Brown, Sean (Vermont)
MH-VT-0002-0002
Myka, Jennifer L (Vermont)
MH-VT-0002-0002
Sorrell, William H. (Vermont)
MH-VT-0002-0002
Winn, Joseph Leon (Vermont)
MH-VT-0002-0001
Other Lawyers None on record

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