On February 23, 1976, six residents of Forest Haven, an institution operated by the District of Columbia for developmentally disabled persons, filed this lawsuit against the District's mayor and its Department of Human Resources. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia under the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution; the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (42 U.S.C. § 6001 et seq.); and 32 D.C. Code § 601 et seq. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought declaratory, injunctive, and equitable relief on behalf of past and present residents of Forest Haven who would benefit from individual treatment and educational programs appropriate to their needs. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that Forest Haven had not provided a level of habilitation consistent with the Constitution by failing to supply a setting that was the least restrictive of the residents' personal liberty.
Shortly after the filing of the complaint, the United States was granted its motion to intervene as plaintiffs. Evans v. Washington, 459 F. Supp. 483 (D.D.C. 1978). Also, on June 3, 1976, the court (Judge John H. Pratt) granted the plaintiffs' motion for class certification. Evans v. Williams, 139 F. Supp. 2d 79, 84 (D.D.C. 2001).
On June 14, 1978, the court granted the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment. Evans v. Washington, 459 F. Supp. 483, 484 (D.D.C. 1978). The court held that the District had violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which provided the plaintiff class with a constitutional right to habilitative care and treatment. Id. It then entered a decree governing virtually every aspect of the District's operation of Forest Haven. Id.; see also In re U.S., 925 F.2d 490, 1991 WL 17225, *1 (D.C. Cir. 1991). At its core, the decree required the deinstitutionalization of the residents and their placement in "community living arrangement[s] . . . together with such community-based day programs and services as are necessary to provide the resident[s] with minimally adequate habilitation." Evans v. Washington, 459 F. Supp. 483, 487 (D.D.C. 1978). In other words, for all intents and purposes, the judgment called for the closing of Forest Haven. Id.; see also Evans v. Williams, 206 F.3d 1292, 1293 (D.C. Cir. 2000). The judgment also required that the defendants, inter alia, draft an individualized habilitation plan for each resident as well as create and maintain procedures to monitor the defendant's compliance with the injunction. Evans v. Washington, 459 F. Supp. 483, 484, 486 (D. D.C., 1978). In 1981 and 1983, the district court entered additional consent orders reaffirming its 1978 order and further mandating the placement of all Forest Haven residents in community living arrangements by the end of fiscal year 1988. In re United States, 925 F.2d 490, 1991 WL 17225, *1 (D.C. Cir. 1991).
The Forest Haven facility was permanently closed in the late 1980s, but the case has remained open and continually active, as disputes regarding the execution of the consent orders and the alleged ongoing failure of the District of Columbia to provide adequate care in an integrated, least restrictive setting. On October 11, 1996, the Court appointed a Special Master, Margaret G. Farrell, to monitor and report on the District's compliance and to make recommendations to the court.
On March 14, 1999, The Washington Post ran an article characterizing the District's efforts to provide safe community-integrated group homes in a least-restrictive setting as having "fail[ed] completely." The article describes one of the group homes into which Forest Haven residents had been transferred as "roach-dappled," with broken furniture and doors hanging off their hinges, and where at least one resident known to be a sexual predator was roomed next door to one of his victims. (Washington Post, March 14, 1999
On January 30, 2001, Clarence J. Sundram was appointed co-Special Master.
On March 30, 2001, the court (Judge Stanley S. Harris), pursuant to the recommendation of the Special Master in her "2001 Plan for Complainance and Conclusion of Evans v. Williams," entered a fourth consent order, in which the defendants agreed to create a nonprofit agency to, inter alia, provide independent monitoring of the services available to individuals with mental retardation and developmental disabilities. The defendants agreed to fund this agency by paying $31.5 million over eleven years, and again made extensive commitments to improve its practices and the services and living conditions available to mentally disabled citizens of the District of Columbia. Evans v. Williams, 139 F.Supp.2d 79, 83 (D. D.C. 2001).
On March 30, 2007, the Court found that there had been "systemic, continuous, and serious noncompliance with many of the Court's Orders," and held the District of Columbia to be in noncompliance. Evans v. Fenty, 480, F.Supp.2d 280, 325 (D.D.C.2007). The court again had the Special Master produce a report, 2009 Special Masters' Report, in which the Special Master also found the District in non-compliance, and recommended the appointment of an "Independent Compliance Administrator," who would bring the District into compliance.
On April 7, 2010, the Court Issued an Memorandum Opinion, detailing extensively the prior history of the litigation and the various consent orders up until that point, and denying a motion by the District of Columbia to have the existing consent orders vacated and to have the case closed. Evans v. Fenty, 701 F.Supp.2d 126 (D.D.C. 2010). This was appealed, and the appeal was dismissed. 2010 WL 3447241 (D.C. Cir. 2010).
On June 1, 2010, the Court adopted the 2009 Special Masters' Report's findings of fact and conclusions of law Evans v. Fenty, 714 F.Supp.2d 116 (D.D.C 2010). As a result of this decision, the Court approved on August 10, 2010, the Special Master's "2010 Revision to the 2001 Plan for Compliance and Conclusion of Evans v. Fenty."
On October 26, 2012, the court issued an order approving and adopting the Special Master's conclusion that the District of Columbia had achieved compliance in several areas, including the safe guarding of class member's person possessions, and some aspects of staff training. Evans v. Gray, 2012 WL 5305790, (D.D.C. 2012).
From 2013-2015, the court approved in full the reports and recommendations of the Special Master regarding various aspects of the consent decrees. These areas included protection from harm, vocational, residential, and day programs, as well as many other areas. See the documents for this case for a complete list.
On March 31, 2015, the court (Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle) approved and adopted in part the Special Master's report and recommendation regarding individualized habilitation plans. The court held that: 1) altering the 90% threshold for “high” compliance was unwarranted; 2) the defendants had complied with the occupational therapy services component of outcome criterion focused on implementation; but 3) the defendants failed to demonstrate compliance with the medical services component of outcome criterion focused on implementation; and 4) the defendants failed to demonstrate compliance with the criteria requiring assessment of residents' needs for services and mandating provision of certain adaptive equipment. 87 F. Supp. 3d 1 (D.D.C. 2015)
After more than thirty-five years after the initial consent order was entered, the District of Columbia appears still to be non-compliant with many other requirements of the multiple consent orders it agreed to. As of April 8, 2016, implementation is ongoing.
Note: Among the several awards of attorneys' fees and costs to the Plaintiffs was a consent order and judgment, filed on May 16, 2011, wherein the court approved an award of $4,000,000, covering fees and costs from April 1, 2006, to June 30, 2010. Because of the age of the case and because the court docket is incomplete, the Clearinghouse has not attempted to calculate the total amount of attorneys' fees awarded.Jordan Rossen - 07/01/2011
Alex Colbert-Taylor - 06/17/2013
Jessica Kincaid - 04/08/2016