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Case Name Bonnie S. v. Drew Altman ID-NJ-0001
Docket / Court 87-3709 ( D.N.J. )
State/Territory New Jersey
Case Type(s) Intellectual Disability (Facility)
Attorney Organization NDRN/Protection & Advocacy Organizations
Steve Gold
Case Summary
On September 10, 1987, a group of mentally retarded adults residing at the New Jersey Developmental Center, a state-run mental institution in Totowa, New Jersey, filed a class action lawsuit against the State on behalf of all New Jersey residents involuntarily confined to mental institutions, in ... read more >
On September 10, 1987, a group of mentally retarded adults residing at the New Jersey Developmental Center, a state-run mental institution in Totowa, New Jersey, filed a class action lawsuit against the State on behalf of all New Jersey residents involuntarily confined to mental institutions, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, alleged that their constitutional and statutory rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and Title XIX of the Social Security Act were violated when they were involuntarily committed to the mental institution without standards, hearings, or judicial review; and when the state failed to develop appropriate community placements for them. The plaintiffs asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief.

On April 19, 1988, the court (Judge H. Lee Sarokin) reviewed a magistrate's pre-trial order, where the plaintiffs' counsel were directed to contact the private guardians of two plaintiffs in order to obtain their consent to pursue the litigation. If the counsel failed to contact the guardians or to obtain consent, the magistrate would enter voluntary dismissals for those two plaintiffs. In its opinion, the court found that the magistrate's order erroneously gave exclusive control over the litigation to the guardians, and remanded the order for a hearing to determine whether the interests of the wards and the guardians were in conflict. The court also ordered the disclosure of the plaintiffs' medical records in their entirety, even though the guardians had withheld consent. Bonnie S. v. Altman, 683 F. Supp. 100 (D.N.J. 1988).

On February 23, 1989, the court entered a consent-dismissal order. Subsequently, on June 28, 1989, the plaintiffs moved for an award of attorney fees. The court (Judge Sarokin) found that the plaintiffs were prevailing parties and entitled to the fees as a matter of law; the total award was $38,600.00. Bonnie S. v. Altman, No. 87-3709, 1989 WL 71795 (D.N.J. June 28, 1989).

We have only the two court opinions so we have no further information on this case.

Laura Uberti - 07/20/2006


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Disability
Integrated setting
General
Classification / placement
Commitment procedure
Deinstitutionalization/decarceration
Mental Disability
Intellectual/developmental disability, unspecified
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Title XIX of the Social Security (Medicaid) Act, 42 U.S.C §1396
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) New Jersey Department of Human Services
Plaintiff Description All New Jersey residents involuntarily confined to mental institutions
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NDRN/Protection & Advocacy Organizations
Steve Gold
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1989 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Unknown
Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Opinion 04/19/1988 (683 F.Supp. 100) (D.N.J.)
ID-NJ-0001-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Opinion 06/28/1989 (1989 WL 71795 / 1989 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 7308) (D.N.J.)
ID-NJ-0001-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Judges Sarokin, H. Lee (D.N.J., Third Circuit)
ID-NJ-0001-0001 | ID-NJ-0001-0002
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Gold, Stephen F. (Pennsylvania)
ID-NJ-0001-0002
Shane, Ilene W. (New Jersey)
ID-NJ-0001-0001 | ID-NJ-0001-0002
Defendant's Lawyers Barreto, Daisy B. (New Jersey)
ID-NJ-0001-0001
Piatek, Christine (New Jersey)
ID-NJ-0001-0002
Other Lawyers None on record

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