On August 23, 1978, the Society for Good Will to Retarded Children filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of residents of the Suffolk Developmental Center (later called Long Island Developmental Center), an institution for the profoundly retarded, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The lawsuit sought to improve conditions at the facility and provide small residential facilities for most of its clients.
A lengthy trial was held in 1982. On February 24, 1983, the district court (Judge Jack B. Weinstein) issued an interim memorandum and order requiring the Director of the facility to provide the court with a written four-year plan for improvement of the institution. Society for Good Will to Retarded Children, Inc. v. Carey, 572 F. Supp. 1298 (E.D.N.Y. 1983).
On August 10, 1983, the court (Judge Weinstein) issued an opinion outlining the constitutional violations within the facility in the areas of food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. Society for Good Will to Retarded Children, Inc. v. Cuomo, 572 F. Supp. 1300 (E.D.N.Y. 1983). The court noted that its opinion in New York State Association for Retarded Children, Inc. v. Carey (ID-NY-0003) was used as guidance in determining the standards of care for individuals in developmental centers. The court found conditions at Suffolk Developmental Center to be lacking in many areas, including staffing, training, physical environment, and community programs. The court also found that the written plan provided by the center lacked detailed steps to remedy the constitutional violations and made changes to it.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the decision, holding that the district court failed to specify which parts of its order were designed to remedy federal constitutional violations and which were addressing state constitutional violations. Society for Good Will to Retarded Children, Inc. v. Cuomo, 737 F.2d 1239 (2d Cir. 1984). It noted that some of the district court's findings could only be supported by state law and federal courts could not grant injunctive relief based on state constitutional violations. On remand, the district court (Judge Weinstein) held that the defendants voluntarily agreed to continue to implement its plan for improving the state facility following the August 10, 1983 court order and the issue was therefore moot. Society for Good Will to Retarded Children, Inc. v. Cuomo, 103 F.R.D. 168 (E.D.N.Y. 1984).
In 1986, plaintiffs moved to reinstate the case, alleging continued violations of federal constitutional law. Judge Weinstein denied the motion and granted plaintiffs sixty days to file a new complaint. The Second Circuit reversed and remanded so the district court could reinstate the case and enforce those parts of the 1983 order that were based in federal constitutional law. Society for Good Will to Retarded Children, Inc. v. Cuomo, 832 F.2d 245 (2d Cir. 1987). On remand, the district court (Judge Weinstein) found that although there were improvements, there remained constitutional violations in the center. Society for Good Will for Retarded Children, Inc. v. Cuomo, 718 F. Supp. 139 (E.D.N.Y. 1989). It ordered the state to implement a plan to make improvements. The Second Circuit reversed and remanded because the district court's findings were not adequate to review the case. Society for Good Will to Retarded Children, Inc. v. Cuomo, 902 F.2d 1085 (2d Cir. 1990). Litigation regarding attorneys' fees continued throughout this period.
On September 26, 1990, Judge Weinstein entered a memorandum, stipulation and order, approving the settlement of the lawsuit. Society for Good Will to Retarded Children v. Cuomo, 745 F. Supp. 879 (E.D.N.Y. 1990). The court noted that conditions at the facility had greatly improved and many residents had been moved to community-based homes. The stipulation was to remain in effect until March 31, 1993 and required defendants to continue meeting constitutional standards.
The Long Island Developmental Center closed in June of 1993 and transitioned to a community-based service system. The case was closed on June 24, 1993.Angela Heverling - 05/09/2007