On November 27, 1974, the named plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, challenging the adequacy of conditions, care, and habilitation at the Austin, Denton and Fort Worth, Texas state schools for the mentally retarded.
Plaintiffs alleged that the defendants failed to provide less restrictive community alternatives for residents, thereby effectively forcing them into large institutions. Plaintiffs alleged that the conditions at the large institutions were wholly inadequate and that they had been subjected to: diseases, neglect, excessive medication, unnecessary restraint, unsafe buildings, inadequate medical and dental care, and physical abuse from other residents and staff in violation of their constitutional rights. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, including the forced closure of the Austin, Denton and Fort Worth institutions.
In 1981, the case was certified as a class action. The class consisted of the residents of Austin, Denton and Fort Worth institutions. The class was subsequently amended to include residents at the state school at San Antonio.
In 1983, the parties reached a settlement. The Resolution and Settlement ("R&S") of the parties was approved by the District Court on July 19, 1983. The R&S provided for various corrective action to be taken by the State in a wide range of areas. It specifically required that the State to "provide each member of the plaintiff class with the least restrictive alternative living conditions possible consistent with the person's particular circumstances, including age, degree of retardation and handicapping condition." The R&S also called for the appointment of an Expert Consultant to monitor the implementation process. Dr. Linda O'Neall was appointed the Expert Consultant on March 19, 1984. Dr. O'Neall was subsequently appointed as Special Master. Lelsz v. Kavanagh, 112 F.R.D. 367 (N.D.Tex.1986).
The case was transferred to District Judge Barefoot Sanders on November 29, 1985.
In 1985, Defendants sought to modify certain provisions of the R&S. The District Court (Judge Barefoot Sanders) denied their motion. Lelsz v. Kavanagh, 629 F.Supp. 1487 (N.D.Tex.1986). Defendants appealed.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the District Court lacked jurisdiction to compel the State to set up community facilities and therefore the provisions of the R&S which required the State to do so were invalid. Lelsz v. Kavanagh, 807 F.2d 1243, 1255 (5th Cir.), rehearing en banc denied 815 F.2d 1034 (5th Cir.1987).
Following remand, the District Court held an evidentiary hearing on June 29, 1987 through July 7, 1987 on plaintiffs' motion to compel the State's compliance with the R & S. The District Court found that the State had violated numerous provisions of the R&S and held the State in contempt. Lelsz v. Kavanagh, 673 F.Supp. 828 (N.D.Tex.1987).
Shortly after the contempt hearing, the parties agreed to an Implementation Agreement, which specified standards and actions for the State to achieve in order to be in compliance with the R&S, including those set by the Accreditation Council on Developmental Disabilities ("ACDD"). The Agreement also contained specific "Interim Measures" regarding minimum services to be provided at the institutions. The District Court approved and entered the Implementation Agreement on October 15, 1987.
After the Implementation Agreement went into effect, the parties engaged in years of contested litigation over numerous compliance issues. On May 20, 1991, the Court removed the defendants' lead attorney from the case, due to repeated improper litigation tactics. Lelsz v. Kavanagh, 137 F.R.D. 646 (N.D.Tex.1991).
On the eve of a contempt hearing in August of 1991, the parties reached a settlement of the disputed issues. Following a fairness hearing, the Court approved Settlement Agreement of the parties on December 30, 1991. Lelsz v. Kavanagh, 783 F.Supp. 286 (N.D.Tex.1991) aff'd 983 F.2d 1061 (5thth Cir. 1993).
On August 15, 1995, the school at Forth Worth was closed. Following the closure, defendants moved to dismiss the case. After a hearing on October 13,1995, the District Court (Judge Sanders) dismissed the case with prejudice. Lelsz v. Kavanagh, 903 F.Supp. 1037 (N.D.Tex.1995).
The PACER docket is incomplete, but it does not contain any entries after 1995. The case seems to be done.Dan Dalton - 04/18/2007