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Case Name Suter v. Artist M. CW-IL-0004
Docket / Court 88-CV-10503 ( N.D. Ill. )
State/Territory Illinois
Case Type(s) Child Welfare
Case Summary
The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, 42 U.S.C. §§ 620-629, 670-679 (hereinafter the Adoption Act) provided that participating States would be reimbursed by the Federal Government for certain expenses incurred in administering foster care and adoption services in accordance with ... read more >
The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, 42 U.S.C. §§ 620-629, 670-679 (hereinafter the Adoption Act) provided that participating States would be reimbursed by the Federal Government for certain expenses incurred in administering foster care and adoption services in accordance with plans submitted by the States to and approved by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Once established, these plans were required to be in effect in all of a State's political subdivisions. Compliance with the plans was mandatory.

In December 1988, Plaintiffs filed a class-action suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against the Director and the Administrator of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, in their official capacities (DCFS.) The named Plaintiffs were several children, and their parents or guardians, who allegedly had been affected by Illinois' non-compliance with its obligations under the Adoption Act.

The Plaintiffs alleged that DFCS had failed to make reasonable efforts to prevent the unnecessary removal of children from their homes and to facilitate the reunification of families where such removal had occurred, in contravention of § 671(a)(15) of the Adoption Act. The Plaintiffs alleged that DCFS had failed promptly to assign caseworkers to children removed from their families and placed in DCFS custody. They alleged that DCFS regularly failed to assign caseworkers until four to six weeks after the Juvenile Court proceeding had commenced. As a result, many children were without a caseworker at critical times. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, seeking to require DFCS to come into full compliance with its mandatory obligations under the Adoption Act. The Plaintiffs filed the suit with two theories as to the cause of action, suggesting that the Adoption Act itself contained an implied private cause of action, and that alternatively the Act could be enforced under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which allows private actions to be brought against States for violations of federal statutory and constitutional law committed under the color of state law.

On August 15, 1989, the Court (Judge Milton I. Shadur) granted the Plaintiffs' motion to certify two plaintiff classes, which included all children who at the time were, or who would become, wards of DCFS, and who were or would be either placed in foster care or remain in their homes under a judicial protective order. In a November 21, 1989 Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court denied DFCS' motion to dismiss the case, holding that the Adoption Act did contain an implied cause of action and that the suit could also be brought under § 1983. Artist M. v. Johnson, 726 F.Supp. 690 (N.D. Ill.1989).

In March 1990, the Court issued a preliminary injunction requiring DFCS to assign caseworkers to each child in DCFS custody within three working days of the time of that child's first hearing in Juvenile Court. The Court found that adhering to this three-day deadline was realistically achievable in part because DFCS itself had asserted to the Court that assigning caseworkers within that period of time "would not be overly burdensome."

DFCS appealed this decision to the federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which substantially affirmed the lower court's decision. The Court of Appeals held that the "reasonable efforts" clause of the Adoption Act was enforceable under § 1983. Artist M. v. Johnson, 917 F.2d 980 (7th Cir. 1990).

The Supreme Court granted certiorari review, and on March 25, 1992, in an opinion by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, reversed, holding the Adoption Act did not directly create a private cause of action and that it did not create a right enforceable under 42 U.S.C § 1983. Suter v. Artist M., 503 U.S. 347 (U.S. 1992) The suit was therefore dismissed and the preliminary injunction was lifted.

In 1994, Congress passed legislation, commonly called the "Suter cure provision," that amended the Adoption Act to explicitly authorize a cause of action that enabled private plaintiffs to bring suit in order to obtain relief from the failure of states to comply with their mandatory obligations under the Act.

Alex Colbert-Taylor - 07/03/2013

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Foster care (benefits, training)
Parents (visitation, involvement)
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Timeliness of case assignment
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (AACWA), 42 U.S.C. § 620 et seq.
Defendant(s) Illinois
Plaintiff Description The class of children, and their parents or guardians, who had been affected by Illinois’ non-compliance with its obligations under the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief None
Filed 1988
Case Closing Year 1992
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Legal Accountability in the Service-Based Welfare State: Lessons from Child Welfare Reform
Date: Summer 2009
By: Kathleen G. Noonan, Charles F. Sabel, William H. Simon (Center for High Impact Philanthropy , Columbia Law School and Stanford Law School Faculty)
Citation: 34 Law & Soc. Inquiry 523 (Summer 2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

1:88−cv−10503 (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/30/1992
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Memorandum Opinion and Order (747 F.Supp. 446) (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0004-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/25/1989
Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Opinion and Order (726 F.Supp. 690) (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0004-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 11/21/1989
Source: Westlaw
Appellate Opinion (917 F.2d 980)
CW-IL-0004-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
Date: 10/29/1990
Supreme Court Opinion (503 U.S. 347)
CW-IL-0004-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
Date: 03/25/1992
Enforcement of Social Security Act State Plan Requirements after Suter v. Artist M.
CW-IL-0004-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/01/1992
Youth Law Developments
CW-IL-0004-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/01/1993
Memo Re: Suter v. Artist M. Docket
CW-IL-0004-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/29/1994
Improving America's Schools Act
CW-IL-0004-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/04/1994
Memo Re: Suter v. Artist M. Legislative History
CW-IL-0004-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/08/1995
Impact of Suter v. Artist M. on Foster Care Policy
CW-IL-0004-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/01/1995
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Judges Cummings, Walter Joseph (Seventh Circuit) show/hide docs
Manion, Daniel Anthony (Seventh Circuit) show/hide docs
Rehnquist, William Hubbs (SCOTUS) show/hide docs
Shadur, Milton Irving (N.D. Ill.) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0004-0006 | CW-IL-0004-0009 | CW-IL-0004-9000
Monitors/Masters Casey, Timothy Joseph (New York) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0004-0001 | CW-IL-0004-0002 | CW-IL-0004-0004 | CW-IL-0004-0005
Plaintiff's Lawyers Biehl, Julie (Illinois) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0004-0007 | CW-IL-0004-9000
DeGrange, Jeannette (Illinois) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0004-0007 | CW-IL-0004-9000
Dsida, Michael Gregory (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0004-0007 | CW-IL-0004-9000
Murphy, Patrick Thomas (Illinois) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0004-0007 | CW-IL-0004-9000
Pierce, Susan Tone (Illinois) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0004-0007 | CW-IL-0004-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Baer, Kimberley K. (Illinois) show/hide docs
Getzendanner, Susan Christine O'Meara (Illinois) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0004-0007 | CW-IL-0004-9000
Giroux, Paula J. (Illinois) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0004-0007 | CW-IL-0004-9000
Smith, Charles F. Jr. (Illinois) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0004-0007 | CW-IL-0004-9000
Tchen, Christina M. (Illinois) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0004-0007 | CW-IL-0004-9000
Wells, Christina Elizabeth (Illinois) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0004-0007 | CW-IL-0004-9000
Other Lawyers Brody, Michael L. (Illinois) show/hide docs
Evans, Gregory L. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Heybach, Laurene Marie (Illinois) show/hide docs
Matlack, Joan (Illinois) show/hide docs
Redleaf, Diane L. (Illinois) show/hide docs
Wishnick, Susan (Illinois) show/hide docs

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