On December 15, 1976, residents of the Northampton State Hospital in Massachusetts filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State of Massachusetts in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants had violated their constitutional rights by failing to provide them with suitable treatment under the least restrictive conditions, by discriminating against them with respect to benefit allocation pursuant to federal statutory programs, failing to provide alternative housing arrangements, failing to provide adequate mental health care, and failing to provide programming for them.
On January 6, 1978, the parties entered into a Consent Decree in the case. The Decree provided for changes in the areas of programming, staffing, transportation, vocational training, job placement, medical care, counseling, provision of alternative care environments and housing arrangements, funding, and mental health care requirements.
On March 19, 1981, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts (Judge Frank Harlan Freedman) found that the defendants had failed to comply with the terms of the Consent Decree by failing to release funding for the programs specified by the Decree in a timely manner. The Court ordered the defendants to release the funds and to account for all expenditures. The defendants appealed.
On August 19, 1981, the District Court (Judge Freedman) held that the plan proposed by the defendants for retraining all hospital and community employees was inadequate. The Court then ordered the state to develop a plan for a system of independently and legally trained advocates, all of whom would be paid by the state and capable of representing clients in connection with legal issues arising from their disability or status of prior or concurrent institutionalization. Brewster v. Dukakis, 520 F.Supp. 882 (D.Mass. 1981). The defendants appealed.
On November 16, 1981, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (Judges Levin Hicks Campbell, Hugh Henry Bownes, and Stephen Gerald Breyer) issues a temporary injunction to stay the District Court's order that the defendants must immediately release funding pursuant to the consent decree. On December 23, 1981, the District Court (Judge Freeman) issued an order compelling defendants to implement certain provisions of the Consent Decree and extending the time that the defendants had to obtain funding. The defendants appealed.
On March 24, 1982, the First Circuit (Judge Frank Morey Coffin) upheld the District Court's order with the modification that the defendants could not be required to go beyond what their good-faith professional best efforts could reasonably be expected to accomplish. Brewster v. Dukakis, 675 F.2d 1 (1st Cir. 1982).
On June 28, 1982, the First Circuit (Judge Breyer) vacated the District Court's order regarding the provision of a legal services program, holding that the District Court had no legal authority to require the Commonwealth to pay for a broad legal services program for people who are mentally ill or have an intellectual disability. Brewster v. Dukakis, 687 F.2d 495 (1st Cir. 1982).
On July 16, 1982, the District Court (Judge Freedman) ordered the defendants to pay $386,204.01 in attorneys' fees to the plaintiffs. Brewster v. Dukakis, 544 F.Supp. 1069 (D.Mass. 1982). The defendants appealed. On March 14, 1986, the First Circuit (Judge Coffin) affirmed the District Court's attorney fee award, with a $5000 reduction of the fee. Brewster v. Dukakis, 786 F.2d 16 (1st Cir. 1986).
On March 12, 1987, the District Court (Judge Freedman) issued an order of disengagement, finding that the parties had substantially complied with the Consent Decree and holding that the case would be closed within three years if the Court found that the Decree had been fully accomplished within that time period.
On January 6, 1992, the District Court vacated the Consent Decree and dismissed the case. Kristen Sagar - 01/03/2007