In 1984, individuals with mental illness confined at the Vermont State Hospital (VSH) in Waterbury, Vermont, filed a class action lawsuit in the Superior Court for the State of Vermont for Washington County against Vermont's Commissioner of Mental Health and Mental Retardation and various VSH ...
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In 1984, individuals with mental illness confined at the Vermont State Hospital (VSH) in Waterbury, Vermont, filed a class action lawsuit in the Superior Court for the State of Vermont for Washington County against Vermont's Commissioner of Mental Health and Mental Retardation and various VSH officials. The plaintiffs, represented by Vermont Legal Aid, sought equitable relief for alleged violations of their Fourteenth Amendment Due Process rights. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that VSH subjected plaintiffs to involuntary, non-emergency medication.
On May 28, 1985, the parties entered into a consent decree, which the court approved. VSH agreed to implement policies and procedures to govern involuntary medication of patients. Under the new system, the interdisciplinary treatment team would recommend involuntary medication when such intervention would be in keeping with professional standards. Even then, patients could not be involuntarily medicated without a hearing at which they were entitled to representation.
In November 1990, the defendants asked the court to dissolve the consent decree, but the court (Judge Alan W. Cheever) refused. When the court denied the defendants' petition for rehearing, the defendants appealed. On May 28, 1992, the Supreme Court of Vermont (Justice Fredric Allen) affirmed, reasoning that the defendants had failed to show either (1) a significant and unforeseeable change of law, constitutional and statutory, or fact or (2) full achievement of the goals of the consent decree. J.L. v. Miller, 614 A.2d 808 (Vt. 1992).
In 1998, Vermont enacted legislation with the purpose of supplanting the 1985 consent decree.
The defendants subsequently asked the court to vacate the consent decree on the grounds that the law had materially changed. The trial court (Judge Mary Miles Teachout) refused to grant relief from judgment. On October 18, 2002, the Vermont Supreme Court (Justice James L. Morse) vacated the lower court's ruling and granted relief from the consent decree. J.L. v. Miller, 817 A.2d 1 (Vt. 2002). The court held that, despite the differences between the consent decree and the new legislation, clear legislative intent required the dissolution of the consent decree.
We have no information on subsequent litigation.Elizabeth Chilcoat - 06/30/2006