On November 22, 1983, a lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas against the Governor of Arkansas, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS), and its Division of Mental Health Services (MHS), Mental Health Board, Division of Developmental Disability Services (DDS), and Developmental Disability Service Board. On September 24,1984, the court certified the class, which it defined as all institutionalized persons in the custody of DHS now and in the future. The plaintiffs, represented by Central Arkansas Legal Services, sought injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the State had failed to properly treat and train institutionalized persons.
On January 17, 1985, the parties entered a consent decree. Under the part pertaining to developmental disability services, Arkansas agreed to have a psychologist (Dr. John Marr) evaluate and recommend changes to their disability services. The court approved the psychologist's comprehensive recommendations, submitted to the court on May 23, 1985, and ordered the State to retain the psychologist as a monitor and consultant for at least a year.
On July 1, 1986, only three of the psychologist's fourteen recommendations regarding developmental disability services had been satisfied. The plaintiffs asked the court to find the State in contempt of the consent decree. Before a ruling was announced, however, the parties entered into a second consent decree on March 12, 1987. Under the terms of the second consent decree, the State would solicit funds from the State legislature to (1) renovate and build new facilities, (2) hire psychologists, and (3) improve the wages of direct care workers.
The legislature denied the State's request for additional funds for disability services. On November 24, 1987, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas (Judge Henry Woods) found that the State had satisfied the terms of the second consent decree by requesting the funds, but vacated the second consent decree. Baldridge v. Clinton, 674 F. Supp. 665 (E.D. Ark. 1987). The court reasoned that the second consent decree did not properly address compliance problems because it was developed without the input of the psychologist monitor, did not comport with the psychologist's recommendations, and implied that the State's duty to serve individuals with developmental disabilities was limited by funding. The court disagreed with this proposition, holding that a shortage of funds does not eliminate the State's duty to provide comprehensive and meaningful services for persons with developmental disabilities.
On February 4, 1991, the Advocates for Human Development Center Residents, an organization comprised of many of the people included in the class description, sought to intervene on behalf of the defendants. The court recognized the motion to intervene as evidence of a fissure in the interests of the class members and proposed decertifying the class on May 8, 1991. On September 13, 1991, the court formally decertified the class for three reasons. Baldridge v. Stockley, 139 F.R.D. 119 (D. Ark. 1991). First, common circumstances were not sufficient to unite the class in place of a common issue of law or fact, neither of which existed anymore. Second, the interests of the named plaintiffs, all living in the community by 1991, were no longer typical of institutionalized persons. Although the plaintiffs argued that one named plaintiff received respite care from an institution, the court held that institutional respite care did not constitute institutionalization. Third, the court expressed concerns about the strength of the plaintiffs' claims. Specifically, the court found that only one claim, challenging the constitutionality of restraints, was properly stated but that even it was not supported by evidence of the widespread misuse of restraints.
In dismissing the Complaint, the court noted that its judgment did not preclude individuals from pursuing their own claims of constitutional violations. We do not know, however, whether any of the individual class members filed their own lawsuits.Elizabeth Chilcoat - 06/19/2006