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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name U.S. v. Connecticut ID-CT-0005
Docket / Court 86-252 ( D. Conn. )
State/Territory Connecticut
Case Type(s) Intellectual Disability (Facility)
Special Collection Civil Rights Division Archival Collection
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
On May 1, 1984, the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division informed the Governor of Connecticut that it would investigate the living conditions at Southbury Training School, an institutional care facility for people with intellectual disabilities (ICF/MR) in Southbury, ... read more >
On May 1, 1984, the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division informed the Governor of Connecticut that it would investigate the living conditions at Southbury Training School, an institutional care facility for people with intellectual disabilities (ICF/MR) in Southbury, Connecticut, pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq. On September 11, 1985, the Department of Justice announced its findings. Three lawsuits, including this CRIPA lawsuit, followed. A class action, Messier v. Southbury Training School, ID-CT-0003 in this Clearinghouse, appears to have been treated as a companion case at some points during litigation. Another private action, McCoy v. Belmont, ID-CT-0006, appears to have been separately litigated. Judge Ellen B. Burns of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut adjudicated all or part of these three lawsuits.

The United States filed this lawsuit against the State of Connecticut, its Department of Mental Retardation, and the Director of Southbury on July 25, 1986. The United States alleged that living conditions at Southbury placed residents in grave danger of bodily harm and death. According to the Complaint, the individuals with developmental disabilities placed at Southbury were subject to systematic abuse and neglect. Southbury did not provide adequate medical and psychological care and employed too few medical and direct care staff. In addition, Southbury's facilities were unsafe and unsanitary. Instead of offering residents individualized habilitative programming, Southbury used physical and chemical restraints to control most residents' behavior.

On July 25, 1986, the parties also entered a consent decree, under which the State admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to dramatically change Southbury's operations. For instance, the State agreed to institute individualized habilitation programming for all residents and to only use chemical and physical restraints in emergencies or when medically or therapeutically indicated. In addition, the State agreed to improve medical care by hiring more medical staff, developing a medical recordkeeping system, and improving the availability and overall quality of medical care and physical therapy. In addition, the state agreed to improve staff-to-resident ratios by either hiring and training more direct care staff or reducing the number of Southbury's residents (in 1986, Southbury had over one thousand residents). In addition, Southbury agreed to strategically address any new deficiencies or risks to residents' health or lives. Although the consent decree could only be enforced by those party to it, the defendants agreed to submit quarterly progress reports to the court. The court approved the consent decree on December 26, 1986, just four days after denying the Messier plaintiffs' petition for intervener status.

Connecticut's compliance with the consent decree was rocky from the start. On July 28, 1987, the State petitioned the court to extend some of the consent decree's original deadlines because approval of the remedial plan was taking longer than expected. The court did not approve the remedial plan until July 22, 1988. On April 24, 1990, the court issued a remedial order directed to deficiencies in individualized planning, program staffing, medical treatment, and mental health care. Under the 1990 remedial order, Southbury's staff was required to monitor medicated residents for side effects, especially tardive dyskinesia. In addition, the court mandated monthly human rights reviews for residents with aggressive or self-injurious behaviors and for residents on psychotropic medications. Finally, the State was instructed to hire more physicians (general practitioners and specialists) and nurses to serve residents at Southbury. On December 1, 1991, the court modified the 1990 remedial order.

Dissatisfied with the effects of the consent decree, Southbury's residents filed Messier v. Southbury Training School in 1994. On March 5, 1996, the court denied the Messier plaintiffs' motion to consolidate their lawsuit with United States v. Connecticut. The court, however, agreed that Southbury was still not providing adequate services to persons with developmental disabilities. On June 19, 1996, the court held the State in contempt of the consent decree, remedial plan, and remedial orders and appointed a Special Master (David Ferleger) to oversee compliance. United States v. Connecticut, 931 F. Supp. 974 (D. Conn. 1996), appeal dismissed, No. 96-6218, 1997 WL 321594 (2d Cir. June 13, 1997). The court was especially concerned by the rates and causes of mortality at Southbury. For instance, one resident died from severe burns after he lit his clothes on fire while smoking. The court noted that Southbury knew that the resident smoked unsafely, but neither taught him how to smoke safely nor observed him when he smoked.

Between July 30, 1997, and February 22, 2006, the Special Master submitted twenty-six status reports, sixty-three topic-specific reports, and numerous other reports, recommendations, and analyses. Based on the docket, it appears that the Special Master addressed (1) individualized planning, (2) community placement policies, (3) abuse and neglect, (4) the rights of persons with disabilities, (5) human rights and behavioral programming reviews, (6) occupational and physical therapy, (7) medical and dental care, (8) dosage benchmarks, (9) physical restraint techniques and standards, (10) mortality investigations, (11) case management and advocacy, (12) quality assurance plans, (13) facility upkeep, safety, and sanitation, (14) transportation, (15) employment of direct care staff, medical professionals, and specialized therapists, and (16) staff development. The defendants contested most of the Special Master's reports, but the court ultimately accepted all of them. For instance, on February 22, 2004, the court accepted and adopted the Special Master's report on Southbury's development of mortality review procedures.

It appears that the court began removing components of the consent decree from active judicial oversight in August 2000. On November 22, 2002, the Messier plaintiffs again requested intervener status, but the court denied their request on January 7, 2003. On June 24, 2004, the court similarly denied a motion by the Messier plaintiffs to file an amicus curiae brief about compliance with the consent decree.

On June 20, 2005, the parties filed a revised joint settlement agreement, which would have released all outstanding elements of the consent decree from active judicial oversight. The court, however, refused to endorse the agreement on July 21, 2005. The court was apparently concerned about continued deficiencies in habilitation programming and medical care. On September 16, 2005, the State filed a notice of appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, but did not request that the district court proceedings be stayed. On January 17, 2006, the Special Master reported that the State had successfully implemented comprehensive habilitation programming for all persons served at Southbury. On February 26, 2006, the Special Master's medical consultant issued a similar report regarding the adequacy of medical care.

On March 25, 2006, the court issued an order purging the defendants of contempt and concluding judicial oversight of the consent decree and remedial plan. The court, however, retained jurisdiction over the consent decree and remedial order for enforcement purposes. Between March 24 and June 25, 2006, the court declared all outstanding motions moot, finalized payment to the Special Master, and ordered the return of unused Special Master funds to the State. On June 25, 2006, Connecticut withdrew its joint settlement agreement appeal. Today, Southbury's website embraces the philosophy of community placement and acknowledges that future challenges will require Southbury to continue to grow and develop. On November 2, 2009, the Court granted a joint motion to dismiss the case because the parties agreed that the consent decree and remedial plan were fully implemented.

Elizabeth Chilcoat - 06/14/2006
Maurice Youkanna - 07/10/2014

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Content of Injunction
disability, unspecified
Mental impairment
Assault/abuse by staff
Classification / placement
Fire safety
Habilitation (training/treatment)
Incident/accident reporting & investigations
Individualized planning
Neglect by staff
Reassessment and care planning
Restraints : chemical
Restraints : physical
Sanitation / living conditions
Special education
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Medical/Mental Health
Dental care
Medical care, general
Medical care, unspecified
Mental health care, general
Mental health care, unspecified
Suicide prevention
Mental Disability
Intellectual/developmental disability, unspecified
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq.
Defendant(s) State of Connecticut
Plaintiff Description United States Department of Justice, on behalf of residents of an institution for people with intellectual disabilities.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1986 - 2009
Filing Year 1986
Case Closing Year 2009
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing ID-CT-0003 : Messier v. Southbury Training School (D. Conn.)
ID-CT-0006 : McCoy v. Belmont (D. Conn.)
Additional Resources
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  An Analysis of CRIPA Findings Letters Issued to Jails for Constitutional Violations by the Department of Justice
Date: Apr. 15, 2016
By: Jeff Mellow, Bryce E. Peterson & Mijin Kim (John Jay College of Criminal Justice Faculty)
Citation: Am. J. Crim. Just. (April 2016)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

96-6218 (U.S. Court of Appeals)
ID-CT-0005-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/15/1998
86-252 (D. Conn.)
ID-CT-0005-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/24/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Notice Letter re: CRIPA Investigation of Southbury Training School
ID-CT-0005-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/01/1984
ID-CT-0005-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/16/1986
Consent Decree
ID-CT-0005-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/22/1986
Motion for Modification of Consent Decree
ID-CT-0005-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/31/1987
Stipulation (D. Conn.)
ID-CT-0005-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/24/1990
Stipulation and Order (D. Conn.)
ID-CT-0005-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/09/1991
Ruling on Plaintiff's Application for an Order to Show Cause Why Defendants Should Not Be Held in Civil Contempt (D. Conn.)
ID-CT-0005-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/18/1996
Ruling on Plaintiff's Application for an Order to Show Cause Why Defendants Should Not Be Held in Civil Contempt (931 F.Supp. 974) (D. Conn.)
ID-CT-0005-0016.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/19/1996
Source: Google Scholar
Appellee's Brief
ID-CT-0005-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/29/1997
Summary Order (116 F.3d 466)
ID-CT-0005-0017.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/13/1997
Order [ECF# 1120] (D. Conn.)
ID-CT-0005-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/17/2004
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Ruling on Messier Plaintiffs' Motion to Intervene in the Remedial Proceedings in the District Court and in the State's Appeal [ECF# 1357] (D. Conn.)
ID-CT-0005-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/12/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Special Master's Report to the Court No. 60: Habilitation [ECF# 1373]
ID-CT-0005-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/14/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Ruling on Communication Services Compliance [ECF# 1404] (D. Conn.)
ID-CT-0005-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/23/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Purging Defendants of Contempt and Ending Active Judicial Oversight [ECF# 1405] (D. Conn.)
ID-CT-0005-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/24/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting Joint Motion to Dismiss] [ECF# 1430] (D. Conn.)
ID-CT-0005-0018.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/30/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Altimari, Frank X. (Second Circuit, E.D.N.Y.)
Burns, Ellen Bree (D. Conn.)
ID-CT-0005-0004 | ID-CT-0005-0005 | ID-CT-0005-0006 | ID-CT-0005-0007 | ID-CT-0005-0009 | ID-CT-0005-0012 | ID-CT-0005-0013 | ID-CT-0005-0014 | ID-CT-0005-0015 | ID-CT-0005-0016 | ID-CT-0005-0018 | ID-CT-0005-9000 | ID-CT-0005-9001
Jacobs, Dennis G. (Second Circuit)
Leval, Pierre Nelson (Second Circuit, S.D.N.Y.)
Monitors/Masters Ferleger, David (Pennsylvania)
ID-CT-0005-0011 | ID-CT-0005-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Dabrowski, Albert S. (Connecticut)
Dimsey, Dennis J. (District of Columbia)
ID-CT-0005-0010 | ID-CT-0005-0017
Dunne, John R. (District of Columbia)
Farano, Richard J. (District of Columbia)
Fidler, Gayle D. (District of Columbia)
ID-CT-0005-0006 | ID-CT-0005-0007
Goldschmidt, Iris (District of Columbia)
ID-CT-0005-0016 | ID-CT-0005-9000
Guzman, Philip A. (District of Columbia)
Hughes, John B. (Connecticut)
Hughes, Verlin (District of Columbia)
ID-CT-0005-0005 | ID-CT-0005-0006
Keyser, Linda L. (District of Columbia)
Masling, Mark S. (District of Columbia)
ID-CT-0005-0016 | ID-CT-0005-9000
Meese, Edwin III (District of Columbia)
Miller, V. Colleen (District of Columbia)
ID-CT-0005-0003 | ID-CT-0005-0004 | ID-CT-0005-0005
Nevas, Alan Harris (Connecticut)
Patrick, Deval L. (District of Columbia)
ID-CT-0005-0016 | ID-CT-0005-9000
Peabody, Arthur E. Jr. (District of Columbia)
ID-CT-0005-0003 | ID-CT-0005-0004 | ID-CT-0005-0006 | ID-CT-0005-0007
Peraertz, Louis E. (District of Columbia)
ID-CT-0005-0010 | ID-CT-0005-0017
Pinzler, Isabelle Katz (District of Columbia)
ID-CT-0005-0010 | ID-CT-0005-0017
Reynolds, William Bradford (District of Columbia)
ID-CT-0005-0001 | ID-CT-0005-0003 | ID-CT-0005-0004
Schneider, Todd J. (District of Columbia)
Schoen, Benjamin P. (District of Columbia)
ID-CT-0005-0003 | ID-CT-0005-0004
Shaw, David C. (Connecticut)
Snyder, Anita C. (District of Columbia)
Sperber, Joseph J. IV (District of Columbia)
Stern, Robert H. (District of Columbia)
Stutman, Edward A. (Pennsylvania)
ID-CT-0005-0006 | ID-CT-0005-0007
Subramanian, Sandhya L. (District of Columbia)
Twardy, Stanley A. Jr. (Connecticut)
ID-CT-0005-0003 | ID-CT-0005-0004 | ID-CT-0005-0005 | ID-CT-0005-0006
Weinstein, Laurie J. (District of Columbia)
Defendant's Lawyers Barbato, Linsley J. (Connecticut)
ID-CT-0005-0016 | ID-CT-0005-9000
Blumenthal, Richard (Connecticut)
ID-CT-0005-0017 | ID-CT-0005-9000
Friedman, David Paul (Connecticut)
Lerner, Peter Morris (Connecticut)
Lieberman, Joseph I. (Connecticut)
ID-CT-0005-0001 | ID-CT-0005-0004 | ID-CT-0005-0005
McCarthy, M. J. (Connecticut)
McGovern, Bernard F. Jr. (Connecticut)
Riddle, Clarine Nardi (Connecticut)
Silvestri, Frank J. Jr. (Connecticut)
Welsh, James P. (Connecticut)
ID-CT-0005-0005 | ID-CT-0005-0006 | ID-CT-0005-0007 | ID-CT-0005-0010 | ID-CT-0005-0016 | ID-CT-0005-0017 | ID-CT-0005-9000
York, Thomas B. (Pennsylvania)

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