On March 16, 1977, residents at the Hunterdon State School, a state-run residential institution for people with intellectual disabilities in Clinton, New Jersey, filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all present and future residents of the School against the State. They brought the suit in the ...
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On March 16, 1977, residents at the Hunterdon State School, a state-run residential institution for people with intellectual disabilities in Clinton, New Jersey, filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all present and future residents of the School against the State. They brought the suit in the Superior Court of Hunterdon County, and asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief. They alleged that the State failed to tailor education and training programs to individuals' needs, and to facilitate these programs in the least restrictive setting feasible.
Before the suit came to trial, the defendants attempted to improve the conditions at Hunterdon by complying with federal standards under the Intermediate Care Facility/ Mentally Retarded Program guidelines. The State created new staff positions and habilitation teams to develop an individualized plan for each resident.
The case proceeded to a non-jury trial in October and November, 1979. In an oral opinion, the court (Judge Morton Greenberg) held that the State had not violated the residents' statutory or constitutional rights, finding that, by the time of the trial, the conditions at Hunterdon had improved and that the defendants were complying with their legal obligations to the residents. The court dismissed the Complaint on November 30, 1979. The Appellate Division affirmed on March 2, 1981.
The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court of New Jersey, asking for declaratory judgment as to the State's the legal obligations to Hunterdon residents. On May 13, 1982, the Court (Justice Morris Pashman) held that, under the Developmentally Disabled Rights Act of 1977, N.J.S.A. 30:6D, child Hunterdon residents had the right to a thorough and efficient education suited to each child's needs. Further, all Hunterdon residents had the right to treatment, training, habilitation, care, and protection. Finally, these services were to be provided in the setting that was least restrictive to their personal liberty but still compatible with their personal needs. N.J. Ass'n for Retarded Citizens, Inc. v. N.J. Dep't of Human Serv., 445 A.2d 704 (N.J. 1982). Laura Uberti - 07/20/2006