On July 8, 1987, the Supporters of Developmentally Disabled New Mexicans, Inc. and twenty-one developmentally disabled persons filed this class action lawsuit in United States District Court for the District of New Mexico. The plaintiffs sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 challenging the institutionalization of developmentally disabled persons at two state-owned and operated institutions: 1) Fort Stanton Hospital and Training School (Fort Stanton) and 2) Los Lunas Hospital and Training School (Los Lunas). The New Mexico Human Services Department ran the institutions. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, including allowing developmentally disabled persons at Fort Stanton and Los Lunas to live in integrated, family-like settings within the community.
In June 1988, the District Court (Judge James A. Parker) allowed more than 125 parents and guardians of residents of the facilities to intervene. Intervenors opposed the plaintiffs' efforts to require the mandatory transfer of residents to community-based facilities.
On May 23, 1989, the District Court certified the case as a class action. The class consisted of all persons who resided at either facility or who would become residents during the pendency of the action, and all persons who had been transferred from these two institutions to other state facilities. The class was divided into two subclasses: (1) those who sought both closure of Fort Stanton and Los Lunas and community placement of the residents and (2) those seeking to improve the conditions at the institutions, but opposing mandatory transfers of residents. Thirteen of the original plaintiffs were named as class representatives.
Trial began in October 1989 and continued for eight weeks through April 1990. Evidence was presented at trial by the original thirteen plaintiffs as to conditions at the institutions. Following the trial, plaintiffs moved to disqualify District Judge Parker due to ex-parte communications with the court-appointed expert. The motion was denied. Jackson v. Fort Stanton Hosp. & Training School., 757 F.Supp. 1231 (D.N.M.1990).
On December 28, 1990, the District Court (Judge Parker) entered a comprehensive Memorandum Order in which it made detailed findings of fact based on the evidence presented at trial. The Court found that the conditions at Fort Stanton and Los Lunas violated the plaintiffs' rights under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and under the substantive due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The parties were ordered to submit a plan to correct the numerous deficiencies. The order required the development of individual programs of treatment for the residents of the facilities, the prevention of abuse and reduction of accidents and injuries to the residents, better training and supervision of staff, and improvements in treatment, record keeping, and services in other areas. The defendants were also ordered to prepare a plan for transfer to a community setting for each resident of Fort Stanton and Los Lunas recommended for transfer by that resident's interdisciplinary treatment team (IDT). The IDTs were prohibited from considering the availability of community facilities when making their transfer evaluations. Jackson v. Fort Stanton Hosp. & Training School., 757 F.Supp. 1243 (D.N.M.1990). The intervenors appealed, but the defendants did not join in the appeal.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals (Circuit Judge Tacha) reversed in part and remanded the case, holding that the District Court went too far when it ordered that the IDTs were prohibited from considering the availability of community facilities when making transfer decisions. Jackson v. Fort Stanton Hosp. & Training School., 964 F.2d 980 (10th Cir. 1992).
By order dated January 27, 1994, the plaintiffs were granted leave to amend their complaint to include a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act. On June 27, 1994, the District Court granted the parties' joint motion to modify the Court's 12/28/90 Memorandum Opinion and Order.
Thereafter, the remedial stage of the action continued. Fort Stanton was closed in 1995, followed by the closure of Los Lunas. Residents were moved into community-based care facilities. To ensure that the plaintiffs' rights were not being violated in the community settings, and to "define the further actions and requirements which the defendants must complete and the services, supports, and benefits which must be provided," the parties filed their Joint Stipulation on Disengagement ("JSD"). After a fairness hearing on November 20, 1997, the District Court entered an Order Approving Stipulation on Disengagement on December 19, 1997.
On April 2, 1999, the defendants filed a motion for relief from the Court's December 19, 1997 Order, based on the recent Supreme Court opinion in Idaho v. Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho, 521 U.S. 261 (1997). The defendants requested that the Court vacate the JSD and dismiss the case. District Judge Parker denied the motion on September 7, 1999.
On October 31, 2003, the District Court denied the defendants' motion to vacate the JSD or to stay the proceedings while Frew v. Hawkins was pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Remediation continued. As substantial compliance with certain provisions and requirements of the JSD was achieved, the defendants notified the Court and filed motions to terminate oversight of those specific JSD provisions.
On May 20, 2005, the District Court adopted a Joint Stipulation of the parties which resolved disagreements over defendants' compliance with certain JSD provisions, and which created new obligations for the Defendants, requiring them to address deficiencies in the following areas: case management; quality enhancement; incident management; behavior services; crisis services; sexuality services; supported employment services; vocational rehabilitation; and day services.
The improvements required by the Joint Stipulation were supposed to be implemented by the end of fiscal year 2007. The defendants were not in full compliance with the Joint Stipulation by this point; and so on December 21, 2007 the Court entered an order appointing Dr. Sue Gant as a Rule 706 Expert, defining her role to be "to substantially assist the Court in the determination of compliance with the orders of the Court, including the Joint Stipulation[.]" Dr. Grant remains in this role, and issued reports in 2008, 2010, and 2011.
On July 15, 2010, the plaintiffs filed a Motion for Remedial Relief, alleging that the defendants were in substantial non-compliance with JSD and the Joint Stipulation with respect to providing adequate health care, safe environments, and adequate supported employment for class members. On February 9, 2011, the court denied this motion without prejudice, as it pertained to issues that could not be resolved until after the results of an evidentiary hearing and thus would need to be rewritten. The evidentiary hearing occurred from June 13 through June 17, 2011. On November 14, 2011, the plaintiffs filed a renewed Motion for Remedial Relief, in light of the outcome of the hearing.
On October 12, 2012, as a result of the June 2011 hearing, the Court issued extensive Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, finding that the defendants had not substantially complied with the JSD and the Joint Stipulation in many areas, and had failed to comply with recommendations made by the 706 Expert (Dr. Gant) that would have moved them toward compliance with the stipulations. The defendants failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that their failure to comply fully with the JSD did not defeat essential purposes of the JSD, e.g., to provide class members with adequate health care and a safe environment, and to provide class members with the opportunity to engage in supported employment. The Court agreed to appoint a Compliance Administrator with the appropriate expertise "to prod Defendants into final substantial compliance." The Court held that the Defendants should be in compliance with the JSD and Joint Stipulation within 18 months of the appointment of the Administrator.
The October 12, 2012, Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law also granted the plaintiffs leave to file a motion under a claim of disparate treatment, arising from the allegation that the defendants denied services and opportunities to more severely disabled class members that it granted to less severely disabled members. In allowing this, the Court elected not to follow the recent Tenth Circuit precedent case Cohon v. New Mexico Dept. of Health, 646 F.3d 717 (10th Cir. 2011) (holding that the courts do not recognize disparate treatment between different degrees of disability to be prohibited discrimination), finding the holding in that case to be contrary to the landmark Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999).
On January 1, 2013, Dr. Sue Gant was appointed Compliance Administrator, with the consent of the parties. She was scheduled to make progress reports every six months, beginning July 2013.
From 2013-2016, the defendants periodically filed unopposed motions for partial disengagement from portions of the the JSD and Joint Stipulation. Once in 2015, the defendants filed an opposed motion for partial disengagement and the court denied that motion on February 18, 2015.
On November 21, 2014, the defendants filed "evaluative components" as directed by the court to assess its progress with meeting the Goals and Objectives of the Safety, Health, and Supported Employment Plans, all remaining obligations. On April 3, 2015, the court determined that the defendants were not yet in complete compliance with those goals and directed the parties to continue to work together on compliance.
The defendants continue to file unopposed motions for partial disengagement, with the latest one granted on February 11, 2016.
As of the time of this writing, March 18, 2016, the plaintiffs never filed a motion relating to disparate treatment. It would appear that they are not going to file such a motion.Dan Dalton - 04/18/2007
Alex Colbert-Taylor - 06/10/2013
Jessica Kincaid - 03/18/2016