On September 30, 1985, two adult men with developmental disabilities filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut against the Connecticut Department of Mental Retardation and managers and doctors affiliated with Southbury Training School, an intermediate care facility for people with intellectual disabilities (ICF/MR) in Southbury, Connecticut. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought injunctive relief and compensatory and punitive damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Social Security Act.
This lawsuit was filed shortly after the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division announced investigative findings about Southbury pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq. That federal investigation led to both a CRIPA lawsuit, United States v. Connecticut, ID-CT-0003
, and a class action, Messier v. Southbury Training School, ID-CT-0005
. Although it appears that the CRIPA and class action lawsuits were sometimes treated as companion cases, it seems that this case, McCoy v. Belmont, was separately litigated.
On June 9, 1988, the plaintiffs filed their third amended complaint (the one in the file), alleging constitutional and state law violations. According to the complaint, after moving to Southbury in 1968, the plaintiffs lived in one of the institution's cottages. The plaintiffs received no habilitation programming and, as a result, neither gained nor maintained communication and other independent living skills. Southbury gave the plaintiffs no opportunity to participate in the community. Instead, they spent their days sitting on the dirty floor of a smelly and windowless common room. The plaintiffs were occasionally injured by improper physical restraint; one plaintiff's back was broken in three places. In addition, major illnesses were generally untreated. One plaintiff's scoliosis was completely untreated and caused organ damage.
The United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (Judge Jose A. Cabranes) assigned the case to a magistrate judge (Judge Joan G. Margolis). On March 10, 1992, the parties entered a consent decree, which required Southbury to employ a "core group" of staff with person-specific training to care for the plaintiffs in a Southbury house, to promptly and comprehensively treat the plaintiffs' medical conditions, to support self-advocacy, and to commence individualized habilitation programming. The plaintiffs' parents, as their guardians, were given the authority to approve or reject staff assigned to the house. Four years later, on March 28, 1996, the court (Judge Margolis) found the State in contempt for failing to comply with the consent decree's standards for programming, medical care, and preventing and reporting abuse and neglect. The court awarded compensatory damages, attorneys' fees and costs.
Between August and November 1996, the parties submitted proposed schedules of compliance for the court's consideration. On December 12, 1996, the court ordered the parties to abide by a partial schedule of compliance, based on similarities in their proposals. On June 22, 1998, the court appointed a Special Master (Edward Skarnulis, Ph.D.) to propose a schedule of compliance for the contested parts of the consent decree. On May 18, 1999, the Special Master recommended that Southbury install a new administrative team, including on-site shift managers. The Special Master also recommended that the plaintiffs' parents, who had moved into Southbury's house at some point, relocate to their own home. Both parties contested the Special Master's recommendations and the court scheduled hearings.
The court (Judge Margolis) denied the plaintiffs' request for discovery of the Special Master, holding that the Special Master was entitled to judicial immunity as an agent of the court. McCoy v. Belmont, No. 85-465, 1999 WL 33117446 (D. Conn. Aug 9, 1999). The plaintiffs appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the State filed a Motion for Relief from Judgment.
Once hearings on the Special Master's report concluded, the plaintiffs petitioned the District Court to reopen hearings on January 24, 2000. The court (Judge Margolis) refused, holding that additional hearings were unnecessary because the new testimony was cumulative and would not introduce new information. McCoy v. Belmont, No. 85-465, 2000 WL 303222 (D. Conn. 2000). The plaintiffs appealed again to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. On March 14, 2000, the District Court (Judge Margolis) adopted the Special Master's report and denied the State's motion for relief from the judgment. McCoy v. Belmont, No. 85-465, 2000 WL 1050911 (D. Conn. March 14, 2000). The court held that the defendants had failed to show that a significant change of law or fact justified non-enforcement of a consent decree.
On December 20, 2000, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit dismissed the plaintiffs' appeal of the discovery ruling, reasoning it lacked jurisdiction over the decisions of a magistrate judge. On January 5, 2001, the Second Circuit dismissed the plaintiffs' appeal from the district court's refusal to reopen the Special Master hearings.
On July 15, 2002, the District Court (Senior Judge Ellen Bree Burns) partially granted a motion by the plaintiffs for contempt, but denied the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction and another motion by the State for relief from the judgment. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court's rulings on September 29, 2003.
In June 2005, hearings on all remaining motions were held; judgment is apparently still pending as of May 31, 2006. We have no further information on the disposition of this case. In addition, the docket we have begins almost three years after the Complaint was filed.
On July 10, 2007, the Court granted in part defendants' motions for contempt and modification of the consent decree because of plaintiffs' abuse of defendants' staff and changed circumstances, respectively. The modification prevented one of plaintiffs' parents from visiting during meal times and being involved in the staff selection process to avoid administrative obstacles; the Court also denied plaintiffs' motion for contempt. The plaintiffs appealed this decision with respect to the modification of the consent decree, but on September 4, 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision. As of July 11, 2014, this case has had no other significant activity.Elizabeth Chilcoat - 05/31/2006
Maurice Youkanna - 07/11/2014