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Case Name U.S. v. Mercer County, New Jersey NH-NJ-0002
Docket / Court 3:05-cv-01122-GEB-TJB ( D.N.J. )
State/Territory New Jersey
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Nursing Home Conditions
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
Pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act ("CRIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice ("DOJ") conducted an investigation of conditions at the Mercer County Geriatric Center ("MCGC"), a public nursing home facility in New Jersey, ... read more >
Pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act ("CRIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice ("DOJ") conducted an investigation of conditions at the Mercer County Geriatric Center ("MCGC"), a public nursing home facility in New Jersey, evidently operated by Mercer County. The investigation resulted in an October 9, 2002, findings letter being sent to the County Executive. The letter stated that in December 2001, DOJ advised county officials of its intent to conduct an investigation of the facility pursuant to CRIPA authority, but the county and its counsel wholly declined to cooperate in the investigation. The investigation occurred nonetheless, even though the county's attorney interfered with the investigators' access to the MCGC's residents. The letter stated that non-cooperation is one factor considered adversely when drawing conclusions about a facility, but the DOJ explained it also relied upon federal and state survey information, news articles, medical records, family interviews, private attorney and advocate interviews, and publicly available data.

The letter advised that the DOJ's investigation led it to find that certain conditions at MCGC violated residents' federal rights, in that (1) Mercer County did not maintain sanitary and safe living conditions at MCGC; (2) MCGC residents did not receive adequate medical and mental health care; (3) MCGC residents were denied rehabilitation, restorative care, and freedom from unreasonable restraints; (4) MCGC mealtime assistance, nutrition, and hydration practices were not adequate; (5) MCGC residents were not treated in the most integrated setting appropriate to individual resident needs; and (6) staffing, administration, and policy deficiencies contributed to inadequate care at MCGC. Among the policy deficiencies listed was the county's denial of MCGC residents' First Amendment right to communicate with federal officials who were conducting the CRIPA investigation.

The DOJ findings letter proposed remedial actions to remedy the deficiencies, invited the county to address the issues, and alerted the county to the possibility of a CRIPA lawsuit brought by the United States to compel remedial action.

Negotiations evidently followed, because the county and the DOJ eventually entered into a settlement agreement obligating the county to improve a wide range of policies and practices at MCGC. The settlement contained substantive provisions addressing (A) assessment and care planning, (B) restraints and medication usage, (C) mealtime assistance, resident nutrition, and hydration practices, (D) therapeutic activities, rehabilitation, and restorative care, (E) mental health care, (F) treatment in the most integrated setting appropriate to individualized needs, and (G) management, oversight, and training. The settlement allowed for DOJ and its' consultants to retain access privileges to MCGC, its residents, and documents and records, for monitoring and technical assistance purposes, as well as to have access privileges to alternative placement settings. Further, the agreement called for the county to fund a jointly agreed-upon monitor. The county had 180 days to implement the changes called for in the settlement document which, by its terms, expired in three years. Attorneys for the county signed the agreement on December 28, 2004, followed by relevant DOJ officials' signatures being added on February 18, 2005, when the document and its attached monitoring protocol were received by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The same date, the United States filed its complaint against the county and its subdivision and officials responsible for the operation of the MCGC. The CRIPA-based complaint sought declaratory and injunctive relief, citing the deficiencies at MCGC and alleging that the defendants' conduct violated residents' federal constitutional, statutory, and regulatory rights, including those provided by the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., the nursing home reform provisions of the Omnibus Budget and Reconciliation Act of 1987, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1395i-3 and 1396r, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (and implementing regulations).

District Judge Garrett E. Brown, Jr., signed the settlement as the order and judgment of the court October 14, 2005. The judge's unpublished order of November 29, 2005, appointed Marie Boltz as monitor in the case. Her subsequent reports were attached as part of the United States' status reports to the court on the case.

On Nov. 24, 2008, the parties jointly moved to conditionally dismiss the case with one year of oversight in response to the defendants' progress implementing the settlement agreement. The court granted the motion on Jan. 9, 2009. The defendants moved to dismiss the case on Aug. 6, 2010, which the court granted later that month.

The case is closed.

Mike Fagan - 06/23/2008
Virginia Weeks - 10/11/2017

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Integrated setting
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Habilitation (training/treatment)
Individualized planning
Neglect by staff
Restraints : physical
Sanitation / living conditions
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Medical/Mental Health
Bed care (including sores)
Medical care, general
Mental health care, general
Untreated pain
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq.
Nursing Care Reform Act of 1987/ Omnibus Reconciliation Act
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) Mercer County
Mercer County Department of Human Services
Mercer County Geriatric Center
Plaintiff Description U.S. Department of Justice
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2005 - 2008
Filed 02/18/2005
Case Closing Year 2010
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Review of the Use of Monitors in Civil Settlement Agreements and Consent Decrees Involving State and Local Government Entities
U.S. Department of Justice
Date: 9/13/2021
By: Attorney General Merrick Garland and Assoc. AG Vanita Gupta (U.S. Department of Justice)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  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 ]

Court Docket(s)
NH-NJ-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
not recorded
Re: CRIPA Investigation of Mercer County Geriatric Center
NH-NJ-0002-0003.pdf | Detail
Complaint [ECF# 1]
NH-NJ-0002-0001.pdf | Detail
Stipulation of Settlement [ECF# 4]
NH-NJ-0002-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Proposed Order of Conditional Dismissal [ECF# 14]
NH-NJ-0002-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 18]
NH-NJ-0002-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Bongiovanni, Tonianne J. (D.N.J.) show/hide docs
Brown, Garrett E. Jr. (D.N.J.) show/hide docs
NH-NJ-0002-0002 | NH-NJ-0002-0004 | NH-NJ-0002-0005 | NH-NJ-0002-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Acosta, R. Alexander (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NH-NJ-0002-0001 | NH-NJ-0002-0002
Boyd, Ralph F. Jr. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Brown Cutlar, Shanetta Y. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NH-NJ-0002-0001 | NH-NJ-0002-0002
Cheng, Christopher N. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NH-NJ-0002-0001 | NH-NJ-0002-0002 | NH-NJ-0002-9000
Christie, Christopher James (New Jersey) show/hide docs
NH-NJ-0002-0001 | NH-NJ-0002-0002 | NH-NJ-0002-0003 | NH-NJ-0002-9000
Gonzales, Alberto (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Preston, Judith (Judy) C. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NH-NJ-0002-0001 | NH-NJ-0002-0002
Schlozman, Bradley (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NH-NJ-0002-0001 | NH-NJ-0002-0002
Defendant's Lawyers Crowley, Sarah G. (New Jersey) show/hide docs
NH-NJ-0002-0002 | NH-NJ-0002-9000
Hughes, Brian M. (New Jersey) show/hide docs
Sypek, Arthur R. (New Jersey) show/hide docs

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