DAA News Network

USA: Judge rejects government case against residential institution for people with learning difficulties

Posted 15/6-11 at 16.18

District Court Judge Leon Holmes has dismissed most of the claims made by the U.S. Department of Justice that the 500 disabled residents of the Conway Human Development Center (CHDC) in Arkansas were subjected to abuse and neglect, poor medical care, inadequate schooling and were not given the option to live in the community, all in violation of federal law.

The federal government alleged that, "Hundreds of individuals are needlessly institutionalized at CHDC. The vast majority of these individuals were first admitted to CHDC as children several decades ago. ....Once admitted to CHDC, residents are likely to die at a very young age compared to residents in similar institutions. In fact, a CHDC resident is more likely to die than be discharged to a more integrated setting. The evidence also shows that CHDC fails to properly administer and monitor powerful psychotropic medications. There is also substantial evidence that CHDC inappropriately and excessively relies on severely restrictive, outdated types of restraints to control its residents."

One of the more disturbing issues raised was the growing number of children being housed at CHDC, together with the state's plans to increase the capacity at its institutional facilities. It is also noted that Arkansas ranks second to last among the fifty states and the Districtof Columbia for supporting community-inclusive lives for individuals with learning difficulties who receive Medicaid- funded services.

Although the case presented by the Department of Justice appears to be very strong, the judge said that evidence presented at trial did not support the department's claims. There is no indication whether the Department will appeal the decision.

It is significant, with respect to the outcome of the case, that at the beginning of his judgement Holmes pointed out, "Most lawsuits are brought by persons who believe that their rights have been violated. Not this one. Thus, the United States is in the odd position of asserting that certain persons' rights have been and are being violated while those persons - through their parents and guardians - disagree."


For the case presented by the Department of Justice, see: http://showtime.arkansasonline.com/e2/news/documents/2010/03/09/memoformotion.pdf

For the final judgement see: http://www.are.uscourts.gov/pdfdocs/PublicNotice/4_09_cv_00033Order.pdf

Editorial comment: The Arkansas case is but one of many brought by the US Justice Department to protect people in these institutions throughout the country and to force states, in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act, to support people to live in the community. This is encouraging. What is not so encouraging, although not surprising, is the strong opposition to this move by parents and guardians, who apparently feel that their sons, daughters or wards are safer living in an institution such as CHDC.

Finally, although there is no suggestion that he has acted improperly in this case, the judge, nominated by George W. Bush, does hold extremely controversial views. For example, he has said that wives should be subordinate to their husbands, that pro choice Americans are the moral equivalent of Nazis, and that the woman's movement is to blame for abortion, artificial contraception and gay rights. More significantly in the case against the state-run CHDC, Judge Holmes appears to support state rights against ‘intrusion' by the federal government. For example, he has previously argued that the federal government lacked the authority to desegregate public schools by judicial fiat as they famously did in Little Rock in 1957, following the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.







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