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Briefs Filed in Three States to Enforce Supreme Court's Olmstead Decision

December 2, 2009
Last week proved to be a landmark for federal enforcement of the Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C., a ruling requiring States to eliminate unnecessary segregation of persons with disabilities and to move persons who can function in the community out of segregated facilities. The Olmstead decision has often been called the Brown v. Board of Education of the disability rights movement. Earlier this year, President Obama issued a proclamation launching the “Year of Community Living,” and has directed the Administration to redouble enforcement efforts. Last week, the Justice Department filed amicus, or “friend of the court,” briefs in three separate cases in Connecticut, Virginia and New York. Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the department’s Civil Rights Division stated:
“As the Supreme Court determined in the landmark Olmstead v. L.C. case, unjustified institutionalization stigmatizes individuals with disabilities as unworthy of participation in community life. New York, Virginia and Connecticut can successfully provide community-based housing, such as scattered site apartments with supportive services, and the law requires them to do so to prevent unnecessary institutionalization.”
On November 25th, the department filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of plaintiffs in Connecticut Protection and Advocacy v. State of Connecticut, and opposing a pending motion to dismiss the lawsuit in federal court in Connecticut. That case challenges the State’s lack of community placements for persons with disabilities who are housed in large, private nursing homes. The United States filed a “friend of the court” brief in ARC of Virginia v. Timothy Kaine in Richmond, Virginia, federal district court on November 24th. That brief opposed Virginia’s motion to dismiss a case that challenges the State’s decision to spend millions of dollars to construct a new, large, segregated facility for persons with intellectual disabilities in Chesapeake, Virginia, who could be better served in the community in supported housing. On November 24, 2009, the department also filed a brief in support of plaintiff’s proposed remedy in Disability Advocates Inc. v. David A. Paterson, et al. in federal district court in Brooklyn, where the court has already ruled that placement of persons with mental disabilities in “large adult homes” violates the Supreme Court decision in Olmstead. In the New York lawsuit, Disability Advocates, Inc., the Justice Department has been permitted by the court to intervene in the ongoing case. The case was filed by a protection and advocacy agency, part of a national system of such organizations established to serve persons with disabilities by providing legal services that are partially federally-funded. The court granted the United States’ motion to intervene on November 23rd, and earlier ordered briefs be submitted on proposed remedies in that case. The Department filed a memorandum on November 24th arguing in support of plaintiff’s proposed remedy to require 6,000 new community-based placements and against the State’s proposal to provide approximately 1,000 new community spaces in the state-run system. The full and fair enforcement of the ADA and its mandate to integrate individuals with disabilities is a major priority of the Civil Rights Division. The ADA protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination by public entities. People interested in finding out more about the ADA can call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 or 1-800-514-0383 (TTY), or access its ADA Web site at http://www.ada.gov, where all relevant case filings can be found.
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Updated April 7, 2017