Skip to main content

Special Litigation Section -- Archives

Case Summaries

Juvenile Justice
Disability Rights Docket
Law Enforcement Agencies
Religious Exercise of Institutionalized Persons

In the summaries below, a headline reference to "United States v." means that there is a case filed in Federal court. If there is no case filed in Federal court, the summary has a headline reference to the name of the relevant facility or agency involved in the administration of juvenile justice.



Following an investigation and the issuance of a findings letter, in 2004 the United States filed a complaint alleging unconstitutional conditions at the Terrell County Jail in Dawson, Georgia. In 2006, the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Georgia issued an Order granting the United States' motion for summary judgment and in 2007, the Court entered a Remedial Order directing that the County improve conditions. Following a motion for contempt by the United States in December 2010, in October 2011 the parties reached agreement on a Modified Remedial Order, which was then entered by the Court. The United States continues to monitor compliance with the Modified Remedial Order.

In 2002, the United States investigated two juvenile justice facilities in the State of Mississippi, the Columbia Training School ("Columbia") and the Oakley Training School ("Oakley"), and found constitutional and federal statutory violations in the living conditions of the youth detained there. After contested litigation that resulted in settlement, in 2005 a federal court approved and entered as its order a Consent Decree that listed the measures that the State was required to take to address the unlawful conditions. In particular, the Decree directed the State to implement reforms in the following areas: (1) protection from harm; (2) education; (3) mental health; (4) programming; and (5) medical care. Columbia was closed in 2008 and only Oakley remained a subject of the Decree. In 2014, the Court Monitor, and the United States agreed that the State had satisfied all remaining obligations under the Decree, achieving all of the reforms that were required by the Court's order. On August 19, 2014, the Court issued an Order of Final Dismissal and the case was terminated.

In October 2011, the United States and Terrebonne Parish Louisiana entered into a negotiated settlement agreement to remedy the unconstitutional conditions the United States identified at the Terrebonne Parish Juvenile Detention Center ("TPJDC"). TPJDC is a short-term secure facility with the capacity to hold 60 juveniles. In January 2011, the United States found that TPJDC violated youths' civil rights, and that youth were harmed by, among other things: (1) physical and sexual misconduct by staff; (2) excessive physical restraints when lesser forms of punishment would be appropriate; (3) inappropriate use of chemical agents; (4) excessive use of isolation; and (5) inadequate suicide prevention. The agreement between the United States and Terrebonne Parish contained comprehensive provisions related to incident reporting; use of isolation and discipline; suicide prevention; staff accountability and supervision; reporting allegations of abuse; training; quality assurance; and improved policies, procedures and practices. The agreement was entered as a federal court order. Compliance with the agreement was overseen by an independent monitor who had been jointly selected by the United States and Terrebonne Parish. In 2014, the Monitor and the United States each determined that the Parish has fulfilled all obligations under the consent decree, and the parties jointly moved the Court for dismissal. An Order of Final Dismissal was entered by the Court on November 19, 2014 and the case was terminated.

We opened an investigation of the Casa del Veterano Veterans' Home in Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico in January 2010. Following our tour in April 2010, we sent a letter to the Commonwealth identifying conditions, including a serious lack of staff, that were contributing to the over-use of psychotropic medication, deficiencies in nutritional care, and the lack of needed therapies for residents. Since we issued the April 2010 letter, we have continued to receive information about the efforts the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has taken to improve conditions at Casa del Veterano.

We notified the Commonwealth on September 30, 2015, that we were closing our investigation without formal action, and noted the steps the Commonwealth had taken to address our findings.

Our long-standing investigation of the Conway Human Development Center ("CHDC") in Arkansas went to trial before the federal district court in September and October 2011. CHDC is a 500-person facility that provides services for individual with intellectual and development disabilities ("ID/DD"). Following a lengthy investigation, in 2004 we found unlawful conditions at CHDC that violated residents' constitutional rights, as well as their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. &sect&sect 12101-12213, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. &sect&sect 1400-1482. In 2009, we filed our lawsuit claiming that the State violated the ADA, the IDEA, and residents' constitutional rights at CHDC.

In 2009, we also opened new investigations of Arkansas' five other Human Development Centers ("HDCs") where people with intellectual or developmental disabilities are institutionalized. In 2010, shortly after we completed investigative visits to each of the HDCs, Arkansas announced plans to close one of the smaller HDCs. In May 2010, we filed a new lawsuit, claiming that Arkansas' system for serving people with ID/DD violated the ADA. In January 2011, the Court dismissed our ADA claims involving the state-wide system of services for people with ID/DD. The Court's ruling allows us to re-file this claim in the future.

In June 2011, the Court ruled on the claims presented in the trial involving CHDC. The Court found that CHDC did not violate residents' rights under the Constitution or the ADA, but did violate the IDEA by not providing students with a free appropriate public education. Because the Court found that the designated state agency would remedy the IDEA violations, it did not order the State to take any additional action.

We settled our investigation of St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. in 2007, resolving claims that St. Elizabeths Hospital violated the rights of people confined to St. Elizabeths. We found were that the District did not provide lawful care to people at St. Elizabeths in the areas of protection from harm; psychiatric and psychological care; medical and nursing care; and discharge planning and providing care in the most integrated setting. The District Court of the District of Columbia entered the negotiated settlement as an order of the Court, and issued several modified orders over time.  On September 19, 2014, the Court entered an order of final dismissal, and noted the Parties Notice of Continued Monitoring between Saint Elizabeths Hospital and University Legal Services.

In May 2006, we resolved our investigation of the services provided by the State of California at two State Psychiatric Hospitals, Napa and Metropolitan State Hospitals. In February 2007, we amended our action to include two additional state hospitals, Atascadero and Patton State Hospitals. We negotiated a Consent Judgment that resolved our findings that the State systematically violated the rights of people with mental illness confined to the State Hospitals. The federal court approved the Consent Judgment, making the settlement enforceable by the Court.

The Consent Judgment orders the State to make comprehensive reforms at these four State Mental Heath Hospitals. The reforms include improvements in therapeutic and rehabilitation services, discharge planning and community integration, use of restraints, and protection from harm. A Court Monitor assesses the State's progress under the settlement. Atascadero and Patton State Hospitals achieved compliance and were released from the Consent Judgment by the Court in November 2011.

In December 2011, we asked the Court to enforce the Consent Judgment at Napa and Metropolitan State Hospitals. Our motion asks that the Court order the State to address ongoing violence, undetected physical health problems, and excessive restraint use at these remaining hospitals. The State opposed our motion. On February 14, 2012, the parties agreed to postpone the hearing on our motion until June 25, 2012. During the postponement, the Court Monitor will assess whether the State has succeeded in correcting these problems.

In one of the few cases in which the United States participated in a trial regarding the question of a state's liability for conditions of care for people with developmental disabilities, the United States brought suit against the State of Tennessee in 1993, concerning residents of Arlington Developmental Center ("ADC"). People First of Tennessee, Inc., an advocacy group, intervened in the action on behalf of a class of current and former ADC residents and those at risk of placement at ADC, also asserting claims against the State based on conditions of care and right to services in integrated settings. In 1994, the Court found that the State violated class members' Fourteenth Amendment Rights and ordered the parties to negotiate remedies. (See Remedial Order.) The Court later expanded remedies after finding the State in contempt for failing to remediate the State's violations of class members' constitutional rights. The State shut down ADC's residential units and subsequently moved to vacate all orders in the case. On September 4, the Court entered an order denying the State's motion to dismiss the case, finding the State had failed to meet the objectives of the Court's remedial orders and that the State failed to implement a durable remedy. As requested by the United States, the Court referred the parties to mediation with a Magistrate Judge and to discuss steps the State must take to fulfill its court-ordered obligations. As a result of this mediation, the parties agreed to an Exit Plan designed to address remaining issues in the case and bring the case to conclusion upon the State's successful completion of the Plan. On January 16, 2013, the Court entered an Agreed Order Entering Exit Plan. Throughout 2013, the State successfully implemented the Exit Plan, as required. Among other things, the State expanded home-and-community-based services to newly enrolled class members, changed day services to supported employment, and developed wholly new models of care. On December 4, 2013, the Court entered an Agreed Order of final dismissal of case.

We opened an investigation of the W.F. Green State Veterans' Home in Bay Minette, Alabama, in November 2007. In December 2008, we found that residents of W.F. Green suffer significant harm from deficient care, including inadequate medical and nursing services assessments, planning, and care; inadequate nutritional and hydration services; improper and dangerous psychotropic medication practices. We also found that the State failed to provide services to residents in the most integrated setting, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. With the assistance of a mediator, in January 2011 the parties entered a Memorandum of Understanding to address the findings. W.F. Green complied with our agreement, and in October 2012 the Department closed the investigation.

We investigated the Easton Police Department ("EPD") pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. In order to resolve the issues we identified in the course of our investigation, we entered into an agreement with the EPD in 2010 that required them to make changes to policies and practices. The agreement contains provisions on use of force reporting and review, de-escalation techniques, Taser use, high-risk stops, and investigations. We continue to monitor the EPD's efforts to ensure compliance with the agreement.


Updated March 19, 2020