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Press Release

Justice Department Obtains Comprehensive Agreement To Resolve Long Standing Litigation Regarding The Rights Of People With Developmental Disabilities

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Tennessee
Memphis, TN – Today, the Justice Department announced that it filed in federal court yesterday afternoon a comprehensive agreement that will resolve long running litigation with the state of Tennessee originally concerning conditions of care at the former Arlington Developmental Center (ADC). On Jan. 15, 2013, the U.S. District Court in Memphis, Tenn., will conduct a hearing to determine whether to approve the agreement. Individuals affected by the agreement are invited to attend the hearing and provide comment to the Court.

Over the 20-year course of the litigation, the state has made significant changes in the delivery of services for a class comprised of former ADC residents and many other individuals who were deemed at risk of placement at ADC. Tennessee closed ADC in October 2010. The new agreement reaches many of those in the group deemed at risk of placement in ADC prior to its closure.

The agreement resolves remaining issues in the litigation by expanding community-based services so that the state can serve people with developmental disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, in their own homes, their families’ homes or other integrated community settings. The agreement also will provide class members in nursing homes the choice to receive services in integrated, community-based settings. Over the next year, Tennessee will expand community services by providing home and community-based Medicaid waivers to Medicaid-eligible individuals; seeking new and cost-efficient models of care for class members with behavioral needs; and providing supported employment for class members seeking work. This expansion will provide people the opportunity to transition successfully from nursing and other facilities to community settings that can meet their needs and prevent new people from being unnecessarily institutionalized.

“This agreement will provide remaining class members with developmental disabilities in western Tennessee the opportunity to live successfully in their homes and communities and bring this long-standing litigation to an appropriate end,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez. “I commend Governor Haslam for his leadership on this issue, and we will continue to work with states around the country, as we have with Virginia, Georgia, Delaware, North Carolina, and – today – Tennessee, to ensure that people with disabilities are given the choice to live in community-based settings.”

“This is an example of the state of Tennessee making the choice to do what is not only legally right, but right in the grander sense,” said U.S. Attorney Edward L. Stanton III. “Protecting the civil rights of every citizen is a fundamental duty of our office and this agreement does so while preserving the dignity and improving the quality of life for some of our most vulnerable citizens.”

Upon the state’s successful completion of the agreement, the litigation is expected to come to an end. In 1991, the department released a findings letter pursuant to the Civil Rights for Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) detailing conditions at ADC that violated residents’ constitutional rights. The following year the department brought suit to remedy those conditions. The court joined that suit with a separate suit brought by People First of Tennessee concerning ADC and the rights of people at risk of institutionalization at ADC. People First remains active in the case and also is a party to the agreement.

Civil Rights Division staff Jonathan Smith, chief; Shelley Jackson, deputy chief; and senior trial attorneys Jonas Geissler and Michelle Jones, worked on the case and the agreement.

For more information on the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, please visit If you have any comments or concerns specific to this matter, please feel free to contact the division at1-877-218-5228.
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Updated April 17, 2023