Court Rejects Claims Of Abuse At Institution
A federal judge has handily rejected Obama administration claims that an institution for people with developmental disabilities fosters an abusive, neglectful and restrictive environment.
In an 85-page ruling on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge J. Leon Holmes dismissed nearly all of the claims the government laid out during a six-week trial last fall.
Attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice had argued that the 500 residents of the Conway Human Development Center 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.
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However, Holmes said that evidence presented at trial did not support the picture painted by the Justice Department. Moreover, he said that the government’s case was especially unusual because nearly all of the residents’ families opposed the federal attorneys’ efforts.
“Most lawsuits are brought by persons who believe that their rights have been violated. Not this one,” Holmes wrote. “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.”
Holmes did note violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, but he said the Arkansas Department of Education was already addressing those issues so no court intervention was merited.
State officials hailed the ruling as a victory for residents with disabilities and their families.
“We have maintained throughout this case that these residents need a variety of options for care. But it is their families and guardians, not the federal government, who are in the best position to make those decisions. The judge clearly agreed with this position,” Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said in a statement.
Justice Department officials said they are reviewing the decision and declined to comment further on whether or not they would appeal.
This is not the first time this year that a court has struck down an Obama administration effort to alter Arkansas’ treatment of residents with developmental disabilities. In January, a judge threw out a separate lawsuit brought by the Justice Department which alleged that the state offered too little in the way of community living options.