Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Good Third Circuit Olmstead Decision

I've been super-busy over the past few days, so I haven't yet blogged on the Third Circuit's decision last week in Frederick L. v. Department of Public Welfare. This Olmstead case was before the Third Circuit for the second time. The district court originally ruled for the state, the Third Circuit vacated and remanded, then the district court ruled for the state again. In this appeal, the Third Circuit once again vacated the district court's judgment. The Third Circuit held that:

a comprehensive working plan is a necessary component of a successful “fundamental alteration” defense in these proceedings. Thus, although we uphold the District Court’s factual conclusion that accelerating community placements would constrain the state’s ability to satisfy the needs of other institutionalized patients, DPW may not avail itself of the “fundamental alteration” defense to relieve its obligation to deinstitutionalize eligible patients without establishing a plan that adequately demonstrates a reasonably specific and measurable commitment to deinstitutionalization for which DPW may be held accountable. Although DPW attempted to construct such a plan, we are not persuaded that its efforts have been sufficient.

The court explained further:

DPW’s post-remand submissions promised the District Court that “[t]here will be no reversal of the Department’s proven commitment to deinstitutionalization throughout our state hospital system.” However, DPW has failed to demonstrate in reasonably measurable terms how it will comply with this commitment. In Frederick L. II we explained that “[o]ne of our principal concerns is the absence of anything that can fairly be considered a plan for the future.” Frederick L. II, 364 F.3d at 500. Yet DPW remains silent as to when, if ever, eligible patients at NSH can expect to be discharged. Instead, DPW proffers general assurances and good faith intentions to effectuate deinstitutionalization. General assurances and good-faith intentions neither meet the federal laws nor a patient’s expectations. Their implementation may change with each administration or Secretary of Welfare, regardless of how genuine; they are simply insufficient guarantors in light of the hardship daily inflicted upon patients through unnecessary and indefinite institutionalization. Thus, notwithstanding any announced commitment to deinstitutionalization, DPW’s failure to articulate this commitment in the form of an adequately specific comprehensive plan for placing eligible patients in community-based programs by a target date places the “fundamental alteration defense” beyond its reach.

All in all, a good decision.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home