Case: U.S. v. New Mexico

6:99-cv-00602 | U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico

Filed Date: May 27, 1999

Closed Date: 2000

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On April 17, 1998, the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division ("DOJ") sent its findings letter to New Mexico's governor, advising him of the results of the April 1997 DOJ investigation of conditions and practices at the state-operated New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped. The school, a residential facility, housed and served blind and severely visually-impaired children supposedly unable to receive free and appropriate education in their local schools. The investigation …

On April 17, 1998, the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division ("DOJ") sent its findings letter to New Mexico's governor, advising him of the results of the April 1997 DOJ investigation of conditions and practices at the state-operated New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped. The school, a residential facility, housed and served blind and severely visually-impaired children supposedly unable to receive free and appropriate education in their local schools. The investigation occurred under the authority of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act ("CRIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997. DOJ and expert consultants visited the facility, reviewed a wide array of documents there, and conducted interviews with past and present personnel, residents, residents' families, and other interested persons. The letter commended the school's staff for cooperating during the investigation and noted the school had strengths to build upon. Nevertheless, the investigation found deficiencies in resident care, in that certain conditions and services at the school substantially departed from generally accepted standards of care. Constitutional and federal statutory rights of residents were violated in several respects, according to the DOJ.

DOJ concluded that deficiencies existed in the school's conditions of resident care and treatment (1) by its' failing to provide appropriate mental health care services for the significant percentage of residents with serious behavioral or mental health problems; (2) by failing, after having accepted children removed from local schools in order to receive specialized compensatory skills training, to provide that specialized compensatory training (e.g., insufficient Braille training opportunities, insufficient orientation/mobility and cane-use training, and tardy replacement of broken or lost eyeglasses for those with some sight); (3) by inadequate protection of students from harm, including insufficient investigation and response to allegations of abuse and neglect, as well as uncontrolled or inconsistently controlled student behavior and discipline problems; and (4) by failure of the state to make appropriate and documented determinations about the placement and retention of residents at the school, as required by federal statutes (e.g., more than rote, cursory determinations are required to establish that free, appropriate education cannot be afforded in local schools). This latter flaw, DOJ said, violated parts of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq., and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and related regulations. Moreover, the letter cited a New Mexico statute that appeared to require placement of residents at the school for seven years, regardless of the progress a child made at the school or the ability of a local school district to provide free, appropriate education to the child after matriculation at the state residential school. The letter provided examples of observed deficiencies for each of the four categories.

Minimally-acceptable remedial measures for each of these categories were outlined in the letter, which concluded by inviting discussion about implementing the remediation. The letter provided notice that, absent a resolution of the federal concerns, the DOJ would file a CRIPA lawsuit to compel correction of the identified systemic deficiencies.

On May 27, 1999, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, DOJ simultaneously filed a CRIPA complaint against New Mexico, the school, and its' board of regents and tendered a settlement stipulation between the parties. The stipulation obligated the state to implement detailed remedial measures within established time frames, usually 30, 60, or 180 days, depending on the nature of the particular measure. The lawsuit, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, set out that the state's practices at the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped violated the residents' federal constitutional rights, privileges, and immunities (without specifying any particular provision of the constitution), and their rights under the IDEA, the ADA, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

The settlement obligated the state to ensure, and to periodically report upon its progress in ensuring, improvements that would bring the facility and its' practices up to generally accepted professional standards of care. The settlement also allowed for the United States to conduct regular compliance reviews, with facility inspections and interviews of staff and residents, and to fully access and review relevant documents.

District Judge Martha Vazquez accepted the stipulation on May 28, 1999. She then issued an unpublished order granting a motion for conditional dismissal of the case, subject to compliance with the terms of the stipulation.

The stipulation finished in 2000, and the case is now closed.

Summary Authors

Mike Fagan (6/16/2008)

People


Judge(s)

Molzen, Karen Ballard (New Mexico)

Vázquez, Martha Alicia (New Mexico)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Frohboese, Robinsue (District of Columbia)

Gorence, Patricia J. (Wisconsin)

Kelly, John J. (New Mexico)

Lee, Bill Lann (District of Columbia)

Preston, Judith (Judy) C. (District of Columbia)

Reno, Janet (District of Columbia)

Rosenbaum, Steven H. (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Cordova, Francie (New Mexico)

Judge(s)

Molzen, Karen Ballard (New Mexico)

Vázquez, Martha Alicia (New Mexico)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Frohboese, Robinsue (District of Columbia)

Gorence, Patricia J. (Wisconsin)

Kelly, John J. (New Mexico)

Lee, Bill Lann (District of Columbia)

Preston, Judith (Judy) C. (District of Columbia)

Reno, Janet (District of Columbia)

Rosenbaum, Steven H. (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Cordova, Francie (New Mexico)

Kennedy, John F. (New Mexico)

Madrid, Patricia A. (New Mexico)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Docket (PACER)

June 29, 1999 Docket

Re: Findings of Investigation of the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped

DOJ Investigation of the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped

No Court

April 17, 1998 Findings Letter/Report
1

Complaint

May 27, 1999 Complaint
2

Stipulation

May 28, 1999 Settlement Agreement

Docket

Last updated May 12, 2022, 8 p.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link
1

COMPLAINT ( 0 Summons(es) issued) (referred to Magistrate Judge Karen B. Molzen ) (mjr) (Entered: 05/28/1999)

May 27, 1999
2

STIPULATION to ensure the protection of the Federal Rights of students of the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped by the parties (mjr) Modified on 05/28/1999 (Entered: 05/28/1999)

May 27, 1999
3

JOINT MOTION by parties for conditional dismissal of case pursuant to FRCP 41(a)(2) subject to the compliance with terms of the Stipulation (former employee) (Entered: 05/28/1999)

May 28, 1999
4

ORDER by Judge Martha Vazquez granting motion for conditional dismissal of case pursuant to FRCP 41(a)(2) subject to the compliance with terms of the Stipulation [3-1], re [2-1] dismissing case (cc: all counsel) (former employee) (Entered: 05/28/1999)

May 28, 1999
5

STIPULATION by parties re order [4-2] (former employee) (Entered: 06/28/1999)

June 25, 1999

State / Territory: New Mexico

Case Type(s):

Disability Rights/Public Accommodations

Key Dates

Filing Date: May 27, 1999

Closing Date: 2000

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

United States of America

Plaintiff Type(s):

U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

State of New Mexico, State

Board of Regents (Otero), State

Case Details

Causes of Action:

Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq.

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 1999 - 2000