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Case Name Jennings v. Wolf PB-PA-0022
Docket / Court 3:20-cv-00148-MEM ( M.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Intellectual Disability (Facility)
Mental Health (Facility)
Public Benefits / Government Services
Special Collection Olmstead Cases
Case Summary
This case, filed January 29, 2020, objected to the closure of two Pennsylvania intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ICF/IID) (the Polk Center and the White Haven Center) and the rights of the individuals residing in those facilities. It is what some describe ... read more >
This case, filed January 29, 2020, objected to the closure of two Pennsylvania intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ICF/IID) (the Polk Center and the White Haven Center) and the rights of the individuals residing in those facilities. It is what some describe as a "reverse-Olmstead" lawsuit. (See Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999) (ADA guarantees the right to receive disability-related services in the community, where appropriate).

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania by family members and guardians of residents of the two facilities in a class action lawsuit. Plaintiffs were represented by private counsel. Defendants were Pennsylvania Governor Wolf, the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, the Deputy Secretary of the Pennsylvania Office of Development Programs, the Facility Director of the Polk Center, and the Facility Director of the White Haven Center.

According to WENY News, in August of 2019 Governor Wolf announced a plan to close the state centers over the course of three years. Instead, the state planned to move residents to "community residences," arguing that such residences are superior to "institutional" residences like Polk or White Haven.

Plaintiffs alleged that this plan violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Medicaid Act, and the Fourteenth Amendment.

Specifically, the cause of action under the ADA alleged that residents cannot be discharged or transferred without consent from the residents themselves or the residents' guardians. The Section 504 cause of action alleged that Pennsylvania's new plan would not administer care for White Haven or Polk residents in "the most integrated setting appropriate," therefore violating regulations that implement Section 504. Meanwhile, the Medicaid Act cause of action claimed that the new plan was not in compliance with obligations imposed on Pennsylvania by the federal government in return for federal funding. Those obligations included the option to live in an ICF/IID for qualifying Pennsylvanians. Finally, lawsuit alleged that the new plan constituted a violation of the residents' substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth and/or Fourth Amendment. The complaint claimed that moving residents "to the community" would deny residents "a humane existence."

The case is ongoing. Only the initial complaint, a summons to all defendants, a reissue of that summons, and a waiver of service by all defendants have been processed by the Court.

Jack Hibbard - 05/20/2020

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Benefit Source
Constitutional Clause
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
disability, unspecified
Integrated setting
Least restrictive environment
Mental impairment
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Access to public accommodations - governmental
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Government Services (specify)
Placement in mental health facilities
Special education
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Medical/Mental Health
ICF/MR & HCFA standards
Intellectual disability/mental illness dual diagnosis
Intellectual/Developmental Disability
Medical care, general
Mental health care, general
Self-injurious behaviors
Vision care
Mental Disability
Brain injury
Cerebral palsy
Intellectual/developmental disability, unspecified
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Medicaid, 42 U.S.C §1396 (Title XIX of the Social Security Act)
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) Deputy Secretary of Pennsylvania Office of Developmental Programs
Facility Director at Polk Center
Facility Director at White Haven Center
Governor of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Secretary of Department of Human Services
Plaintiff Description Residents of two Pennsylvania intermediate-care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ICF/IID).
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 01/29/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Review of the Use of Monitors in Civil Settlement Agreements and Consent Decrees Involving State and Local Government Entities
U.S. Department of Justice
Date: 9/13/2021
By: Attorney General Merrick Garland and Assoc. AG Vanita Gupta (U.S. Department of Justice)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
M.D. Pa.
PB-PA-0022-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
M.D. Pa.
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PB-PA-0022-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Mannion, Malachy Edward (M.D. Pa.) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers York, Thomas B. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0022-0001 | PB-PA-0022-9000

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