Martin v. Taft

Decision Date19 September 2002
Docket NumberNo. C-2-89-00362.,C-2-89-00362.
Citation222 F.Supp.2d 940
PartiesNancy MARTIN, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Robert TAFT, Governor, et al, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Ohio

Page 940

222 F.Supp.2d 940
Nancy MARTIN, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Robert TAFT, Governor, et al, Defendants.
No. C-2-89-00362.
United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division.
September 19, 2002.

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George Michael Kirkman, Ohio Legal Rights Service, Columbus, OH, for plaintiffs.

Keith Scott Mesirow, Columbus City Attorney's Office, Columbus, OH, Ann Elizabeth Henkener, Alan Paul Schwepe, Ohio Attorney General's Office, Columbus, OH, for defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

GEORGE C. SMITH, District Judge.


I. Overview

This class action involves the State of Ohio's role in providing services to a large and diverse population of mentally retarded and developmentally disabled persons. In essence plaintiffs seek to have these services furnished to them and the class in less restrictive, integrated community settings, as opposed to receiving services in existing institutions which plaintiffs say are segregated from the community.

Defendants do not oppose the general concept of providing community-based services, and in fact defendants and their predecessors have created programs to provide community-based services to some mentally retarded and developmentally disabled individuals in Ohio. Despite defendants efforts, however, it appears that many individuals who may qualify for community-based services remain on lengthy waiting lists, and plaintiffs contend that the waiting lists do not move at a reasonable pace as required by federal law.

So the question in this case is not whether providing additional community-based services is a good idea. Rather, the core issue is one of state sovereignty and the requirements of federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Defendants vigorously argue that this federal court may not impose a remedy under federal law and decide for the State when and how to allocate limited resources, including federal Medicaid funds, to make additional community-based services available.

This decision addresses two important written motions filed by the parties, but does not determine the outcome of this case. The Court does decide, however, that defendants are not immune from suit in this federal court, and that as a result

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plaintiffs may proceed with most of their federal law claims against defendants. The Court also finds that plaintiffs cannot prevail on their ADA claim solely on the basis of their written motion for partial summary judgment because certain factual issues necessary to establish their ADA claim can only be decided by trial.

II. Introduction

Plaintiffs are individual citizens of Ohio who are mentally retarded or developmentally disabled, and who live or have lived in institutions licensed or run by the State of Ohio. They represent a class of about 12,000 people defined as "all persons in Ohio with mental retardation or developmental disabilities who are or will be in need of community housing and services which are normalized, home-like, and integrated."1 Plaintiffs ask the Court "to enjoin the Defendants to create over a reasonably short, fixed time, not to exceed five years, the community housing and support services for each Plaintiff and class member as determined by the needs of the class member." (Third Am. Compl. (Doc. 331) at 71). Remarkably, plaintiffs allege that the community-based services they seek will cost the State of Ohio less than providing such services in institutional settings. Nonetheless, as it will be discussed below, the matter is not so simple, inasmuch as the State will continue to incur costs associated with maintaining the availability of institutional services in recognition of the fact that there will always be some individuals in need of such care.

Plaintiffs assert their claims under the public services portion (Title II) of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12132 and related federal regulations, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("RA"), 29 U.S.C. § 794, Title XIX of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1396a, et seq., and related federal regulations ("Medicaid law"), the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Defendants move to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment as to the third amended complaint2 (Doc. 336), arguing primarily that plaintiffs' claims are barred under the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Plaintiffs move for partial summary judgment (Doc. 364). They contend they are entitled to judgment in their favor as a matter of law on their ADA claim under the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581, 119 S.Ct. 2176, 144 L.Ed.2d 540 (1999). Olmstead held that the ADA requires a state to provide community-based treatment to mentally disabled persons "when the State's treatment officials have determined that community placement is appropriate, the transfer from institutional care to a less restrictive setting is not opposed by the affected individual, and the placement can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the resources available to the State, and the needs of others with disabilities." 527 U.S. at 587, 119 S.Ct. 2176.

For the reasons that follow, the Court concludes that defendants are not immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment, and that, for the most part, plaintiffs have stated viable claims under federal law. The Court therefore denies defendants' motion to dismiss in part and grants it in part. Hence, plaintiffs may proceed with their claims.

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The Court also finds, however, that genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether a reasonable accommodation is available for the State to provide plaintiffs and the class the community-based services they seek, or whether the relief plaintiffs' request would fundamentally alter the nature of defendants' existing program for community-based services. The Court therefore denies plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment.

III. Facts

The facts of this case are based upon submissions by the parties made within the months after plaintiffs filed their third amended complaint in April 2000. Neither side has sought leave to file additional evidentiary material, although it appears matters of concern to this case have continued to develop and change since that time.3 Be that as it may, the Court must limit its decision to the facts as they appear in the current, albeit somewhat dated, record.

The Court set forth a detailed statement of facts in its earlier decision in this case, much of which remains applicable to the pending motions. See Martin v. Voinovich, 840 F.Supp. 1175, 1179-85 (S.D.Ohio 1993). For purposes of ruling on defendants' motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true the well-pleaded facts set forth in the third amended class action complaint (Doc. 331). The Court will refer to additional facts, as appropriate, in connection with its discussion of plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment.

A. Procedural history

Plaintiffs filed this action on April 27, 1989. The Court certified this case as a class action under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23 on February 5, 1990 (Doc 46).

On December 11, 1992, by agreement of the parties, the Court appointed local civil rights attorney Benson A. Wolman to serve as a mediator (Doc. 127). During the months that followed, attorneys and representatives for all parties met regularly with Mr. Wolman in a concerted attempt to settle this case. These efforts continued until about July 1993 (see Doc. 144).

Plaintiffs filed their second amended class action complaint on August 17, 1993. On September 23, 1993, defendants moved to dismiss (Doc. 150).

On December 14, 1993, this Court issued a comprehensive, 73-page opinion and order, granting defendants' motion to dismiss in part and denying it in part (Doc. 186). On January 5, 1994, the Court granted defendants' motion to certify an interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). The Court found that such an appeal would materially advance the case, which presented several novel legal issues. The Court reasoned that the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit would be in a position to issue a definitive ruling that would be binding on this Court and would serve to guide the remainder of the proceedings in this case (Doc. 200).

The Court of Appeals agreed initially to hear the case, and during the pendency of the appeal, this Court's role in the case was limited. About 18 months later, on

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June 12, 1995, the Court of Appeals changed its position and announced that it would not hear the appeal (Doc. 254).

Following the attempted appeal, the parties continued with their discovery and motions practice. Then, on August 30, 1996, the parties agreed to stay all discovery in the case to focus on settlement. Voluntary settlement discussions continued for almost two years. After the stay was lifted, the Court conducted a conference with attorneys representing all of the parties in December 1999. The attorneys indicated that settlement was still possible, but that negotiations were slow and difficult because several different governmental agencies were involved, including at least one federal agency that is not a party to this case. In an attempt to facilitate the process, the Court gave the parties detailed instructions requiring them to exchange formal written offers and demands on a regular basis, and to submit written status reports for review by the Magistrate Judge.

The settlement process was ultimately unsuccessful, however, and on April 25, 2000, plaintiffs filed their third amended complaint (Doc. 331), reflecting a major change in ADA law as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's watershed decision in Olmstead. Defendants moved to dismiss on May 12, 2000. Plaintiffs moved for partial summary judgment on their ADA claim under Olmstead on July...

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