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R.L., By and Through His Parent Bernadine Long v. Michelle R.B. Saddler et al.

October 23, 2012


Name of Assigned Judge Sitting Judge if Other or Magistrate Judge John A. Nordberg than Assigned Judge



The Public Guardian's motion to intervene [9] is granted. The defendants' and the Public Guardian's motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction [13] are granted. The defendants' motion to cite additional authority [27] is denied as moot. No appearance is necessary on Wednesday October 24th.

O[ For further details see text below.] Docketing to mail notices.


The named plaintiff in this case is R.L., a 16-year-old boy who suffers from serious psychiatric illnesses, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, which have led to five hospitalizations. Since he was three, R.L. has been in and out of the Illinois child welfare system and has changed residences numerous times.

Although R.L. is the named plaintiff, the case was filed on his behalf by Bernadine Long. She became a foster mother to R.L. in 2000 and adopted him in 2007, but she lost custody in 2010 after several rulings by the Illinois Juvenile Court. R.L. is now in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS") and lives in a specialized foster home. The goal, as articulated by the Juvenile Court, is for R.L. to eventually return home to Bernadine.

The complaint focuses on the loss of custody in 2010. Bernadine alleges that the State of Illinois forced her to make a difficult and unfair choice. R.L. was hospitalized at the time because of "a violent outburst towards himself and family members." (Cmplt. ¶ 25.) The hospital was only a short-term facility. Bernadine believed he needed to be placed in a long-term psychiatric residential treatment facility ("PRTF"). (¶¶ 5, 26.) But she could not pay for this care. According to Bernadine, R.L. was eligible for PRTF services through Medicaid but Illinois apparently does not have a licensed PRTF for Medicaid eligible children who are not also diagnosed with substance abuse. Bernadine was allegedly told by DCFS officials that Illinois would not pay for PRTF services unless Bernadine gave custody to DCFS. (¶ 26.) Faced with this choice, Bernadine left R.L. at the hospital where he was receiving treatment. (¶ 27.) As a result, a petition was then filed in the Illinois Juvenile Court seeking to have R.L. declared a "dependent" as defined in 705 ILCS 405/2-4(1)(a). (¶ 29.) The Juvenile Court found that R.L. was not receiving proper medical care "through no fault[,] neglect or lack of concern by his parent" and gave DCFS custody of R.L. (¶ 30.) DCFS was "thereby authorized to make decisions regarding R.L.'s emergency medical treatment, ordinary and routine medical care, and any major medical care recommended by a physician." (Id..)

Bernadine now asserts that the failure of Illinois to provide PRTF services as required by Medicaid has allegedly "cost Bernadine her parental rights." (¶ 33.) Bernadine also complains that the 2010 state court rulings led to other adverse consequences for her. Because she was in the DCFS system, she had to comply with various requirements, including "quarterly DCFS meetings; monthly DCFS home inspections; semi-annual DCFS Administrative Case Reviews; and semi-annual court appearances." (¶ 31.) The complaint contains two claims, both pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and both alleging that Illinois failed to provide PRTF services as required by Medicaid, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1396 et seq.

Although the complaint focuses mostly on the loss of custody in 2010, it does not actually seek damages directly relating to this decision. Nor is Bernadine seeking to recover damages on her own behalf, despite her allegations suggesting as much. Instead, R.L. is the only plaintiff. Bernadine's role in this lawsuit is only as an advocate on R.L.'s behalf based on her role as a non-custodial parent. The complaint only seeks future PRTF services. If we understand the complaint correctly, Bernadine is seeking an injunction ordering Illinois to provide PRTF Medicaid services if the Illinois Juvenile Court rules that custody of R.L. should be returned to Bernadine and if thereafter problems again arise upon his return home and if Bernadine then decides R.L. should be moved to a long-term psychiatric facility. This lawsuit is essentially an attempt to get the funding ready to prepare for this possibility down the road.

After reading the complaint, a few initial questions arise. First, given the assertion that the key event was Bernadine's loss of custody in early 2010, then why did she wait until 2012 to file this lawsuit? Second, and relatedly, what happened in the Juvenile Court between 2010 when the Illinois Juvenile Court made its rulings and 2012 when the complaint was filed? Bernadine's complaint and supporting affidavit do not touch upon these questions. For example, in the chronology of events set forth in Bernadine's affidavit, paragraph 11 states that Bernadine lost custody in March 2010. The very next paragraph (¶ 12) then jumps all the way to May 23, 2012 when the Juvenile Court entered a permanency order. This relatively large gap in the time sequence -- from March 2010 to May 2012 -- naturally raises questions about what happened in the interim.

The defendants in this case are the directors of two Illinois agencies charged with administering Illinois Medicaid services (hereinafter, the "Illinois defendants"). They filed a motion to dismiss. Although they raise several arguments, the primary one is that Bernadine lacks Article III standing because (i) she is not asserting any direct claims on her own behalf and (ii) she no longer has custody of R.L. and therefore cannot bring claims on his behalf. The parties have briefed this motion.

Also before the Court is a motion to intervene, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 24(a)(2) & (b), filed by the Cook County Public Guardian, which was appointed by the Illinois Juvenile Court in 2010 as R.L.'s attorney and guardian ad litem. (The Juvenile Court also appointed D. Jean Ortega-Piron as the DCFS Guardianship Administrator for R.L., but Ms. Ortega-Piron for whatever reason has not chosen to intervene or otherwise pursue these claims on R.L.'s behalf.) The Guardian seeks to intervene to inform this Court about R.L.'s wishes. As recounted in the brief, an assistant public guardian interviewed R.L. about this lawsuit. R.L. stated that "although he wished to return home to his mother in 5 months, he did not wish to go to residential treatment upon his return home." (Doc. #10 at 3-4.) He was clear about this point. (Id.) He also stated that he "does not remember ever speaking to the attorney who filed this lawsuit" and that he believes this lawsuit was "not a good idea" and wants it "to go away." (Id.) The Guardian also notes in its brief that the same general issues being litigated in this federal lawsuit -- i.e. "services and placement for R.L." -- are issues also "currently being litigated in R.L.'s child protection case." (Id. at 5.)

The Court agrees with the arguments for allowing the Guardian to intervene. As further detailed in its opening brief (at pp. 4-7), the Guardian has met the four factors for intervention: (1) timeliness; (2) an interest in the subject matter; (3) potential impairment of the movant's interest; and (4) lack of adequate representation of this interest. In particular, the information regarding R.L.'s wishes is relevant and helpful to this Court's decision. The Guardian has also filed a motion to motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), raising ...

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