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Illinois League of Advocates for Developmentally Disabled v. Illinois Department of Human Services

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

June 28, 2013

ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, MICHELLE R.B. SADDLER, in her official capacity as Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services, KEVIN CASEY, in his official capacity as Director of Developmental Disabilities of the Illinois Department of Human Resources, and COMMUNITY RESOURCE ALLIANCE, Defendants.


MARVIN E. ASPEN, District Judge.

On June 12, 2013, we entered a temporary restraining order ("TRO") (Dkt. No. 90) in this case, enjoining Defendants from transferring residents out of Murray Developmental Center ("Murray") without the consent of their legal guardians while the motion for preliminary injunction (Dkt. No. 8) remains pending. We subsequently entered an order addressing the limits of our jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' claims under the ripeness doctrine. (Dkt. No. 98.) The parties have filed motions seeking clarification of the TRO and resolution of certain disputes regarding a confidentiality order. (Dkt. Nos. 100, 104-5.) We assume familiarity with the factual background of this case as set forth in our prior orders.


A. Wards of the Office of the State Guardian ("OSG")

The parties filed motions for clarification because of a perceived discrepancy between the TRO and a footnote in our subsequent order on the issue of ripeness. (Dkt. No. 102 at 1-2; Dkt. No. 105 at 2-5.) The TRO prohibits the transfer of Murray residents without the consent of their legal guardians. (Dkt. No. 90.) The footnote stated generally that "Defendants have stopped transferring Murray residents while the preliminary injunction is pending" (Dkt. No. 98 at 2, n.1.), which the parties apparently read as prohibiting all transfers, with or without guardian consent. The parties read too much into the footnote.

The footnote was simply an explanatory aside in the background section of our most recent opinion. It observed that while transfers of Murray residents may be impending for the purposes of the ripeness analysis, as a factual matter they would not proceed during the pendency of the TRO. This observation in no way determined or interpreted the scope and effect of the TRO.

The real issue underlying the present motion is whether Defendants may transfer Murray residents who are wards of the OSG with the OSG's consent. Our TRO did not address this issue directly. But it generally permits the transfer of residents with the consent of their legal guardian, without making any specific exceptions in the case of OSG wards. (Dkt. No. 90 ¶ A.)

Plaintiffs argue that the consent of the OSG is invalid, because the guardian, Frieda Omar, is not acting in the best interests of her wards. (Dkt. No. 105 at 5; Dkt. No. 71 at 8.) They also claim the OSG, as an arm of the State, has a conflict of interest in this case. ( Id. ) In Struck v. Cook County Public Guardian, however, the Seventh Circuit held that federal courts lack jurisdiction over legal challenges to the actions of state-appointed guardians. 508 F.3d 858, 859-60 (7th Cir. 2007). In that case, the plaintiff alleged that a state-appointed guardian was abusing and isolating his mother. Id. at 859. The court held that under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, a federal court could not review a state court decision to appoint a guardian. Id. And with respect to the guardian's conduct after appointment, the "probate exception" prevents federal courts from interfering with the state court's authority to manage and supervise the guardians they appoint. Id. at 860.

A recent case in this district applied Struck to foreclose claims similar to those at issue in this case. M.G.S. ex rel. Sykes v. Toerpe, No. 11 C 7934, 2012 WL 3235240, at *2-3 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 6, 2012). In that case, the plaintiffs brought claims on behalf of state ward M.G.S., under Title II and III of the ADA, § 1983, and other legal theories, on the basis that M.G.S. was "being isolated, prevented from living where and how she chooses, denied medical treatment, prevented from assisting in the management of her affairs, and otherwise mistreated." Id. at *1. After examining Struck, the court concluded that it had "no jurisdiction to invalidate, modify, or place conditions on, the state-court judgment appointing M.G.S.'s guardian." Id. at *3.

Plaintiffs cited three cases in their reply to the motion for TRO where a federal court either invalidated a guardianship or appointing a guardian ad litem, but none of them involved a guardian appointed by a state court and acting on behalf of the state. (Dkt. No. 71 at 8.) The distinction is critical. Federal courts cannot assume authority over a state-appointed guardian without impermissibly invading the jurisdiction of the state court.

We will allow Plaintiffs two days to file a response if they believe we have any basis to exercise jurisdiction over claims related to the conduct of the OSG, in light of Struck and M.G.S.. If Plaintiffs file a response, Defendants will have one day to reply. Otherwise, the order will stand as written, permitting Defendants to transfer wards of the OSG from Murray with the OSG's consent.

B. Former Jacksonville Developmental Center ("Jacksonville") residents

Defendants also ask us to clarify the "the scope of the case with respect to the 2012 closure of Jacksonville Developmental Center, " in light of our recent opinion on ripeness. (Dkt. No. 102 at 2.) That opinion held that we lack jurisdiction over certain claims related to future closures of SODCs that are not impending, because those claims are not ripe. (Dkt. No. 98 at 1.) Jacksonville is already closed, so the opinion has no effect on the claims of former Jacksonville residents. Plaintiffs' proposed class includes "[a]ll severe and profound developmentally delayed adult individuals who reside presently, or resided in the past, in [an SODC] at any time since January 1, 2011, or at any time during this litigation, who oppose any transfer from their SODC to a community housing setting." (2d Am. Compl. ¶ 42.) All former Jacksonville residents who fit that definition remain potential class members, and those who are named plaintiffs remain named plaintiffs. Their status in this case has not changed.

It is true that the claims of former Jacksonville residents may not have an immediate bearing on the present motion for preliminary injunction. That is because injunctive relief, by definition, is prospective. The focus of the pending motion is limited to whether we should prohibit impending transfers out of Murray. We cannot enjoin transfers that have already happened, so we do not expect the circumstances of former Jacksonville residents to be an issue at the upcoming hearing. We stress, however, that the claims of former Jacksonville residents remain ...

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