Capitol People First v. Department of Developmental Services

California Supreme Court Denies Petitions for Review: Class Will Be Certified

On January 3, 2008, in Capitol People First v. Department of Developmental Services, the California Supreme Court denied the state defendants’ and interveners’ petitions asking the Supreme Court to review a Court of Appeal decision that held the case should be certified as a class action. This was a victory for the plaintiff class, consisting of more than 7,500 institutionalized people with developmental disabilities. It means that the Supreme Court was not convinced that it needed to hear an appeal of the favorable Court of Appeal ruling.

The case was filed as a class action seeking to prevent the unnecessary institutionalization of Californians with developmental disabilities who are residents of state developmental centers or other large institutions, and people at risk of such placement. The plaintiffs challenge the state and regional center defendants’ failure to provide appropriate assessments and information to determine where people with developmental disabilities should live, develop the capacity of the community to serve people with developmental disabilities, and monitor compliance with the laws requiring that services be provided in the least restrictive environment.

The Court of Appeal had overturned the trial court’s order denying class certification, noting that “the very nature of this class cries out for a class treatment and a systemic approach” because the people whose rights allegedly have been violated are persons with cognitive or other severe disabilities without resources to undertake the daunting task of seeking relief on their own.

Case will return to trial court

The trial court stay that was in effect while the class certification issue was on appeal will be lifted, meaning that discovery and other pre-trial proceedings will go forward. Unless the case is settled or otherwise resolved before then, the trial will be held in approximately spring 2009.

Plaintiffs are represented by Protection & Advocacy, Inc., as well as two private law firms—Bingham McCutchen and DLA Piper—that are providing their services without charge (pro bono).

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