Lujan Grisham administration announces historic settlement of 32-year ‘Jackson’ lawsuit
SANTA FE — One of the longest-running institutional reform lawsuits in the country has been settled. The state and plaintiffs on Wednesday struck an agreement in Jackson, et al., vs. the Los Lunas Center for Persons with Developmental Disabilities, et al., commonly referred to as Jackson. The parties received preliminary approval of the settlement Thursday from the Hon. Judge James A. Parker, who has overseen proceedings in the case for decades, spanning many state administrations.
Filed in 1987 and having escalated in complexity ever since, the Jackson litigation centered on significant deficiencies at a pair of since-closed state-run institutions for the developmentally disabled. Plaintiffs alleged ongoing violations of the constitutional rights of adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities as well as violations of health and safety. In 1990, defendants were ordered to remedy those deficiencies through, among other things, the development of individual treatment programs; abuse prevention and reduction; and improved training and staff supervision. The facilities, at Fort Stanton and Los Lunas, were closed in 1995 and 1997, respectively; in their place, the state created community-based programs for individuals with developmental disabilities.
In the interim, the parties have entered into multiple contracts and agreements intended to address the plaintiffs’ concerns. The 1990 order evolved into an increasingly convoluted set of requirements that bedeviled successive state administrations, compelling millions in expenditures annually on experts and attorneys. Attorney fees and other costs associated with expertise for the state have run more than $50 million over the course of the litigation.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham made reaching a settlement a point of emphasis.
“To settle long-running litigation in an amicable, balanced fashion, and in only our administration’s first few months, is remarkable and remarkably gratifying,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “This agreement acknowledges the progress the state has made in creating programs to protect vulnerable individuals while ensuring we do not operate under extensive and intrusive monitoring obligations. We will continue to evolve and improve our processes and policies for serving the needs of our neighbors.”
Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel said, “We, as a state, are committed to providing the best possible care to anyone who enters into one of our waiver programs, making sure they have every opportunity to create and lead a life based on their interests and abilities in the community of their choice.”
Pursuant to the settlement, the plaintiffs have agreed to allow the state to operate under its current policies and rules without outside oversight or direction; and the state has agreed to demonstrate full compliance.
The agreement does not relieve the state of its responsibility to provide for the health and safety needs of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities but rather enshrines the important and measurable progress made in the decades since the litigation began.