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Judge: 1972 Fernald Case Will Not Be Reopened
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 21, 2005

WALTHAM, MASSACHUSETTS--A federal judge on Thursday refused a request by families of Fernald Developmental Center residents to reopen a 1972 court case and stop the planned closure of the aging facility.

The Daily News Tribune reported that U.S. District Judge Joseph T. Tauro denied the request by the Fernald League for the Retarded to once again take over operations of the institution -- which he had done from 1972 to 1993. Parents had filed that suit charging that the state's five institutions -- then housing 5,000 people with mental retardation -- were understaffed, that staff were not properly trained, and that conditions were inhumane.

When Governor Mitt Romney announced in February of 2003 that the institution would shut down by October 2004 and its then-302 residents moved to other state-run facilities or into homes in the community, members of the League rallied to stop the moves.

Last summer, attorney Beryl Cohen, representing the parents, asked Tauro to once again oversee the institution's operations, claiming that living conditions had deteriorated because of Romney's intention to close the facility.

In November, Tauro told both sides to work out a solution or he would impose one. He stated at the time that there was nothing in his 1993 decision to end the suit which said the state could not close Fernald.

Even though Tauro refused to take over the institution on Thursday, he did order the Department of Mental Retardation to give Cohen documents related to the 43 people who have moved out of Fernald in the past two years. Cohen will be able to review the records to determine whether the state violated Tauro's 1993 mandate to provide equal or better care to those who were transferred to other facilities. Cohen will also be able to challenge those moves in court to have the residents returned to the institution.

The Fernald Developmental Center was originally founded as the "Massachusetts School for the Feeble Minded" by social reformer Samuel Gridley Howe in 1848. It was later renamed for a former superintendent of the facility.

The Arc of Massachusetts and other groups are supporting the state's efforts to close Fernald, the oldest institution housing people with mental retardation in the Western Hemisphere.

"Judge won't reopen Fernald case" (Daily News Tribune)


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