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Murray B. Schneps was born to Jewish parents who had immigrated to

New York in search of the American dream and was raised in the insular neighborhood of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. His street smarts and inquisitive mind led him to a legal career.


When his first child, Lara, was born profoundly mentally retarded and multiply handicapped, he was forced to confront the way our society viewed and treated the “children of a lesser God” and he vowed to use every tool in his arsenal to wage war against the status quo.


Along the way, he engaged in civil litigation, including class actions, to vindicate the rights of those with mental and physical disabilities. It was not possible

to ensure that Lara would always be safe and cared for without changing the existing public and private bias in favor of large institutions. As an activist and gladiator, he challenged government officials, communities, and other parents to explore different and better ways to care for those with disabilities.


He was a named plaintiff in the action addressing the horrors existing at the infamous Willowbrook State School, was a Vice Chairman of the Willowbook Review Panel, which was charged with implementing the agreed-to changes,

and became an unapologetic ideologue dedicated to the development of small community residences.

This book tells the story of the lawsuit against the infamous Willowbrook State School (Staten Island, N.Y.)--how the case came to be filed and how it helped set in motion a revolution in the care of children and adults with severe mental and physical impairments.  More than that, much more, it tells the story of Murray Schneps, a tenacious New York lawyer whose anger and courage were at the heart of the Willowbrook case; and of his beautiful daughter Lara, whose problems were very severe but who brought a special love and joy to the family that most others will never know. Lara truly inspired a revolution.  The story of those years, and the memories that still live on, are recounted by Murray Schneps with clarity, passion, and humor, and always an unflinching honesty.  From the beginning, Murray would not accept what society had in store for his daughter, and in fighting for something better, he began a lonely struggle that became a movement and that changed the world for Lara and countless others. In the end, though, it would be the life he made for Lara, and what she meant to him, that he would remember the most.  

Michael S. Lottmanm, Esq.


The Willowbrook case changed the way the nation treats mentally retarded people.  The case would not have happened and would not have been as successful without the intelligence and persistence of Murray Schneps.  Here, Murray recites many of the stories of that case with vivid descriptions of the issues and the people involved.  But maybe more importantly, Murray’s daughter is at the center of this story, and Murray movingly makes clear that social change litigation is not really about law; it is about people.


Chris Hansen, Esq.

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