A WINDOW TO THE CONSENT JUDGMENT
A WINDOW TO THE CONSENT JUDGMENT
By Murray B. Schneps
March 8, 2017
In an effort to improve my articles and answer and raise the various issues and statements, I am requesting that each of you provide me with any and all feedback and commentary you wish to share with me. Please assist me in allowing me to improve my articles. I want my column to be of assistance, beneficial and useful for the parents, family members, citizens, advocates and those in the field of the developmentally disabled.
While I do not enjoy criticism, I will welcome your truth and honesty in the name of improvement and dealing with the issues that are most relevant and important.
I will make every effort to respond to each and every comment, query and opinion.
. . . .
I was planning and anticipating that this article would report the recent filing of a recent new class action (D.K., Z.O. and B.R. v. Tiffany Teams) seeking to vindicate the rights of a group of developmentally disabled people who have been suffering abuse and neglect over a period of many years in a State operated Bronx group home. It is my expectation that the developing facts will reveal horrific problems, will establish that residence should not be considered to be a group home and will present to us in stark terms of one of the new forms of institutions Governor Cuomo, his Departments of Health and Office for People with Developmental Disabilities are shoving down our throats. If I am wrong I will apologize. As soon as I have reliable facts, I will reveal what I discover.
I just received a copy of the Amended Complaint and Jury Demand dated October 26, 2016, and will begin reviewing it tomorrow.
. . . .
A WINDOW TO THE CONSENT JUDGMENT
The Final Judgment issued by Judge Orrin G. Judd, was executed all but simultaneously executed by the Willowbrook Consent Judgment with the Appendix “A”, and as agreed upon by all parties, provided:
Defendants are hereby ordered and enjoined to take
all necessary action to secure implementation of the
steps, standards and procedures containing in this judgment and in Appendix “A” hereto, which appendix is expressly made part hereof, in a prompt and orderly manner.
Obviously, the Consent Judgment was a firm specific and extensive obligation “ordered and enjoined” the State of New York/the defendants “to take all necessary action to secure implementation of the steps, standards and procedures * * * in a prompt and orderly manner.”
Yet, the State of New York/the defendants who participated in drafting the terms, conditions and procedures of the Willowbrook Consent Judgment and Appendix “A”, negotiated each word and item, and signed the agreement under oath before Judge Judd, began to attempt to diminish the agreement. Almost immediately dispensed a very high level assistant commissioner, Sam Koala, making a public statement and explanation telling all who would listen and hear stated that the Willowrook Consent Judgment was “an aspirational document.” Fortunately, I was right there and present and on a panel with him before the initial Young Adult Institute annual convention. I spoke following the presentation of Mr. Koala and neither he nor anyone from the State of New York or the Department of Mental Hygiene ever referred to the Willowbrook Consent Judgment as being “an aspirational document.”
Another important provision of the Willowbrook Consent Judgment had considerable importance, actually and historically. Paragraph “2.” of the Final Judgment (Willowbrook Consent Judgment with Appendix “A”) needs be to known about and understood. Paragraph “2.” States:
Within their lawful authority, including the State constitution and applicable State laws, and subject to any legislative approval that may be required, defendants are hereby ordered and enjoined to take all actions necessary to secure implementation of the steps, standards and procedures contained in this judgment and in Appendix “A” hereto, which appendix is expressly made part hereof, and a prompt and orderly manner. Specifically, defendants shall delegate among themselves and their subordinates responsibility for the appropriate and relevant actions necessary to implement this judgment. Defendants shall take all steps necessary to ensure the full and timely financing of this judgment, including, if necessary, submission of appropriate budget requests to the legislature. [Emphasis added]
The words underscored and hi-lighted were damaging and destructive words. My efforts to object to the language failed as other attorneys for the plaintiffs felt the threat to be unrealistic. I never accepted that position fearing that the legislature was provided with an opportunity to terminate the functioning of the Willowbrook Consent Judgment and its Willowbrook Review Panel, by simply refusing to fund all or any part of it. Clearly, the Commissioner James Introne and his staff made efforts and inquiries to increase the size for residences to 25 beds or more and eliminate their most irritating members, to wit: the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Willowbrook Review Panel, James Clements, M.D. and Murray B. Schneps. We felt that if the Willowbrook Consent Judgment remained unchanged Jim and I would leave. But to get us to leave without a special bonus, all agreed to reject the under the table offer. Soon after our rejection of an offer they could not have thought we would accept, in the beginning of 1980, the legislature decided not to fund the sum of $342,000.00 for the Review Panel. While the Commissioner and the Governor and the Legislature protected them all from civil and criminal contempt of court insisting that they tried to convince the Legislature to provide the funding, I never have nor will I believe that they did not conspire to eliminate the bone caught in their respective throats. The question seems to be that why would they do that and sentence our developmentally disabled to a life of misery in institutions established the most expensive form. WHY? WHY? WHY? NO!! Our slogan cannot be, “WHY.” Our slogan must be FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!
At that time, narrow-minded people (and I am being generous) like Jerry Weingold, a former Executive Director of the New York State Association for Retarded Children and a former State Senator Frank Padavan, Chairman of the Committee on Mental Hygiene, opposed the Willowbrook Consent Judgment and especially the Willowbrook Review Panel.
Consider the fact that when the Review Panel eliminated the system of small community residences and homes began to slide and teeter and went into a free-fall that is scary, confusing and disorienting. Do you believe that anyone can think or behave clearly and effectively when scared, confused and disoriented while their children are sliding downward into the institutional abyss with the denial of required services? I do not think so.
Is this a plan? Maybe yes or maybe no. I never trust things being accidental or by chance when things always fall on the same side of the line. Statistics, the law of averages and the laws of probability teach us that it cannot fall on the same side of the line without assistance or encouragement.
If you commit yourself to actually protecting your children and maintaining your sanity, you must organize and fight.
Visit my Facebook pages [Murray B. Schneps and I See Your Face Before Me];
My website [www.murrayschneps.com].
Visit my new column, AS I WAS SAYING . . ., on my website Link and
on my Facebook pages
My next column will be published next week