Case #739.0

Judge Tauro and Care of the Retarded in Massachusetts

Publication Date: January 01, 1987
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On October 9, 1986, US District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro signed an order withdrawing five Massachusetts state schools for the mentally retarded from federal supervision. The court had been involved in the schools since 1972, when parents of residents at Belchertown State School brought a class action suit against the state, alleging violations of their children's constitutional right to treatment. In the aftermath of that and similar suits brought by parents at four other schools, the state had signed a series of consent decrees detailing physical, personnel, and programmatic improvements it would implement under the watchful eyes of a court monitor and Judge Tauro. By most accounts, the schools had been in dire need of overhaul. Also, by most accounts, those conditions had been dramatically reversed over fifteen years as a result of the consent decrees. The cost of these improvements was estimated at anywhere from $250-$500 million. The case presents an overview of the consent decrees and the debate that accompanied their implementation. It is intended to raise consideration of two issues: What is the ethically correct way to care for the most helpless members of our community-how much claim do they have on our resources? What happens when the courts become involved in sustaining resource allocation claims?

Other Details

Case Author:
Esther Scott
Faculty Lead:
Marc Roberts
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States
Funding Source:
National Institute of Mental Health