Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) delivered the following statement at the Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee hearing on Examining Class Action Lawsuits Against Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICFs/IID):
Chairman Goodlatte: Today’s hearing examines the devastating effects of class actions on the availability of Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual and Development Disabilities across the country. Underlying these lawsuits is a pervasive belief that institutionalized care has little or no place in our society today. Martha Bryant, a constituent of mine, has come here to testify today about the tragic circumstances of her son’s death last year after the Central Virginia Training Center in Lynchburg, Virginia closed its doors to her family. While this scheduled closing as well as the closings of three other institutional facilities in Virginia were ultimately the result of a settlement agreement negotiated by the Department of Justice under the Obama Administration, the policies underlying DOJ’s claims are the same as those advanced by class actions.
In recent years, several cases brought by the Civil Rights Division, specifically the Special Litigation Section, have blatantly disregarded the choice requirements set forth in Olmstead v. L.C. In Olmstead, the Supreme Court ruled that unjustified institutionalization is discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), which, according to the law, encourages states to administer services “in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities.” The Court in Olmstead specifically affirmed the right of choice by holding that an individual has a right to reject a placement. The Court also recognized that the community is not the most appropriate place for some individuals. It stated:
“We emphasize that nothing in the ADA or its implementing regulations condones termination of institutional settings for persons unable to handle or benefit from community settings… Nor is there any federal requirement that community-based treatment be imposed on patients who do not desire it.”
Nevertheless, we are seeing a national trend towards deinstitutionalization due in part to DOJ’s efforts and through dozens of class actions that have been filed with the purpose of closing Intermediate Care Facilities as well as other Medicaid-licensed facilities. Like DOJ’s enforcement actions, class actions often sweep up individuals who do not wish to participate because they are filed under Rule 23(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under Rule 23(b)(2), plaintiffs’ attorneys are not required to notify to potential members of the class and inform them of the right to opt out if they so wish. In 2012, I cosponsored a bill with Rep. Barney Frank to correct this issue, and look forward to our witness’s recommendations about whether this legislation should be introduced again.
I would like to welcome Ms. Bryant and our other witnesses. I look forward to your testimony.