Barney Frank bill back in Congress

This is a photograph of an angled view of the Capitol Building in Washington DC under a clear blue sky.
Capitol Building in Washington DC

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank has reintroduced a bill that would create new restrictions on class action lawsuits filed by federally funded entities against facilities housing people with disabilities.

The bill would create a time-limited avenue for residents with disabilities, through their legal representative, living in institutional settings to opt out of class action lawsuits.

When previously introduced, the bill applied only to the federal Protection and Advocacy groups. Under federal law, every state which accepts certain federal funds must also designate a Protection and Advocacy organization to advocate on behalf of people with disabilities.

The new version also relates to lawsuits filed by the Department of Justice, which has been active during the past few years enforcing the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision. The decision prohibits unnecessary institutionalization by requiring states to provide services ensuring that people with disabilities live in the most integrated setting possible.

Disability rights groups, including the National Disability Rights Network, strongly opposed the bill in 2010, arguing it would lead to more cases of unnecessary institutionalization and that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures already provide avenues to hear opinions from people with disabilities, and their legal guardians, in class action lawsuits.

The American Bar Association sent a letter to Congress June 15 in opposition to the bill.

“The ABA opposes this legislation as an unnecessary change in class action rules and a limitation on the ability of those representing individuals wiht disabilites to obtain protection for their legal rights in courts…Having a full range of appropriate remedies, including the use of a class action, has been a keystone to protecting the civil and legal rights of individuals with disabilites in all facets of their lives,” the letter states.

The only group in favor of the bill is the Voice of the Retarded, an organization that often opposes deinstitutionalization efforts.

3 responses to “Barney Frank bill back in Congress

  1. We have received one or more comments regarding this post that we have decided not to approve because inaccurate information was included. As the appearance of the first comment above demonstrates, we are willing to post opinions that vary with our own. However, we are not willing to include comments that contain inaccurate information. With someone’s first instance or two of inaccurate postings, we will let them know why their comment has been blocked However, individuals who repeatedly include information in their comments that we know to be inaccurate will be permanently blocked from commenting on this blog.

  2. A note from the editor – because we believe discussion is healthy and is the path to finding common ground we will publish posts that take public policy positions contrary to ours as long as the tone is civil like the post above and information presented as fact (not opinion) is accurate. Like a wise person once said “people are entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts”.

    That said the Barney Frank bill is not about a guardian’s ability to make a decision about where their ward lives – institution or community. Under the rules that govern class action lawsuits, individuals are currently able to opt out of a class in any particular lawsuit. Instead, the bill is about taking a tool away from disability rights advocates that has been extremely effective in improving the conditions in which people with disabilities live. That is why the American Bar Association and the National Disability Rights Network are adamantly opposed to it.

  3. Parent and guardian groups across the country are in favor of this bill as it returns the parent/guardian to the “primary decisionmaker” role, as Congress and the Olmstead decision require.

    As a parent of an adult child with profound neurological impairment, this bill will allow me, the co-guardian, to decide whether or not our son will be removed from his facility based care.

    The general public is absolutely clueless and unaware of the severe and profound mental and physical disabilities the current facility residents have and why facility based care is not “unjustified institutionalization”.

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