(WGN-AM)- A federal judge rejected a proposed settlement to a civil class-action lawsuit that would have forced the state of Illinois to move more people with developmental delays into small group homes.
After receiving 2,500 written objections to the proposal, U.S. District Judge James Holderman dropped the lawsuit's "class action" designation, according to a ruling filed Tuesday.
After four years in litigation, the ruling came as a relief to family members of mentally disabled adults who live in residential facilities with nine or more beds, which the lawsuit called "institutions."
Many said they were pleased with the larger facilities-such as Misericordia Heart of Mercy in Chicago-and did not want to move to a group home.
Among other things, the proposed settlement with the Illinois Department of Human Services called for all adults who live in institutional settings to be evaluated annually, to see if they are deemed eligible to move into a group home.
The ruling "recognizes that the disabled are too varied to shoe-horn them all against their will into a settlement that might help only some at the expense of others," William Choslovsky, a lawyer whose sister lives at Misericordia, said in a written statement.
Ligas, who has Down syndrome and can hold a job, filed the lawsuit in 2005 because he wants to leave a 96-bed facility in favor of a small residential home. The state has declined to provide funding for him to live at a group home.
The judge ruled that Ligas and the other plaintiffs may pursue their cases through an individual lawsuit, rather than as a class action.
"The judge in no way ruled on the merits here," said Barry Taylor, a lawyer with Equip for Equality, one of the groups representing the plaintiffs.
No one disputes that Illinois has not done enough to provide services for people with developmental delays, he said.
(The Chicago Tribune contributed to this story)
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