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December 24, 09

NEWS / Justice Department to Participate in Community Integration Case in North Carolina

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today filed a brief as a friend of the court in Marlo M., et al. v. Cansler, et al., a community integration case in federal court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The government’s brief supports the two plaintiffs, individuals with a developmental disability and mental illness, who are seeking to block the state of North Carolina from making major reductions in services offered to them, which could also affect similarly situated people.

The United States seeks to participate in this case as part of its ongoing commitment to enforcing the Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C., a ruling requiring states to eliminate unnecessary segregation of persons with disabilities and to move persons who can function in the community out of segregated facilities and into supported living situations.

North Carolina’s planned reductions will directly impact individuals with disabilities, potentially forcing the plaintiffs and others out of community placements. The plaintiffs have successfully resided in the community for years. Cuts to the services provided by the state would put them and other individuals with disabilities at imminent risk of being placed in an institutional setting. The lawsuit alleges that the move to institutional placements will increase costs to the state.

"By supporting the plaintiffs in this case, we seek to ensure that the civil rights of individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities in North Carolina are protected," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "North Carolina has provided critical services to disabled individuals with significant needs, allowing them to fully participate in their communities. Now cuts to these services threaten to take this away at a cost to the plaintiffs and the state. "

The Supreme Court ruled in the Olmstead case that unnecessary segregation of individuals with disabilities wrongly stigmatizes them as unworthy of participating in community life. Today’s filing follows new activity by the Justice Department to better enforce Olmstead’s mandate of community integration. The Civil Rights Division has recently filed briefs in support of four separate Olmstead cases in Florida, Connecticut, Virginia and New York.




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