Court order resolves dispute, sets short deadline for making July payments

CHICAGO The State of Illinois must begin paying for services that support persons with developmental disabilities by the end of this week, a federal court said in a ruling on Tuesday.   Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman issued an Order late yesterday clarifying previous confusion in this area, and requiring the State of Illinois to make payments for over 10,000 Illinois residents with developmental disabilities who are part of the Consent Decree in Ligas v. Norwood.  The State has made no payments for Ligas class members or other beneficiaries of the Consent Decree since July 1, when the new fiscal year began.  The legislature and Governor Bruce Rauner have been unable to agree on a budget.

As a result of the State’s failure to make payments, developmental disability service providers were at risk of closing, and thousands of people with developmental disabilities were in danger of losing their homes and being forced to move into unfamiliar and inappropriate settings.

In late June, the Illinois Comptroller took the position that because of the budget impasse, she could not make payments under the Ligas Consent Decree without a court order.  Accordingly, Judge Coleman entered an Order on June 30 requiring the Comptroller to continue making all payments under the Consent Decree at a level no less than paid in the previous fiscal year.

The State incorrectly interpreted the June 30 Order to apply only to Ligas class members, despite the clear rights of other people with developmental disabilities under the Consent Decree.  Accordingly, attorneys for the Plaintiffs and the Intervenors filed a joint motion requesting that the Judge issue an Order confirming that class members and beneficiaries of the Decree were entitled to payment, and seeking a date certain for when payments would be made.  After the motion was filed, the State agreed to make payment for class members and beneficiaries, but would not provide a date certain for payment.  Thursday’s Order provides that certainty for people with developmental disabilities and their service providers. Under Judge Coleman’s Order, the State is required to make payment for all July services by August 21.  For August services submitted by August 18, the State is required to pay all claims by September 4.  By September 18, the State must be in total compliance with the Consent Decree.

“The State’s misreading of the Judge’s previous order created unnecessary concern for service providers and our clients,” said Barry C. Taylor, VP for Civil Rights and Systemic Litigation at Equip for Equality, and lead counsel for the Plaintiffs. “It became necessary to ask the Judge to make this clarification to prevent significant harm to our clients. We are pleased that the court acted so quickly and ordered a specific payment schedule that takes effect this week.”

The Plaintiffs are represented by Barry C. Taylor and Laura J. Miller at Equip for Equality, Benjamin S. Wolf at the ACLU of Illinois, and John Grossbart at Dentons LLP, on a pro bono basis.  Intervenors are represented by Scott M. Mendel at K&L Gates LLP and William Choslovsky at Fox Rothschild LLP.

Judge Coleman’s Order can be found at: