National Center for Youth Law

STRATEGIES

Baby Neal v. Casey
also known as Baby Neal v. Ridge

In April 1990, plaintiffs filed this suit in federal district court against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Presiding Judge of Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on behalf of children in Philadelphia’s foster care system, charging that defendants were violating the children’s constitutional and statutory rights by failing to provide them with basic mandated services.

Overview

FILE NO., COURT, AND DATE FILED

90-2343 (E.D. Pa., Apr., 1990); 94-1381 (3d Cir. Dec. 15, 1994)

CITATIONS

1990 WL 163194 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 21, 1990); 931 F.2d 49 (3rd Cir. 1991); 1992 WL 3294 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 7, 1992); 1992 WL 58311 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 20, 1992) ; 151 F.R.D. 282 (E.D. Pa. 1993); 821 F. Supp. 320 (E.D. Pa. 1993); 43 F.3d 48 (3rd Cir. 1994); 1995 WL 728589 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 7, 1995); 1996 WL 4050 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 1, 1996)

 

ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFFS

ACLU of Pennsylvania
P.O. Box 1161
Philadelphia, PA 19105-1161
(215) 592-1513
info@aclupa.org

Marcia Robinson Lowry
Children’s Rights, Inc.
330 Seventh Avenue, Fourth Floor
New York, NY 10001
(212) 683-2210
Fax: (212) 683-4015
mlowry@childrensrights.org

Lawrence J. Fox
Mary Kohart
Drinker, Biddle & Reath LLP
1 Logan Square
18th and Cherry Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 988-2700
(215) 988-2827
mary.kohart@dbr.com

 

HISTORY AND STATUS

After the court rejected the state’s motion to dismiss, plaintiffs filed a class certification motion in April 1990. In addition to opposing the motion, defendants asked the court to disqualify plaintiffs’ next friends, all recognized child welfare experts familiar with DHS’s operations. The court denied plaintiffs’ certification motion and granted defendants’ motion to disqualify.

Plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration, or alternatively, asked the court to certify subclasses and to substitute as next friends lawyers and private agency social workers. The court granted the substitution, denied the motion to reconsider, and declined to certify subclasses until plaintiffs provided more factual support.

Defendants moved to stay discovery and for summary judgment. After allowing limited discovery, on April 13, 1993, the district court granted in part and denied in part defendants’ motion for summary judgment. In so ruling, it narrowed the scope of plaintiffs’ claims.

On December 7, 1993, for the third time, the court denied plaintiffs’ motion for certification of subclasses. Because the individual claims of most, if not all, of the named plaintiff children had become moot due to the passage of time, the parties entered into a Stipulation of Entry of Final Judgment on February 28, 1994. Nonetheless, plaintiffs appealed the denial of their class certification motions and the partial grant of summary judgment. On December 15, 1994, the Third Circuit reversed the district court’s orders denying class certification, and remanded the case. Plaintiffs conducted a case record review of a random sample of case records. The review documented the problems so clearly that the city and state finally agreed to discuss settlement.

Plaintiffs entered into three settlement agreements, one with each of the defendants. The court approved the agreements on February 1, 1999. The settlement agreement with the city required the city to produce certain reports on a quarterly basis, including caseload reports, case-planning reports, and critical and unusual incident reports. In addition, the settlement agreement authorized plaintiffs to conduct a semi-annual review of a limited number of case records that represent the city’s practices with respect to the entire class of children. The family court settlement similarly required the family court to produce periodic reports, including reports on the progress of the model court.

In 2000 and 2001, the court approved two amendments to the settlement between plaintiffs and the family court. In February 2001, the parties announced that the lawsuit had been concluded.