Landmark Jeff D. Case Heading Back to Federal Court


A 30-year-old case challenging how severely emotionally and mentally disabled children are treated in Idaho is heading back to a federal courtroom. A ruling handed down this morning from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined that "clear and convincing" evidence had not been sufficiently determined through a series of "action items" to provide a proper standard of care.

The case, which dates back to August 1980, was filed on behalf of an anonymous child, known only as Jeff D., and all indigent Idaho children suffering from severe emotional and mental disabilities. The lawsuit against then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and other state officials, alleged that inadequate care was a violation of the children's constitutional rights.

In the ensuing years, the parties reached agreements intended to remedy deficiencies in care. A major overhaul of Idaho Health and Welfare divisions resulted in more than 250 action items to provide adequate care for mentally disabled children. Three separate consent agreements were entered by the district court, and no less than four appeals were subsequently filed. The district court vacated the consent decrees in 2007.

But now, Jeff D. v. Clement Leroy Otter (in his official capacity as governor) is heading back to U.S. District Court because the state did not provide a standard for determining compliance to the original action plan.

You can read the full ruling here.