New Mexico resolves 1987 lawsuit by developmentally disabled

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A legal battle aimed at providing adequate services to people with developmental disabilities in New Mexico has come to a close after more than three decades.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday that a final U.S. District Court order recognizes the state’s establishment of a community-based system that protects the health and safety of intellectually and developmentally disabled New Mexico residents.

The case stems from a class-action lawsuit filed in 1987 that alleged civil rights violations on behalf of developmentally disabled residents at two state-supported institutions. Those facilities closed years ago, but the state’s obligations continued under a series of stipulations and decrees.

The state estimates it has spent more than $80 million on the litigation — known as the Jackson v. New Mexico case.

In a court order this week, U.S. Magistrate Judge John Robbenhaar said the original violations have been remedied with lasting improvements.

“This case matters to many New Mexican families, some of whom would prefer to see federal oversight continue, with others accepting that the state will now chart its own course,” Robbenhaar said. “The court concludes that the violations that existed at the commencement of this suit have been rectified, that the parties have crafted a durable remedy, and that the defendants have demonstrated a clear intent to safeguard in the long-term the constitutional and statutory rights … of the developmentally disabled.”

Jason Cornwell, director of the state division for developmental disabilities and supports, said the court order “makes clear that the system of care in New Mexico is sound, sustainable, and durable.”

He also emphasized that state’s mission is to ensure that individuals with disabilities can “live the lives that they prefer in the communities of their choice.”