Here are 10 cases and projects that, over the years, have helped thousands of Georgians and have changed laws and policies important in the lives of people with low incomes. They are cases in which GLSP lawyers have helped large groups of vulnerable people maintain their rights and their dignity.
Nursing Home Residents
Smith v. Burgess, 4:04 CV#204 (N. D. Ga 2004)
Six nursing home residents who were unable to obtain Qualified Income Trusts (QIT) prior to the Governor’s deadline terminating the Georgia Adult Medically Needy Program sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act for accommodation for their disabilities. GLSP assisted over 900 nursing home residents obtain QIT’s and maintain their Medicaid eligibility. Residents won the right to remain on Medicaid until a QIT trustee could be found to establish their trusts and establish new Medicaid eligibility.
Commitment of Children to Mental Institutions
Parham v. J.L. and J.R., 442 U.S. 584, 99 S.Ct. 2493 (1979)
Challenge to Georgia statute permitting indefinite commitment of children alleged to be mentally ill to state mental hospitals. U.S. Supreme Court held that children who were in state foster care system were entitled to periodic reviews of their need for institutionalization, and a review and hearing process was established. Eventually the state abandoned long-term institutionalization of children as a treatment strategy.
Rogers v. Lodge, 458 U.S. 613 (1982)
Challenge to system of election of county commissioner in Burke County, Georgia. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the lower courts’ rulings that the at-large election of county commissioners discriminated against the county’s African-American voters and was being maintained by the county for purposes of violating the constitutional rights of its African-American citizens. The Court affirmed the district court’s remedy requiring the county to divide itself into districts for the election of county commissioners.
Guthrie v. Evans, No. 3068 (S.D.Ga.1972), resulted in a consent decree and a series of subsequent orders.
Challenged conditions at the Georgia State Prison in Reidsville. Resulted in wide-ranging settlement that dramatically improved conditions in Georgia’s prisons, picking the state from near the bottom in the nation to near the top. Many subsequent cases helped to bring other penal institutions, including local jails, into compliance with constitutional requirements.
Foster care for children
JJ v. Ledbetter, CV 180-84 (S.D. Ga. 1985)
Challenged the refusal of the Department of Human Resources to provide foster care files to parents, and to provide hearings when services were changed. The case led to negotiations to improve foster care services, compliance with federal requirements, increased participation by parents in reunification efforts, better training of foster care providers, judges, and lawyers involved in the system.
Justice of the Peace payment
Doss v. Long, 629 F. Supp. 127 (1985)
Challenged the fee system used by the former Justice of the Peace Court system in which the prevailing party paid the justice of the peace, who received no other salary. Not surprisingly, few impoverished defendants prevailed. The court found evidence that some JP courts acted as “…collection agencies clothed with judicial power…”, and held that the system created in the justice of the peace an impermissible and unconstitutional pecuniary interest in the outcome of the case. The court enjoined any enforcement action of any judgment rendered by any justice of the peace court. This case led to the creation of Magistrate Courts.
Morales-Arcadio, et al., v. Shannon Produce Farms, Inc., et. al., S. D. Ga., Statesboro Div., Case No. 05-CV-062
GLSP represented eighty (80) Plaintiffs and Opt-In Plaintiffs seeking relief from severe minimum wage violations and work contract violations at a muscadine grape farm in southeastern Georgia. The plaintiffs won judgments of hundreds of thousands of dollars in July 2007.
Family Violence Project
With special funding from the Judicial Council of Georgia that began in 1998, GLSP initiated an effort to target services to victims of family violence. Since its inception, GLSP has served thousands of survivors across the state, including seniors victimized by relatives, teen victims of dating violence, and new immigrants abused by their spouses. GLSP initiated projects to provide court forms via the Internet, to train lay advocates to assist victims with ex parte Temporary Protective Orders, to create the TPO registry linked to the GCIC, to develop uniform pleadings used by all Georgia courts, to train law enforcement to assess lethality and make appropriate and supportive referrals, to resist mutual TPOs where not supported by evidence of mutual danger, and to seek enforcement of laws requiring the surrender of firearms by restrained abusers.
Numerous cases over the years challenged practices of local housing authorities involving racial segregation, incorrect rent calculations, failure to follow federal regulations concerning utility allowances, denials of applications, sufficiency of grounds for eviction, discrimination based on disability, intimidation and harassment, and much more. As “housing of last resort,” an apartment in a housing project is a precious thing, and the right to occupy it is a recognized property interest which cannot be denied or terminated without due process.
Many children have been able to continue their education after dismissal of unfounded disciplinary proceedings, and/or provided appropriate educational services to accommodate their disabilities, because of representation by GLSP attorneys. Schools have been persuaded to admit parentless children without requiring formal adult guardianship proceedings, and systems have been required to admit and even transport homeless children to their former school, as a result of GLSP advocacy.