ACLU Comment on Ruling in Disability Rights Guardianship Case

August 2, 2013 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – Judge David Pugh of the Circuit Court for the city of Newport News, Va., today denied guardianship to the parents of Jenny Hatch, a vibrant and active 29-year-old woman with Down syndrome at the center of a heated guardianship battle. Hatch will instead be able to live with her friends, couple Kelly Morris and Jim Talbert, as she had requested.

Hatch had been living an independent life, working part time and volunteering for political campaigns, until this controversy. Her parents filed for guardianship last summer and wished to keep her – against her will – in a group home, deprived of the right to make basic decisions about her own life. Today’s ruling means Hatch will not be forced to stay in the group home – separated from the friends she wants to live with, the job she enjoys, and the independent life she was leading.

Susan Mizner, disability counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said, “This decision is a big step in the right direction. Like most people with developmental disabilities – and just like all of us – Jenny will learn, grow, and live best when she has the freedom and responsibility to make her own decisions. Guardianship raises grave concerns because it strips people of their fundamental right to live with independence, freedom and dignity. Disability is no excuse to deprive someone of her basic civil liberties, and we are thrilled that Jenny will get some control of her life back.”

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