Motions up for consideration in permanent injunction case - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Motions up for consideration in permanent injunction case

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - A federal judge will hear several motions this week in the ongoing permanent injunction case involving the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Integrated Services for Individuals with Disabilities. There's growing criticism over the federal management team that was appointed by the court to help the government come into compliance and provide adequate care to individuals with disabilities.

The individuals with disabilities who filed suit against the Government of Guam back in 2001 don't feel they're any better off now than they were more than a decade ago.  Their attorney, Daniel Somerfleck, has asked the District Court to replace the federal management team that was appointed in March 2010, which consists of Dr. James Kiffer and James Casey. The motion was filed on the same day Assistant Attorney General David Highsmith filed a motion seeking the removal of one of the members of the federal management team due to a number of complaints from Mental Health staff and clients claiming a hostile working environment, racism, and physical and verbal abuse.

Dr. Kiffer confirms his partner Casey resigned last week, but not due to the accusations against him. "Mr. Casey has been wrestling with a long-term illness for many months," he explained. "He needs treatment off-island. He decided that that was going to be his priority at this time so he resigned from the FMT and will be leaving the island if he hasn't already to get his treatment off-island."

Attorney Somerfleck meanwhile has asked the court to remove the FMT that he calls "ineffective", saying the litigation has gone far too long without capable leadership to remedy the ongoing harm. Somerfleck took issue with the team's failure to demonstrate meaningful progress and expressed continued frustration with the "same tired excuses that were given by the defendants for years. Plaintiffs are no better off than they were two, four, six, or even ten years ago under the defendant's control."

Kiffer disagrees, but says he'll give his response to the court when he meets with the judge in chambers Tuesday and then during the status conference on Wednesday.

"I think we're on the verge of really bringing this act together because of the consultants, because of the professionals that we have here now. We're building up the team of social workers, counselors, psychiatrists and psychologists. These are the people necessary to take mental health further and provide the services to the clients. I see it as moving forward," he said.

In addition to the motions, the judge will also hear the governor's motion to stay the payment schedule pending approval of an amended plan of action.

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