Federal trial over Murray Center closure postponed to November

News-DemocratSeptember 27, 2013 

A federal judge delayed the hearing of a lawsuit that attempts to prevent the state from shutting down its Warren G. Murray Developmental Center in Centralia.

The hearing, which some participants have referred to as a trial because it will include testimony and arguments and will ultimately result in a ruling from the judge, had been scheduled to begin Tuesday in Chicago.

But U.S. District Judge Marvin Aspen issued an order Thursday postponing the hearing until Nov. 4 because the parties "continue to file pretrial motions that require the court's attention."

The lawsuit, filed by the Murray Parent Association, alleges that closing Murray Center and other state-operated developmental centers would violate the residents' rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and would run afoul of federal Medicaid regulations. The plaintiffs say some Murray Center residents' disabilities are so severe that they require institutionalization, rather than the state's proposed alternative -- small, privately-run homes.

The suit asks that the state be prohibited from closing state-operated developmental centers, or reducing the services they provide, "unless or until equivalent, appropriate replacement services are provided to prevent inappropriate hospitalization, injury or death to residents in violation of the developmentally disabled residents' rights under federal and state laws."

The judge had set aside three days for the hearing.

Murray Center at one point was home to about 270 adults with developmental disabilities. The population now is about 230, because some residents already have been moved.

The state's projected date for closing the center is Nov. 30.

The center has a staff of about 530, most of them union members. The Murray Center campus has 16 buildings on 120 acres.

Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at bbrueggemann@bnd.com or 618-239-2511.

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