Sunday, April 20, 2008

More on the KEJ Case

From an e-mail to the Disability Rights Consortium, by Equip for Equality's Legal Advocacy Director, Barry Taylor:

As you may recall, Equip for Equality has been representing a woman with a traumatic brain injury and other disabilities to oppose her guardian's petition to have her involuntarily sterilized. Yesterday, the Illinois appellate court upheld the lower court's decision that our client should not be sterilized. This is the first appellate court in Illinois to rule on this issue, establishing an important precedent...

The court first identified two fundamental rights at issue in this case - the right to bear children and the right to bodily integrity. As you'll see, the court characterized sterilization as a "severe restriction of fundamental rights" that "deserves careful scrutiny by the courts." The court also adopted procedural due process safeguards that judges must undergo in sterilization cases. Unlike other states, Illinois has not addressed this issue legislatively, so these safeguards provide important guidance to judges on how future involuntary sterilization cases should be handled and make it clear that guardians cannot pursue sterilization of their wards privately, but instead require judicial oversight.

The court also upheld our request that the guardian's attorney not be paid fees for the appeal that would have come out of our client's estate. The appellate court also ordered the lower court to re-examine the over $100,000 in attorneys fees paid out of our client's estate to the guardian's attorney. In doing so, the appellate court adopted a cost benefit analysis that future judges will have to perform, which we believe will significantly reduce the possibility that a ward's estate will be depleted.

Thank you to Equip for Equality and to KEJ!