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Tuesday, May 30, 2000

Judge holds state in contempt over Felix Decree

State 'significantly failed'
special needs children

State says it needs more time

By Crystal Kua


A federal judge found the state of Hawaii in civil contempt of court today, ruling that the state "significantly failed" to meet the requirements of a consent decree to improve mental health and educational services to special needs children.

Ezra also ordered that hearings to be held to come up with recommendations to bring the state into "rapid compliance" with the Felix consent decree.

A federal lawsuit filed in 1993 for Jennifer Felix and others alleged that the state is violating federal laws requiring adequate mental heal, education and other services for special-needs children. The state agreed to a 1994 consent decress ordering improvements.

The state had until next month to be in compliance with the consent decree.

Plaintiffs' attorneys filed a motion seeking to hold the state in contempt of court for failing to meet its obligations under the consent agree.

"The state is not in compliance now and will not be in the near future," plaintiff's attorney Shelby Floyd said.

The state argued that the state should not be held in contempt because it has made progress and made substantial compliance.

The judge's ruling could give the superintendent of education and the state Health Department powers to override laws, rules, regulations and collective-bargaining contract to meet the obligations.

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