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Disability Rights New Jersey v. Jennifer Velez

November 30, 2010

DISABILITY RIGHTS NEW JERSEY, INC., ET. AL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JENNIFER VELEZ, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, ET. AL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thompson, U.S.D.J.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION & ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter has come before the Court upon Plaintiffs Disability Rights New Jersey, Inc. (―Disability Rights‖), Allison Harmon, and Fredrena Thompson's Motion for Reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) [docket #84-1]. Defendants Jennifer Velez and the State of New Jersey oppose the motion [86]. The Court has decided the motion upon the submissions of both parties and without oral argument, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b). For the reasons detailed below, Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration is granted.

II. BACKGROUND

The Court assumes that the parties are familiar with the factual and procedural background of this matter. Plaintiffs' suit against Defendants contends that the institutionalization of developmentally disabled individuals in New Jersey violates Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (―Title II‖), 42 U.S.C. § 12132, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (―Section 504‖), 29 U.S.C. § 794, the Medicaid Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1396, and Plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that institutionalizing developmentally disabled persons rather than integrating them into community placements violates Title II, Section 504, and the Medicaid Act, and that the State's process for admitting individuals into institutions and the lack of sufficient periodic review post-institutionalization violate Title II and the Fourteenth Amendment.

On March 25, 2010, the parties moved for summary judgment [54; 56]. On September 24, 2010, this Court granted Defendants' summary judgment motion solely as to the Medicaid claim

[82]. Specifically, we found that the Medicaid Act defines ―medical assistance‖ as ―payment of part or all of the cost of the following care and services . . . .‖ 42 U.S.C. § 1396d(a). We further relied on Third Circuit case law indicating that ―the provisions of the Medicaid Act . . . deal[] with what are essentially financial benefits,‖ Newark Parents Ass'n v. Newark Pub. Sch., 547 F.3d 199, 211 (3d Cir. 2008). We considered this statement to implicitly adopt the interpretation offered by other circuits that ―medical assistance‖ refers to financial rather than actual medical services. See, e.g., Mandy R. v. Owens, 464 F.3d 1139, 1143 (10th Cir. 2006); Bruggeman v. Blagojevich, 324 F.3d 906, 910 (7th Cir. 2003); Westside Mothers v. Olszewski, 454 F.3d 532, 540 (6th Cir. 2006). Because Plaintiffs had argued that they were hindered from accessing specific medical services under New Jersey's waiver program, we concluded that they had failed to state a claim requesting the appropriate type of assistance-financial assistance-under the Medicaid Act.

Plaintiff now argues that reconsideration is appropriate in light of the fact that the definition of ―medical assistance‖ has been amended to include the actual provision of medical services. (Br. in Supp. 3--5).

III. ANALYSIS

A.Legal Standard for Motion for Reconsideration

A motion for reconsideration, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e) and L. Civ. R. 7.1, may be brought on three grounds: (1) an intervening change in controlling law, (2) evidence not previously available, or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice. North River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995). Reconsideration is an extraordinary remedy which is to be granted ―very sparingly.‖ Interfaith Comty. Org. v. Honeywell Intern., Inc., 215 F. Supp. 2d 482, 507 (D.N.J. 2002). Here, Plaintiffs request reconsideration based on the first and third grounds.

A motion for reconsideration is not a vehicle for raising new matters or arguments that could have been raised before the original decision was made, Bowers v. NCAA, 130 F. Supp. 2d 610, 613 (D.N.J. 2001), nor is it an opportunity to ask a court to rethink what it has already thought through. Oritani S & L v. Fidelity & Deposit, 744 F. Supp. 1311, 1314 (D.N.J. 1990). Reconsideration based on a clear error of law may be granted only if there is a dispositive factual or legal matter that was presented but not considered which would have reasonably resulted in a different conclusion by the court. Champion Laboratories, Inc. v. Metex Corp., 677 F. Supp. 2d 748, 750 (D.N.J. 2010). However, a district court has considerable discretion to decide whether reconsideration is necessary to prevent manifest injustice.

B.The Amendment of the Definition of "Medical Assistance" Plaintiffs argue that there has been an intervening change in controlling law and that the Court must correct a clear error of law. (Br. in Supp. 3.) Specifically, Plaintiffs argue that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (―PPACA‖), enacted on March 23, 2010, changed the definition of ―medical assistance‖ in 42 U.S.C. § 1396d(a) from ―payment of part or all of the cost of the following care and services‖ to ―payment of part or all of the cost of the following care and services or the care and services ...


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