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Federal appeals court to 'expedite' a Florida nursing home kids case

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A federal appeals court has agreed to speed up holding a hearing in Florida’s appeal of a ruling that would require changes aimed at keeping children with complex medical conditions out of nursing homes.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in an order Tuesday that it would “expedite” oral arguments in the legal battle between the state and the U.S. Department of Justice. Nevertheless, the arguments will not happen until after final briefs are filed on Dec. 6, according to a schedule in the order.

A federal appeals court has agreed to speed up holding a hearing in Florida’s appeal of a ruling that would require changes aimed at keeping children with complex medical conditions out of nursing homes.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in an order Tuesday that it would “expedite” oral arguments in the legal battle between the state and the U.S. Department of Justice. Nevertheless, the arguments will not happen until after final briefs are filed on Dec. 6, according to a schedule in the order.

U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks in July sided with the Justice Department in a decade-long dispute about whether the state was improperly institutionalizing children who often require round-the-clock care and have needs such as ventilators, feeding tubes and breathing tubes. Middlebrooks wrote that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires the state to provide services in the most “integrated setting appropriate” to meet the needs of people with disabilities. He also cited a major 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said “undue institutionalization” of people with disabilities is a form of discrimination.

In an accompanying injunction, Middlebrooks required the state to provide more private-duty nursing to help children live with their families or in their communities, rather than in nursing facilities.

The state is seeking a stay of the injunction while the appeal moves forward — a request that the Justice Department is fighting. The state filed a motion Aug. 21 requesting expedited arguments in the case.

“Good cause exists to encourage swift resolution of this appeal,” the motion said. “The district court’s injunction imposes dozens of obligations on the state. The injunction’s deadlines for the state’s compliance, as well as the heavy financial burdens required to work towards compliance, have quickly begun to accumulate.”

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