Recorded history of mental retardation predates defined knowledge of many other areas of disability. Yet society continues to have difficulties dealing with this handicap. Disparate views regarding appropriate housing of the mentally retarded have resulted in increased litigation during recent years. Specifically, courts have been asked to determine whether mentally retarded persons, who cannot live alone, have a right to reside in community group homes. Nebraska, although a leader in the field of agency placement services for the mentally retarded, has not been immune to this wave of litigation. A recent state district court case, Knudtson v. Trainor (Trendwood), demonstrates that Nebraska's progressive state agencies are not the entire solution to the dilemma of caring for the mentally retarded and assimilating them into the community. Although the trial court's decision in Trendwood represented a victory for advocates of the rights of the mentally handicapped in Nebraska, their battle is not finished, as the case is currently on appeal to the Nebraska Supreme Court. Not surprisingly, the strongest resistance to the establishment of community group homes comes from private homeowners. These homeowners argue that residential zoning restrictions and deeded restrictive covenants prohibit the operation of group homes in their neighborhoods. The methods by which other state courts have disposed of this issue have not been consistent. In some states, legislatures have resolved the issue by enacting statutes that preempt local zoning ordinances. However, at least one state statute has been successfully challenged by a municipality with a restrictive zoning ordinance. Despite this inconsistent treatment, there appears to be a trend permitting the establishment of group homes. This Comment demonstrates that in light of the trend of litigation in other states, Trendwood was correctly decided. In doing so, the rationale underlying the decisions affecting the mentally retardeds’ housing is explored, as are the arguments put forth by both the advocates of the mentally retarded and the homeowners who oppose the infiltration of group homes into their communities.
Patricia A. Burdyny,
Is the Group Home "Like a Pig in the Parlor"?,
62 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol62/iss4/4