Though educated at Brown University (B.A., 1953) and Cornell Law School (LL.B., 1956), Joseph L. Tauro has enduring ties with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. His father served as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Before his own appointment to the District Court in 1972, he was assistant United States attorney, chief legal counsel to the governor, and then United States attorney for Massachusetts. He joined Boston University Law School as an adjunct professor in 1977. The following piece, "Judge Tauro and Care of the Retarded in Massachusetts," by Esther Scott, was a 1987 case study.*
On October 9, 1986, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro signed an order disengaging the federal courts from supervision of five state schools for the retarded in Massachusetts. The court had been involved in the schools since 1972, when parents of residents at Belchertown State School brought a class action suit against the state, alleging violations of their children's constitutional right to treatment. In the aftermath of that and similar suits brought by parents at four other schools, the state had signed a series of consent decrees detailing physical, personnel, and programmatic improvements it would implement under the watchful eyes of a court monitor and Judge Tauro.
In the years the decrees had been in effect, wrote Tauro in his disengagement order, ". . . we have significantly improved the quality of life for the retarded." He continued:
The filth, squalor and unsafe conditions that once characterized these institutions no longer exist. Instead, major capital projects at each of them have been completed or are in progress. Staffing levels have been dramatically increased, thereby providing truly professional supervision, as well as habilitative opportunities. In addition, a responsive program of community placement has been undertaken.