NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) - Big news from Jenny Hatch – the 29-year-old with Down Syndrome who won her independence in court is taking her victory to Washington.
For nearly a year, Hatch fought against her mother’s wish that she live in a group home. But in August she won the right to live where she wants – with couple Jim Talbert and Kelly Morris, who employ her and help her find purpose.
"It was an amazing victory for Jenny and everyone else," said Jenny's attorney, Jonathan Martinis, who works for Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities. "I think we are really going to get somewhere in the guardianship world. If someone asks for a guardian to be appointed, the Judge will now ask ‘what have you tried other than guardianship? What are the other options you have looked into?’"
In the effort of stretching the limitations of the guardianship world, the Jenny Hatch Justice Project will launch online Thursday at American University in D.C. The project will be a resource for those trying to win guardianship legal battles.
"If lawyers need to know what happened in Jenny’s case and what they can do in other cases, they’ll have access to good information, training, research and resources,” Martinis said. “Also, anyone can request services or assistance through the website.”
And Martinis hopes the resource will be so accessible and so utilized that the Jenny Hatch Justice Project will eventually pop up as a top result in a Google search for “Guardianship.”
"They will be able to go there and get information on the latest research on supported decision making in guardianship cases,” Martinis said. “They will be able to hear about the whole case, and they will be able to see transcripts form Jenny's case.”
Martinis said the Jenny Hatch Justice Project is born out of the attention given to the Jenny Hatch case.
“Jenny’s case was covered in Japan,” Martinis said. “Jenny really got lucky … she got lucky because she had … WAVY 10 that brought Jenny to the attention of not just Newport News, but the world.”
The Jenny Hatch case was ultimately about how people with disabilities make decisions.
"When you or I seek help, we go to an accountant, a doctor, a lawyer, and it's seen as a positive. However, when people like Jenny seek help it's seen as a negative, that they aren't capable of taking care of themselves,” Martinis said. “Nothing is further from the truth, and we hope the Jenny Hatch Justice Project continues to prove that.”
Now, after winning her independence, Jenny is often asked to appear at events, and she gives speeches about her story. She is setting an example for others who were in the same tough spot she was, and now she's now living life the way she wants to.
"I love my store, and I thank God I won my case," said Hatch while working at the Village Thrift Store on Warwick Boulevard in Newport News.
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