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SPRINGFIELD — A state appeals court has ruled in favor of a group of parents trying to stop Gov. Pat Quinn from closing a state-run developmental center in Centralia.

In a decision released Wednesday, the 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon turned back attempts by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office to dismiss the case.

The decision means a public guardian appointed to oversee some residents of the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center can continue in his position.

The ruling stems from a decision last year in which attorney Stewart Freeman was named as the legal guardian of 28 Murray residents after questions were raised about the representation they were receiving from a state guardian.

In his position, Freeman has the power to block the state from taking certain steps to move the residents out of Murray, potentially stymieing the governor's push to shutter the facility.

In its decision, the appeals court wrote that the lower court had been precise in describing Freeman's role in the process.

The court also noted that the current setup ensures that the best interests of the residents "be considered over political and budgetary considerations surrounding the closure of Murray."

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"Today's ruling is really a good sign," said Rita Winkeler, president of the Murray Parents Association. "It shows the court cares if people are going to be harmed by being moved."

In addition to the Freeman decision, a separate federal lawsuit has put the closure in limbo as supporters of the facility fight to keep it open.

"We're just hoping (the federal case) goes the same way as the state court case has gone," said Wylie Blair, a St. Louis attorney representing the families.

Winkeler said the group continues to fight to keep Murray open as both a facility for the developmentally disabled and a source of jobs in the region.

Quinn had hoped to have the facility emptied by October 2013 as part of a statewide initiative aimed at closing large institutions. He already has closed the developmental center in Jacksonville.

A spokesman for the Department of Human Services did not immediately respond to questions about the decision.

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