In 1930 the District tested 17-year-old Mattie Hoge, pronounced her severely retarded and institutionalized her at the city's Forest Haven facility in Laurel. For 57 years she has remained there.

Yesterday, a judge ordered the District to release Hoge, who is now 75, immediately and place her in a group home. Recent tests have shown her to have an IQ that could be as high as 95, or just below normal.

"We are dealing with an individual who . . . has spent 57 years of her life institutionalized, when in all likelihood she should never have been placed there at all," said D.C. Superior Court Judge Gladys Kessler.

Hoge was not retested until after a federal lawsuit was filed in 1978 on behalf of Forest Haven residents, demanding improvements in care and treatment. The elderly woman, who is now partially paralyzed from a stroke, is deaf and had never been tested by someone who could communicate with her.

Kessler, ruling in a suit filed on Hoge's behalf in 1985, ordered the city to come up with a timetable for moving the wheelchair-bound Hoge from Forest Haven to a group home for mildly retarded senior citizens at 2200 32nd Place SE. The District also was ordered to hire staff members who can communicate with the deaf woman, and to pay $55,350 to make the group home accessible to Hoge's wheelchair.

"This is a golden opportunity for this particular person, a person who may not have many years left," said Kessler.

"There's no way to right a wrong of 57 years," said Hoge's court-appointed guardian, Donna Waulken. "This does give her the opportunity to be able to live and benefit from life in the community. It's about time."

Court documents give this outline of her life: On Nov. 4, 1930, a psychological test determined her IQ was 34 and that she had a mental age of 5 to 6 years. But, the documents state, "No accommodation was made for {her} known hearing impairment and sign language was not used by the examiner." Hoge was not tested again for 48 years and no court reviewed her commitment from 1930 to 1984.

"This is not a unique case," said Sara Geer, an attorney with the National Association of the Deaf Legal Defense Fund. "There are many deaf people who have been misdiagnosed as mentally ill or mentally retarded."

Hoge, whose twin sister is a retired federal government employe, was placed in a foster home in 1924 after her mother died, but her foster parents reported she was difficult to control. In 1930, at age 17, she was placed in Forest Haven because her father was not financially able to care for her. Since 1972, she has been housed "with residents who are severely and profoundly retarded . . . with whom she is unable to communicate at all," according to court documents.

The city is under court order to close Forest Haven by next year, but witnesses said yesterday the process is at least two years behind schedule.

In 1985 Hoge's court-appointed lawyers filed a lawsuit on her behalf, asking that she be released immediately and that the city pay $5.5 million in damages. A trial to determine the monetary damages has been set for December.

For the past six weeks the lawyers have been in negotiations with city attorneys regarding Hoge's placement. The lawyers claimed in a motion that the city, "to this date, {has} done virtually nothing to accomplish {Hoge's} outplacement from Forest Haven."

In court, Kenneth Marty, assistant corporation counsel for the city, objected to moving the woman immediately, saying that Hoge needed constant medical attention and that a court order would give her "preferential treatment," moving her ahead of other Forest Haven residents scheduled to be released in the next few months.

Kessler disagreed, noting that Hoge's mental condition was not examined for 48 years and that the current lawsuit, filed two years ago, was still unsettled.

Marty said he did not know whether the order would be appealed.

Karen Schneider, one of Hoge's attorneys, observed that it is "difficult to say what she understands. She knows there is something going on about moving. I don't think she'll truly understand until she experiences it."