Bedford v. Sugarman, 55358-1

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Washington
Citation112 Wn.2d 500,772 P.2d 486
Decision Date04 May 1989
Docket NumberNo. 55358-1,55358-1
Parties, 57 USLW 2670 Sheryl BEDFORD and Donna Norburn, et al., on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Respondents, v. Jule SUGARMAN, Secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services; Gerald Reilly, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services; Milo Kurle, Acting Director, Bureau of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Department of Social and Health Services, Appellants.

Kenneth Eikenberry, Atty. Gen., Janet Frickelton, Asst. Atty. Gen., Lacey, for appellants.

Evergreen Legal Services, Deborah Perluss, Stan Taylor, Seattle, for respondents.

DURHAM, Justice.

The present case, before this court on direct review from a judgment of the Thurston County Superior Court, tests the constitutionality of a state program providing in-kind food and shelter assistance to indigent alcoholics and drug addicts. The trial court held that the program infringes on the constitutional rights of its intended beneficiaries by requiring them to move into designated shelters in order to receive benefits. We reverse.


The shelter assistance program at issue here was established by a 1987 legislative enactment, the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Treatment and Support Act (ADATSA). Laws of 1987, ch. 406 (codified at RCW 74.50). ADATSA effected a significant change in state assistance to indigent individuals who are unemployable as a result of alcoholism or drug addiction. Prior to the act's enactment, such individuals received cash grants for food and shelter under the General Assistance-Unemployable (GA-U) program. 1 Former RCW 74.04.005(6). ADATSA substituted for these cash benefits an in-kind "program of treatment and shelter". RCW 74.50.030; see Laws of 1987, ch. 406, § 9 (amending former RCW 74.04.005(6)).

The substitution of in-kind assistance for cash benefits was proposed by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), with principally two justifications. First, the agency felt a shift to an in-kind benefits program would "remove any incentive for itinerant alcoholics to come to Washington State solely for the purpose of receiving cash grants." Second, the agency cited the need to prevent assistance recipients from using their grants to buy alcohol and drugs. DSHS Proposal for Restructuring Assistance to Alcoholics and Drug Addicts (January 22, 1987), at 5. According to one DSHS official involved in the development of ADATSA, the elimination of cash benefits would

correct an absurd situation which existed in the [GA-U] program. Under the [GA-U] program unemployed alcoholics and drug addicts were provided cash assistance from the state as long as they continued to drink and take drugs, but if they stopped drinking and abusing drugs, their cash assistance grants would be cut off. In essence, the state provided an incentive for persons to continue to drink and to abuse drugs, which in turn served as a disincentive to take the necessary steps to recover from the addiction.... The purpose of ADATSA was first to remove the cash subsidy for persons leading alcoholic/drug addicted lifestyles and to provide alcohol and drug treatment for those persons who wanted to recover from alcoholism or drug addiction and were willing to commit themselves to the recovery process.

Declaration of Glen Miller, at 1-2. These purposes were made express in the ADATSA statute. See RCW 74.50.010(2), (3).

As originally enacted, ADATSA called for the establishment of a "shelter assistance program to ensure the availability of shelter for persons eligible under this chapter." Laws of 1987, ch. 406, § 7. DSHS implemented this program by making available to beneficiaries "basic room and board services in a supervised and protected environment" at designated shelters operated under contract with the Department. Department of Social and Health Services, ADATSA Implementation Plan 4 (July 1987); see also WAC 388-40-100 (Supp.1987).

In September 1987, respondents commenced this class-action suit 2 in Thurston County Superior Court, challenging DSHS's implementation of the ADATSA shelter assistance program as inconsistent with the ADATSA statute and violative of class members' constitutional rights of privacy, freedom of movement, and freedom of association. In November 1987 the trial court sustained the challenge on the statutory grounds alone, and issued a permanent injunction enjoining DSHS "from denying shelter assistance ... which allows [beneficiaries] to remain in or acquire their own homes or other independent housing, and meet their basic living needs." In compliance with this injunction, DSHS modified its ADATSA implementation policy so that shelter assistance beneficiaries, instead of being required to move into dormitory facilities, could receive cash assistance through a protective payee.

DSHS appealed the trial court's ruling to this court, but before the case could be heard, won vindication for its group shelter policy in the Legislature. In March 1988, the Legislature added to the ADATSA statute the following language:

"Shelter," "shelter support," or "shelter assistance" means a facility under contract to the department providing room and board in a supervised living arrangement, normally in a group or dormitory setting ...

Laws of 1988, ch. 163, § 4 (amending RCW 74.50.060).

Three days after enactment of this amendatory language, DSHS ordered its administrators to "IMMEDIATELY CEASE OFFERING SHELTER ASSISTANCE IN INDEPENDENT HOUSING AS AN OPTION FOR NEW APPLICANTS ... WHO WANT THE SHELTER TRACK." 3 In May 1988, respondents moved that DSHS be held in contempt for violating the November 1987 injunction. Respondents also asked the court to reaffirm that injunction on the constitutional grounds asserted in its original complaint.

During hearings on respondents' motions, the trial court noted that since the March 1988 amendment to the statute had removed the legal justification for the November injunction, the injunction could no longer be sustained in its original form. The court issued a new injunctive order, however, on the grounds that the ADATSA shelter program violates respondents' rights of privacy and association under both the United States and Washington Constitutions. 4 We granted DSHS's timely motion for direct review.


We first address two arguments advanced by DSHS challenging the trial court's injunctive order on procedural grounds. DSHS contends that the modification and reinstatement of the November 1987 injunction was improper because it was based on legal issues not raised in the initial proceedings. A second challenge contests respondents' standing to maintain the present action.

It is well established that a court may modify or vacate an injunction in light of changes in applicable law. See 11 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice § 2961, at 604-05, 609-10 (1973). Thus, the trial court acted properly in modifying the original injunction after the Legislature had amended the ADATSA statute. It was also proper for the court to address respondents' constitutional claims after the statutory grounds for the injunction had evaporated. Though the constitutional challenge to the 1988 legislative amendments obviously could not have been raised when this litigation began in 1987, DSHS is incorrect in characterizing this challenge as raising new legal issues. The 1988 amendments did little more than codify DSHS's policy for implementing the original ADATSA statute. By asserting against the 1988 amendments the same constitutional claims they raised in their earlier challenge to the implementation policy, respondents raise no new issues.

DSHS next asserts that respondents lack standing because only one of them, Barry Gearhart, lives in an ADATSA shelter, and he is there only as a temporary measure while awaiting federal supplemental security income benefits. The agency offers no convincing reason why residency in an ADATSA shelter should be a necessary precondition for standing to challenge the group shelter program, however. Any effect the requirement of group residency has on beneficiaries' rights is the same whether a beneficiary moves into a shelter or is denied aid for his refusal to do so. In either situation, the beneficiary has "the requisite 'personal stake in the outcome of the controversy' necessary to request an adjudication of the merits of this case." DeFunis v. Odegaard, 82 Wash.2d 11, 24, 507 P.2d 1169 (1973), vacated as moot, 416 U.S. 312, 94 S.Ct. 1704, 40 L.Ed.2d 164 (1974) (quoting Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 99, 88 S.Ct. 1942, 1952, 20 L.Ed.2d 947 (1968)).

That a beneficiary resides in a shelter only temporarily is also no impediment to his standing, or to that of the class. Aid recipients regularly will experience changes in their eligibilities and economic circumstances. The law of standing should accommodate these changes, lest important suits be ever evasive of adjudication. See Conklin v. Shinpoch, 107 Wash.2d 410, 414 n. 1, 730 P.2d 643 (1986); In re Patterson, 90 Wash.2d 144, 149, 579 P.2d 1335 (1978).


Our analysis of the constitutional validity of the ADATSA shelter program should properly first address the rights asserted by respondents under the Washington Constitution. See State v. Coe, 101 Wash.2d 364, 373-74, 679 P.2d 353 (1984). Respondents have alleged, and the trial court agreed, that the shelter program violates Const. art. 1, § 7, which provides: "No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law."

In prior decisions, we have examined the scope of the protection article 1, section 7 affords against certain governmental searches and seizures. See, e.g., State v. Stroud, 106 Wash.2d 144, 720 P.2d 436 (1986); State v. Gunwall, 106 Wash.2d 54, 720 P.2d 808 (1986); State v. Myrick, 102 Wash.2d 506, 688 P.2d 151 (1984). We have not, however,...

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