Clark v. Cohen, 85-1452

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
Citation794 F.2d 79
Docket NumberNo. 85-1452,85-1452
PartiesCarolyn CLARK v. Walter S. COHEN, Individually and in his official capacity as Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Jennifer L. Howse, Individually and in her official capacity as Deputy Secretary for Mental Retardation of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Russell G. Rice, Jr., Individually and in his official capacity as Commissioner of Mental Retardation, Southeast Region, Department of Public Welfare, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, S. Reeves Power, Individually and in his official capacity as Superintendent of Laurelton Center, Richard C. Surles, Individually and in his official capacity as the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Administrator of Philadelphia County, C. Everett Cornman, Centralized Comprehensive Human Services, Inc., James F. Wood, in his official capacity as the Acting Director of the JFK Community Mental Health/Mental Retardation Program, Scott McBride and Florence Kirshheirmer. Appeal of Walter S. COHEN, Jennifer L. Howse, Russell Rice and S. Reeves Power
Decision Date26 June 1986

Thomas K. Gilhool, Judith A. Gran, Timothy M. Cook, Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., 19107 for amicus curiae.

LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Atty. Gen., John G. Knorr, III (argued), Andrew S. Gordon, Sr. Deputy Atty. Gens., Allen C. Warshaw, Executive Deputy Atty., Litigation Section, Harrisburg, Pa., for appellants.

Stephen F. Gold, (argued), Ilene W. Shane, Caryl Andrew Oberman, Philadelphia, Pa., for appellee.

Before GIBBONS, SLOVITER and BECKER, Circuit Judges.


GIBBONS, Circuit Judge:

Walter S. Cohen, Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare of Pennsylvania, Jennifer L. Howse, Deputy Secretary for Mental Retardation of that Department, Russell G. Rice, Jr., Commissioner of Mental Retardation, Southeast Region of that Department, and S. Reeves Power, Superintendent of Laurelton Center (the Commonwealth defendants) appeal from an injunction entered by the district court on June 21, 1985, directing that they release the plaintiff, Carolyn Clark, from Laurelton Center and pay for a program of services for Clark outside that state institution. The injunction resolves Clark's claims for injunctive relief, but not her claims for money damages. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1292(a)(1) (1982). We affirm.


Clark is a forty-five year old woman who was confined at Laurelton Center, a state-run institution for care of the mentally retarded, from the time she was fifteen years old until she was released as a result of the order appealed from. In July of 1984 she filed a complaint against the Commonwealth defendants, and several officials of and contractors for the County of Philadelphia (County defendants), alleging that her confinement at Laurelton violated her first and fourteenth amendment rights and her rights under several federal and state statutes. The complaint as amended sought declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief. Clark contended that she should not have been confined at Laurelton, and that as a result of her long confinement she could not immediately function in a completely unstructured environment. Thus she sought short-term placement in a community living arrangement (CLA) supervised by the County defendants. 1

After extensive discovery, the parties filed a 183-paragraph stipulation as to the truth, but not necessarily the relevancy, of certain facts. Prior to any hearing, the County defendants and Clark reached a settlement under which they agreed to place her in a county CLA within 120 days, provided the Commonwealth defendants paid the cost of such placement. The County defendants also agreed to develop for Clark a community placement best suited to her needs, and to have expert witnesses testify on her behalf as to the appropriateness of the proposed community placement and the necessity for such placement.

On May 28, 1985 the district court commenced a hearing on Clark's application for preliminary injunctive relief. Her counsel represented to the court that he would present, in addition to the stipulated facts, the testimony of several witnesses, but that the stipulation and those witnesses would comprise Clark's entire case on injunctive relief. The court therefore treated the hearing as an application for a permanent injunction. Clark presented her own testimony, and the testimony of her caseworker at Laurelton, of the Superintendent of Laurelton, of the Director of Social and Rehabilitative Services at Laurelton, of the Director of the Bureau of Planning and Resource Allocation of the Department of Public Welfare, and of several expert witnesses. The stipulation of facts executed by the parties was admitted into evidence, together with fifty-six exhibits. The exhibits included the Laurelton records with respect to Clark's stay there. The attorney for the Commonwealth cross-examined the witnesses offered on Clark's behalf, but introduced no evidence in opposition to the application for injunctive relief.

On June 21, 1985 the trial court filed detailed findings of fact and conclusions of law. Noting that the parties had entered into a comprehensive stipulation of facts, the trial court wrote that his narrative statement "together with the stipulation constitutes my findings of fact." Clark v. Cohen, 613 F.Supp. 684, 686 (E.D.Pa.1985). Thus in reviewing the trial court's findings of fact we must look both to the narrative statement and to the stipulation. Reference to those findings will be made hereafter as relevant to the Commonwealth defendants' legal contentions.

The trial court held that Clark had been deprived of liberty without procedural due process of law and of substantive liberty interests guaranteed by the fourteenth amendment. The court, therefore, determined that she was entitled to injunctive relief. The court entered an order directing the County defendants to take those steps on Clark's behalf that they had agreed to take in the settlement; namely developing a program of community services for her that would permit her to live in a CLA. The court further instructed the Commonwealth defendants to "immediately commit to Philadelphia Mental Health Mental Retardation those funds necessary to pay for the program of community services" and to "arrange for the transfer of plaintiff to this program." Joint Appendix at 50. This appeal by the Commonwealth defendants followed.


Because the injunction was not stayed, the County defendants proceeded to develop a plan for Clark's placement in a CLA, and she was released from Laurelton. On February 2, 1986 reports in the press disclosed that the Commonwealth defendants no longer opposed her release, and would not seek her return if they prevailed on appeal. 2 This court requested counsel to comment on the possible mootness of the appeal in light of the fact that the Commonwealth defendants no longer sought to have Clark returned to Laurelton.

Both parties contend, and we agree, that the appeal is not moot. A mootness ruling would require that the underlying order be vacated. See United States v. Munsingwear, 340 U.S. 36, 39-40, 71 S.Ct. 104, 106-07, 95 L.Ed. 36 (1950). That might result in the withdrawal of community services now being furnished by the County defendants since Clark's settlement with them is contingent upon funding by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, while it has no intention of seeking her return to Laurelton, is unwilling to continue such funding if it can obtain relief from the funding provision in the injunction. While a vacation of the injunction would accomplish all the relief the Commonwealth now seeks, it would deprive Clark of a significant protection. Thus we must address the merits of the Commonwealth defendants' appeal.


The appeal presents two independent contentions. The Commonwealth defendants first urge that, assuming they violated Clark's substantive and procedural rights, the eleventh amendment bars any relief other than an order releasing her from their custody. They contend, alternatively, that no relief was proper because no violations of Clark's constitutional rights occurred.

A. The Eleventh Amendment Contention

The district court found that the violation of Clark's constitutional rights by her long, illegal confinement at Laurelton without proper treatment caused a deterioration in her ability to function at the present time in an unstructured environment. "But for the then well-intentioned intervention of the state," the court observed, "Ms. Clark could most likely have lived an average life." 613 F.Supp. at 707. The Commonwealth stipulated that "[i]n the opinion of [James] Pelter and of Elizabeth Kaster, [two members of the] Laurelton Center social service staff, Carolyn Clark's need for support services stems primarily from her institutionalization since age 15." Joint Appendix at 376. No evidence conflicting with that opinion was offered by the Commonwealth defendants. They stipulated further that "[s]ince at least 1976, it has been the recommendation of the team at Laurelton Center that Carolyn Clark be placed in a community living arrangement." Joint Appendix at 377. It was stipulated that as long ago as 1976 her Laurelton case worker recommended "that she would be most appropriate for a supervised foster home or group placement." Joint Appendix at 378. It was also stipulated that it was the opinion of Laurelton case worker James Pelter, who was familiar with Clark's case, "that her major difficulties were in the behavioral area and that these difficulties were largely due to being institutionalized since age 15." Joint Appendix at 383. Having stipulated that their own professional staff members attributed Clark's present need for supervision to her long institutionalization and having offered no contrary...

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