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BOONE v. TATE (01/05/72)


decided: January 5, 1972.


Appeal from the Final Decree of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, in case of George and Patricia Boone, Individually and as Parents and Natural Guardians of Kenneth Boone, a Minor, Minnie Jackson and Yvonne Armstrong, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, v. James H. J. Tate, Mayor of Philadelphia, Fred T. Corleto, Managing Director of the City of Philadelphia, Romanus J. Buckley, Director of Finance of the City of Philadelphia, Norman R. Ingraham, M.D., Commissioner of Public Health of the City of Philadelphia, Earl Perloff, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Philadelphia General Hospital and all other members of said Board of Trustees as follows: Thomas J. Mullaney, Esquire, Samuel Evans, John Harrington, Raymond Hemmert and John Facenda, Elton W. Barclay, Executive Director of Philadelphia General Hospital, The Members of the Board of Health as follows: Julian C. Wessel, D.D.S., Leroy E. Burney, M.D., Leroy E. Brothers, Nubar A. Karakashian, M.D., Isidor Melamed, George Shucker, M.D. and James P. Quindlen, M.D., No. 713, Equity Docket, December Term, 1970.


Deborah G. Green, with her Douglas G. Dye, Jonathan M. Stein and Harvey N. Schmidt, Community Legal Services, Inc., for appellants.

John M. McNally, Jr., First Deputy City Solicitor, with him John Mattioni, Deputy City Solicitor, and Levy Anderson, City Solicitor, for appellees.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Manderino, Mencer and Rogers. Opinion by President Judge Bowman.

Author: Bowman

[ 4 Pa. Commw. Page 103]

The origin of this appeal is a class action complaint in equity filed in December of 1970, essentially directed against a job freeze order of the Mayor of Philadelphia which encompassed certain employees and staff positions at the Philadelphia General Hospital and against a contemplated dismissal of a substantial number of hospital employees and staff under a similar administrative order.

These actions were taken because of an alleged financial crisis developing in the fiscal year which had begun July 1, 1970, caused, at least in part, by wage increases won by city employees but not budgeted. The thrust of the complaint in equity is that the City of Philadelphia has a legal obligation under pertinent statutes and ordinances or as a matter of constitutional law to provide minimally adequate general hospital care to its indigent citizens.

Shortly after the complaint was filed, the administrative action to dismiss certain personnel of the hospital was rescinded. The case then proceeded through hearings on application for preliminary injunction (which resulted in dissolution of one granted ex parte) and on permanent injunction, which was denied and from which final decree this appeal was taken on June 2, 1971.

On July 1, 1971, a new fiscal year began for the City of Philadelphia for which a new budget has been adopted. The job freeze -- the core of the controversy in this litigation -- expired at the time of the adoption of the new budget of the City and the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Under these circumstances the City contends the appeal is non-justiciable and moot. Plaintiff appellants, citing United States v. W.T. Grant Co., 345 U.S. 629

[ 4 Pa. Commw. Page 104]

(1953) and Moore v. Ogilvie, 394 U.S. 814 (1969), urge us to decide the appeal on the merits because the issue although moot is one of public importance and the possibility that similar administrative action may be repeated and yet escape judicial review.

This matter is, of course, of great public importance. However, assuming the correctness of appellants' contention that indigent persons are legally and constitutionally entitled to minimally adequate general hospital care provided by the City, the extent of the City's duty would depend upon all the circumstances existing at a given time including other similarly mandated public needs and the public means. Conceivably, there could be a judicial determination that the performance of the duty might be declared to have been inadequate, adequate, or properly temporarily suspended or contracted based upon circumstances then existent.

For us to make a conclusion of law susceptible to such varying results in application in the vacuum of this moot case would, in our judgment, produce no definable result. The decision sought by the appellants should await a case which is not moot.

The appeal is dismissed without prejudice; each party to pay its own costs.


Appeal dismissed.


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