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DOWNS v. DEPARTMENT OF PUB. WELFARE

December 28, 1973

Leonard DOWNS et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE et al., Defendants


Clifford Scott Green, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN

CLIFFORD SCOTT GREEN, District Judge.

Before this Court is the defendants' motion to dismiss this civil rights action seeking damages and declaratory and injunctive relief to end the alleged "forced labor" of mental hospital patients in Pennsylvania. The named plaintiffs, *fn1" and the class they seek to represent, sue state agencies and officials, individually *fn2" and in their representative capacity, who, allegedly, acting under color of state law, and in conspiracy with one another, deprived the plaintiffs of their right to be free from involuntary servitude and cruel and unusual punishment and their right not to be denied life, liberty, or property without due process of law.

 Plaintiffs claim jurisdiction is conferred on this Court by Title 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, *fn3" 1343 *fn4" as actions based on the Eighth, *fn5" Thirteenth *fn6" and Fourteenth *fn7" Amendments to the United States Constitution, as authorized by Title 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, 1988; Title 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201, 2202, *fn8" and F.R. Civ. P. 57 and 65.

 The named plaintiffs seek to represent a class consisting of all present and former patients of Pennsylvania mental institutions.

 COMPLAINT

 In light of the various contentions of the parties, it will be useful at this point, to list and describe the parties, summarize the allegations of the complaint, and note the specific relief requested.

 The original named plaintiffs are: Leonard Downs and Benjamin Lodeski, who have been patients at Haverford State Hospital; Charles Simon, who was incarcerated in three Pennsylvania mental institutions from 1938 to 1969 including Farview; Allan Siekierski, who has been a patient at Haverford State Hospital on at least six occasions since 1966, most recently beginning in November, 1972. The named intervenor-plaintiffs are: William Trauger, who was hospitalized at Haverford State Hospital almost constantly from 1968 to the present; Robert H. Esser, who was incarcerated at Farview State Hospital in 1959 and at Retreat State Hospital in 1972; and Herbert E. Baird, who was incarcerated in Norristown State Hospital intermittently from 1962 through 1966.

 The defendants are the Department of Public Welfare, which supervises all activities of the Pennsylvania mental institutions and has the power to enforce relevant law and issue regulations (50 P.S. §§ 4201(2), 4202(a)); Haverford State Hospital, which is a Pennsylvania mental institution and facility (50 P.S. § 4102); *fn9" Helene Wohlgemuth, who is Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare, charged with exercising its powers and duties (71 P.S. § 66); William B. Beach, Jr., who is Deputy Secretary for Mental Health, Department of Public Welfare and has general supervision over Pennsylvania mental institutions; Jack Kremens, who is Hospital Director at Haverford (50 P.S. § 4102); and Ogden Hackett, who is the head of the Vocational Adjustment Services (VAS) at Haverford and who supervises the work assignments and compensation.

 The work programs and alleged forced labor at Haverford Hospital are set out in some detail and this pattern is said to be maintained by the defendants in all Pennsylvania mental institutions. Much of the work is alleged to be solely for the economic benefit of the institutions, non-therapeutic, and often degrading.

 The description of the Haverford work program is divided into three parts: Vocational Adjustment Service (VAS), Ward Assignments and the Snack Bar.

 It is alleged that the VAS is a work program based on the theory that it is therapeutic for the patients to work every day. Typically the work day is from 9:00 to 11:30 A.M. and 1:30 to 3:30 P.M. each week day. Generally, patients are forced to do the labor in this program, although, it is admitted, some patients work voluntarily. Assignments to tasks are made by VAS or doctors. Patients are not compensated for work which they do for the benefit of the institution and, although, by policy, patients are to receive 75% of any money paid for work done for the personal benefit of staff, the inmates rarely receive anything. Although some of the work projects do not benefit the state or institution financially, generally, they do receive direct substantial benefits from patient labor. Almost invariably, the labor is non-therapeutic. Some of the forced labor includes repairing outdoor benches, sewing rag rugs, repair work in an electrical shop, furniture repair and refinishing, delivering messages, selling food in the snack bar, dish-washing, janitorial work, grounds maintenance, and car washing. The source of coercion is said to be the boredom of institutional life and the belief of patients that it will be advantageous to them to appear to cooperate with the institution.

 It is further alleged that ward assignments include janitorial and other maintenance work in their institutional wards including jobs not related to personal housekeeping. This work is uncompensated. The named plaintiffs and their class members are compelled to perform these tasks. Coercion results from deprivation of the right to leave the ward on "grounds" privileges or being otherwise restricted. Such punishment is regularly applied when assignments are not performed. Similar allegations are made with respect to the Snack Bar, except that some minimal compensation is said to be the policy; although, frequently it is not received.

 Generally then, it is alleged that patients are forced to do various job functions and that the coercion results from the boredom of institutional life, the perception of patients of pressure from authorities to work, and outright denial of privileges for failure to work.

 In addition to the allegation that all the original named plaintiffs were forced to do ward assignments, there are specific allegations as to each of the named plaintiffs. The work, "assigned" and "arranged", covers the entire variety noted above with some of it allegedly forced, at low or no compensation, and with promised compensation not having been received. More specifically on the details of coercion, Charles Simon alleges he was forced to work while at Farview Hospital because non-working inmates were severely and maliciously harassed and intimidated by guards.

 The named intervenor plaintiffs have also set out in detail the work which they allegedly were forced to perform some of which is much more laborious than that set out in the original complaint. More specifically as to details of coercion, Herbert Baird alleges he was told that he had to perform his assigned work in order to get out of the hospital.

 The plaintiffs, for themselves and all others similarly situated, seek an injunction restraining defendants from compelling patients of mental institutions to labor and from paying such patients less than reasonable wages for voluntary labor; a declaratory judgment that forced labor in mental institutions with or without compensation violates the Eighth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments; damages against defendants for the reasonable value of the labor performed by plaintiffs and their class; damages in the amount of $1,000,000 against defendants for conspiring to deprive plaintiffs of their civil rights and for failing to prevent or aid in preventing the violations; costs and reasonable attorneys fees; and such other relief as appropriate.

 CONTENTIONS

 The defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to F.R. Civ. P. 12(b) (2) and 12(b) (6), on the grounds that the Court lacks jurisdiction over all the defendants; that all the plaintiffs lack the capacity to sue; that plaintiff, Simon, lacks standing to sue; and that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In addition, the defendants move for a more definite statement pursuant to F.R. Civ. P. 12(e).

 For reasons set forth hereinafter, defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint is granted as to the defendants, the Department of Public Welfare and Haverford State Hospital; the motion to dismiss is granted as to the other defendants on the claims based on 42 U.S.C. § 1985; the motion to dismiss is granted, without prejudice, as to the damage claims against the individual ...


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