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COUNTY ALLEGHENY ET AL. v. DEPARTMENT PUBLIC WELFARE COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA ET AL. (08/04/77)

decided: August 4, 1977.

THE COUNTY OF ALLEGHENY ET AL., PLAINTIFFS
v.
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA ET AL., DEFENDANTS



Original jurisdiction in case of The County of Allegheny, a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Allegheny County Chapter Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens, Inc., a non-profit corporation; Combined Parents Legislative Action Committee, a non-profit corporation; Parent's Association of Allegheny Valley Junior School, an unincorporated association; Parent's Association of Allegheny Valley Senior School, an unincorporated association; Gilbert M. Gerber and Dahlia Gerber, his wife; Robert Ponicall and Norma Ponicall, his wife; and William M. Brant and Phyllis L. Brant, his wife, v. Department of Public Welfare of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Frank S. Beal, as Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

COUNSEL

Alexander J. Jaffurs, County Solicitor, with him Robert S. Barker, Assistant County Solicitor, and Loraine S. Tabakin, Assistant County Solicitor, for plaintiff.

Margaret Hunting, Deputy Attorney General, with her Norman J. Watkins, Deputy Attorney General, Jack G. Handler, Deputy Attorney General, and Robert P. Kane, Attorney General, for defendants.

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

Author: Kramer

[ 31 Pa. Commw. Page 380]

This is an action in mandamus commenced by the County of Allegheny and numerous associations and individuals (Plaintiffs) and which seeks an order compelling the Department of Public Welfare (Department) to reimburse the County for all expenditures made for the interim care of mentally retarded persons who have been accepted by, and are awaiting admission to, a State facility. The case is presently before us on the Plaintiffs' motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.

[ 31 Pa. Commw. Page 381]

Under the provisions of the Mental Health and Retardation Act of 1966 (Act),*fn1 the Commonwealth and the counties participate on a cooperative basis in the effort to provide adequate facilities and services for all persons suffering from mental deficiencies or disorders. One aspect of this cooperative effort involves the provision of interim care of mentally retarded persons who have been removed from their homes and accepted for admission to a State facility, pending an available opening in such a facility. Section 301(d)(8)*fn2 of the Act imposes upon the counties the duty to assure the availability of interim care. Section 507(a)(4)*fn3 of the Act imposes upon the Commonwealth the duty to pay for such interim care. The present controversy arises out of the disagreement between the parties as to the extent of the Commonwealth's duty to pay for interim care under Section 507. The Plaintiffs contend that the Commonwealth must provide 100 percent reimbursement to the counties and seek such reimbursement for fiscal years 1969-70 to the present and continuing thenceforth. The Department contends that it is obligated to reimburse only at rates determined in accordance with a reasonable formula established at the Department's discretion.

Numerous issues have been briefed and argued by the parties. Unfortunately, the present posture of the case does not permit us to rule on the Plaintiffs' motion for Judgment on the Pleadings at this time.

The Department has alleged in its answer, under the heading of "New Matter," that this Court lacks jurisdiction over the case because of the Plaintiffs' failure to join, as defendants, the Auditor General

[ 31 Pa. Commw. Page 382]

    and the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, who are alleged to be indispensable parties.

Although granted by the law side of the court, mandamus is essentially equitable in nature, requiring the application of equitable principles to guide the court in granting relief by way of this extraordinary writ. Francis v. Corleto, 418 Pa. 417, 429, 211 A.2d 503, 509 (1965); Pittenger v. Union Area School Board, 24 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 442, 446, 356 A.2d 866, 868 (1976). Under the equity practice, the non-joinder of an indispensable party is a jurisdictional defect, and without such a party's presence the court can grant no relief. Fineman v. Cutler, 273 Pa. 189, 116 A. 819 (1922); Hartley v. Langkamp and Elder, 243 Pa. 550, 90 A. 402 (1914). This is likewise true in an action in mandamus. ...


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