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FARR v. CHESNEY

November 15, 1977

JO-ANN FARR, Plaintiff
v.
WINSTON R. CHESNEY, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MUIR

 Farr contends that the most appropriate equitable remedy for the violation of her due process rights would be an award of back pay for the days of work she lost as a result of the Defendants' improper termination of her services on May 17, 1976. Farr argues that such an award should be made against the Defendants in their official capacities to be paid out of local governmental funds and that the Court should award her $4,025.00 in lost income. Defendants respond that an award of back pay would be inappropriate in this situation because the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which provided 90% of the funding for the Juniata Valley Office, is protected by the Eleventh Amendment and the three counties, which provided the other 10% of the funding, may not be held liable for such an award because they were not made parties to the suit and to require them to compensate Farr through actions of the Defendants in their official capacities as County Commissioners would violate the spirit of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court will address these issues seriatim.

 Before the Court can make a determination of whether Farr has demonstrated an entitlement to an equitable remedy and whether that remedy can properly be imposed upon the Defendants in their official capacities, the Court must determine whether a claim for back pay which is not accompanied by a request for reinstatement is properly an equitable or a legal remedy. In Skehan v. Board of Trustees of Bloomsburg State College, 501 F.2d 31, 43 (3d Cir. 1974), vacated on other grounds, 421 U.S. 983, 95 S. Ct. 1986, 44 L. Ed. 2d 474 (1975) the Court made it clear that back pay against individual Defendants is an award of damages rather than a part of the equitable remedy of reinstatement and that if the individual Defendants were found to be protected from liability because they acted in good faith, then an award of back pay could not be made against them. However, in this case Farr seeks back pay not from the Defendants in their individual capacities but in their capacities as directors of the Juniata Valley Office. In Harkless v. Sweeny Independent School District, 427 F.2d 319, 324 (5th Cir. 1970), the Court concluded that back pay was an equitable remedy since it is an integral part of the equitable remedy of injunctive reinstatement. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Burt v. Board of Trustees of Edgefield County School District, 521 F.2d 1201 (4th Cir. 1975), stated that back pay even without reinstatement could properly be awarded as an equitable remedy and distinguished such an award from the money damages that would have been awarded to the Plaintiff had the Defendants been found individually liable. Therefore, this Court concludes that Farr's claim for back pay is a request for an equitable remedy even though she has not asked for reinstatement.

 Once the existence of an equitable remedy has been established, the Court must decide whether Farr has demonstrated that she is entitled to it. Ordinarily, where the actions of local officials, even though taken in good faith, violate an employee's constitutional rights under the due process clause, the Court's duty is to attempt to put the complaining party in as good a position as he would have been in had the constitutional violation not occurred. Farr has no adequate remedy at law in a federal court because the Defendants were found to have acted in good faith. Defendants have not contended that Farr's actions preclude her from seeking equitable relief. See, e.g., Skehan v. Board of Trustees of Bloomsburg State College, 436 F. Supp. 657 (M.D. Pa. 1977). Therefore, Farr has demonstrated an entitlement to the equitable remedy of back pay in the amount of $4,025.00. See Burt v. Board of Trustees of Edgefield County School District, 521 F.2d 1201 (4th Cir. 1975). Some courts have indicated that the amount of back pay to be awarded to a person in Farr's position should be reduced by the amount of compensation which they were able to earn as a result of the Defendants' violation of their due process rights. See, e.g., Harkless v. Sweeny Independent School District, 427 F.2d 319 (5th Cir. 1970). However, Defendants have not disputed the amount of back pay claimed by Farr and have waived their right to a hearing on the issue. Therefore, the Court will accept $4,025.00 as an accurate statement of the amount of pay to which Farr is entitled.

 Even though Farr has established the availability of an equitable remedy and her entitlement to it, the Court's inquiry is not at an end. If the Court lacks jurisdiction over the parties who should be ordered to reimburse Farr, then she may not be awarded back pay in this particular action. The only Defendants named by Farr are seven of the nine Commissioners of Huntingdon, Mifflin and Juniata Counties in both their individual and official capacities. Because the Court has determined that none of the Defendants are individually liable to Farr, an equitable remedy could be imposed upon them only in their official capacities. Therefore, the Court must determine whether an award of back pay against Defendants in their official capacity is precluded by the Eleventh Amendment or by the fact that Farr has established a violation only of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

 In Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 668, 39 L. Ed. 2d 662, 94 S. Ct. 1347 (1974), the Supreme Court held that money which was to be paid from state funds through officials who had been sued in their official capacity representing compensation "measured in terms of a monetary loss resulting from a past breach of a legal duty on the part of the Defendant . . . officials" is prohibited by the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Court noted that it is the substance of the remedy and not the label placed upon it which controls, stating that Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 52 L. Ed. 714, 28 S. Ct. 441 (1908) did not hold that any form of relief may be awarded against a state official so long as it is "equitable" in nature. Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 666, 39 L. Ed. 2d 662, 94 S. Ct. 1347 (1974). If the essence of an action involves recovery of funds which must be paid from the state treasury, the state is a real party in interest and is entitled to invoke its sovereign immunity. See Ford Motor Co. v. Dept. of Treasury, 323 U.S. 459, 464, 89 L. Ed. 389, 65 S. Ct. 347 (1945). See also Wade v. Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service, 424 F. Supp. 1242, 1256 (N.D. Miss. 1976).

 In this case, the Defendants have stated that 90% of the funding of the Juniata Valley Office of Mental Health and Mental Retardation was provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Apparently 90% of Dr. Farr's compensation which she received from the Office constituted state funds and, were the Court to award her back pay, 90% of that award would come from the state treasury. Therefore, the Court believes that Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 39 L. Ed. 2d 662, 94 S. Ct. 1347 (1974) would require that any award of back pay made to Farr be reduced by the amount which would have to come from Commonwealth funds. See also Skehan v. Board of Trustees of Bloomsburg State College, 538 F.2d 53, 62 (3d Cir. 1976).

 
our post- Edelman cases involving actions for retrospective monetary relief against county school boards and similar entities have held that the Eleventh Amendment does not bar such awards so long as the entities sued are locally controlled, essentially local in character, and the funds to defray the awards would not be derived primarily from the state treasury.

 See also Adams v. Rankin County Board of Education, 524 F.2d 928, 929 (5th Cir. 1975) (per curiam); Hander v. San Jacinto Junior College, 519 F.2d 273 (5th Cir. 1975). In Hander, the Court found that a junior college was a local entity and not entitled to sovereign immunity because the statutory scheme for establishing such colleges vested all residual authority with the local Board of Trustees, the Colleges were begun by local initiative, the trustees were locally elected, the college was empowered to sell bonds and levy taxes, and any state appropriations were supplemental to locally raised revenues.

 The Juniata Valley Office of Mental Health and Mental Retardation was established pursuant to the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966, Act of October 20, 1966, P.L. 96 Art. I, §§ 101 et seq., 50 PA. STAT. ANN. §§ 4101 et seq. The Act allocates certain powers and duties to the state and the county or counties establishing a mental health or mental retardation office. However, looking at the scheme set forth by the Pennsylvania Legislature as a whole

 
"the State, through the Department of Welfare, is responsible for the overall supervision and control of the program to assure the availability of and equitable provision for adequate mental health and mental retardation facilities, and the counties, separately and in concert, are assigned responsibilities as to particular programs."

 Hoolick v. Retreat State Hospital, 24 Pa. Cmwlth. 218, 222, 354 A.2d 609 (1976). § 4201 of the Act states that the Department of Welfare has the power and duty to make grants, pay subsidies, purchase services and provide reimbursement for mental health and mental retardation services. Therefore, the Court concludes that the Juniata Office of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, although begun by local initiative and run by county and other local officials, is a state created entity because of the overall power of the state to supervise this activity and the percentage of funding derived from the state ...


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