December 23, 1977
TERRI LEE HALDERMAN, a retarded citizen, by her mother and guardian, Winifred Halderman; LARRY TAYLOR, a retarded citizen, by his parents and guardians, Elmer and Doris Taylor; KENNY TAYLOR, a minor, a retarded citizen, by his parents and guardians, Elmer and Doris Taylor; ROBERT SOBETSKY, a minor, a retarded citizen, by her parents and guardians, Frank and Angela Sobetsky; THERESA SOBETSKY, a retarded citizen, by her parents and guardians, Frank and Angela Sobetsky; NANCY BETH BOWMAN, a retarded citizen, by her parents and guardians, Mr. and Ms. Horace Bowman; LINDA TAUB, a retarded citizen, by her parents and guardians, Mr. and Mrs. Allen Taub; GEORGE SOROTOS, a minor, a retarded citizen, by his foster parents, William and Marion Caranfa, all of the above individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated; THE PARENTS AND FAMILY ASSOCIATION OF PENNHURST, Plaintiffs PENNSYLVANIA ASSOCIATION FOR RETARDED CITIZENS, JO SUZANNE MOSKOWITZ, a minor, by her parents and next friends, Leonard and Nancy Moskowitz, ROBERT HIGHT, a minor, by his parents and next friends, John and Jeanne Hight, DAVID PREUSCH, a minor, by his parents and next friends, Calvin and Elizabeth Preusch, and CHARLES DiNOLFI, On behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Intervenors UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Intervenor
PENNHURST STATE SCHOOL & HOSPITAL, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, FRANK S. BEAL, Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare, STANLEY MEYERS, Deputy Secretary for Mental Retardation, Department of Public Welfare, HELENE WOHLGEMUTH, Former Secretary, Department of Public Welfare ALDO COLAUTTI, Executive Deputy Secretary, Department of Public Welfare WILBUR HOBBS, Deputy Secretary for Southeastern Region, Department of Public Welfare, RUSSELL RICE, JR., Commissioner of Mental Retardation for Southeastern Region, Department of Public Welfare, C. DUANE YOUNGBERG, Superintendent, Pennhurst State School & Hospital, ROBERT SMILOVITZ, Former Assistant Superintendent, Pennhurst State School & Hospital, JOSEPH FOSTER, Assistant Superintendent, Pennhurst State School & Hospital, MARGARET GREEN, BETTY UPHOLD, ALICE BARTON, P. E. KLICK, DR. PAROCCA, HELEN FRANCIS, employees and agent of Pennhurst State School & Hospital, JOHN DOCTOR, JAMES NURSE, JANE AIDE, JILL THERAPIST, RICHARD ROE, JANE DOE, unknown and unnamed staff, employees and agents of Pennhurst State School & Hospital, each individual Defendant sued individually and in his or her official capacity, GEORGE METZGER, JOSEPH CATANIA, and ROGER BOWERS, Commissioners for Bucks County, ROBERT STREBL, EARL BAKER, and LEO McDERMOTT, Commissioners for Chester County, FAITH R. WHITTLESEY, CHARLES KEELER, and WILLIAM SPINGLER, Commissioners for Delaware County, A. RUSSELL PARKHOUSE, FRANK W. JENKINS and LAWRENCE H. CURRY, Commissioners for Montgomery County, MAYOR FRANK L. RIZZO and THE CITY COUNCIL OF PHILADELPHIA, as Authorities for Philadelphia County, PETER BODENHEIMBER, Mental Health/Mental Retardation Administration for Bucks County, WILLIAM A. McKENDRY, Mental Health/Mental Retardation Administrator for Chester County, P. PAUL BURRICHTER, Mental Health/Mental Retardation Administrator for Delaware County, HERMANN A. ROETHER, Mental Health/Mental Retardation Administrator for Montgomery County, and LEON SOFFER, Mental Health/Mental Retardation Administrator for Philadelphia County, Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRODERICK
This is a class action in which the named plaintiffs are either residents or former residents of Pennhurst State School and Hospital, now known as Pennhurst Center ("Pennhurst"), an institution owned and operated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, located in Spring City, Pennsylvania. These plaintiffs are all retarded persons, or their representatives, who claim injury based on violations of certain state
statutes as well as violations of certain constitutional rights
in connection with their institutionalization at Pennhurst. The plaintiffs seek both damages and broad equitable relief including the closing of Pennhurst, and mandating that the defendants provide them with education, training and care in their respective communities. "Habilitation" is the term of art used to refer to that education, training and care required by retarded individuals to reach their maximum development.
This matter was tried before the Court, sitting without a jury, over a period of thirty-two days, testimony being limited solely to the issue of liability. In connection therewith, the Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:
Mental retardation, by definition, is an impairment in learning capacity and adaptive behavior.
(Roos, N.T. 1-86). Retardation is wholly distinct from mental illness. Retarded individuals, just as other members of society, may suffer from mental illness. Mental retardation is primarily an educational problem and not a disease which can be cured through drugs or treatment. However, with proper habilitation, the level of functioning of every retarded person may be improved. (Glenn, N.T. 5-186).
Pennhurst, as an institution for the retarded, was on trial. Recent years have witnessed an assault upon such institutions.
At issue is whether the residents at Pennhurst have been the victims of violations of their statutory or constitutional rights; specifically whether Pennhurst as an institution has been violating the statutory or constitutional rights of its retarded residents in failing to provide them with minimally adequate education, training and care.
History is replete with misunderstanding and mistreatment of the retarded. As Wolf Wolfensburger points out in The Origin and Nature of Our Institutional Models 3 (1975):
It is chastening to recall that the retarded in American history were long grouped with other types of deviant groups. In early America, the Puritans looked with suspicion on any deviation from behavioral norms, and irregular conduct was often explained in terms of the supernatural, such as witchcraft. There is reason to believe that retarded individuals were hanged and burned on this suspicion. Later in New England, records show that lunatics, "distracted" persons, people who were non compos mentis, and those who had "fits" were all classed together, perhaps with vagabonds and paupers thrown in . . . . Connecticut's first house of correction in 1722 was for rogues, vagabonds, the idle, beggars, fortune tellers, diviners, musicians, runaways, drunkards, prostitutes, pilferers, brawlers -- and the mentally afflicted . . . . As late as about 1820, the retarded, together with other dependent deviant groups such as aged paupers, the sick poor, or the mentally distracted were publicly "sold" ("bid off") to the lowest bidder, i.e., bound over to the person who offered to take responsibility for them for the lowest amount of public support . . . .
The 10th (1880) U.S. census first combined "defectives," "dependents," and "delinquents" for reporting purposes. The Public Health Service combined "criminals, defectives, and delinquents" as late as the 1920's.
The National Conference on Charities and Correction, between about 1875 and 1920, often grouped the idiotic, imbecilic and feeble-minded with the deaf, dumb, blind, epileptic, insane, delinquent and offenders into one general class of "defectives." Few of us today are aware of the fact that the more contemporary term "mental defective" was coined to distinguish the retarded from these other "defectives," and it is no coincidence that many state institutions were for both the retarded and the epileptic. During the "indictment period," discussed later, an incredible range of deviances were associated with retardation; indeed, they were seen to be caused by it: illness, physical impediments; poverty; vagrancy; unemployment; alcoholism; sex offenses of various types, including prostitution and illegitimacy; crime; mental illness; and epilepsy. All these were called the "degeneracies."
Institutions for a number of "deviant" groups were founded in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century for the purpose of making the deviant less deviant. They were originally relatively small centers, often located within the community, in which intensive training could be concentrated on the deviants. Their emphasis was on education; they were viewed as temporary boarding schools, geared toward returning the individuals to their family or living group once appropriate skills were learned. By the late nineteenth century, however, these schools were replaced by asylums isolated from the community, where instead of providing the individual with the education and training necessary to return to the community, they provided the protection and care it was thought that these individuals required. The asylum grew to be viewed as a permanent residential facility for the deviant. In the more progressive states, the retarded received their own facilities separated from other "deviant" groups. With this concept came increased isolation and increased size permitting little time for habilitation. See generally, W. Wolfensberger, supra at 24-56. Pennhurst was the product of this era.
This action was commenced in May, 1974. On November 26, 1976, it was certified by the Court as a class action, with the plaintiff class of retarded persons defined as:
All persons who as of May 30, 1974, and at any time subsequent, have been or may become residents of Pennhurst State School and Hospital. The members of the class are persons resident at Pennhurst State School and Hospital, persons residing in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties who are on a waiting list for placement at Pennhurst State School and Hospital, and persons residing in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties, who, ...
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