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Benjamin v. Dep't of Public Welfare of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

March 10, 2010

FRANKLIN BENJAMIN, ET. AL., PLAINTIFFS
v.
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA AND ESTELLE B. RICHMAN, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SECRETARY OF PUBLIC WELFARE OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. John E. Jones III

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Currently pending before the Court in this class action is a Motion to Intervene filed by Craig Springstead, by and through his father and guardian, Bertin Springstead; Maria Meo, by and through her mother and guardian, Grace Meo; Daniel Bastek, by and through his guardian, John Bastek; Michael Storm, by and through his guardian, Polly Spare; Beth Ann Lambo, by and through her father and guardian, Joseph Lambo; Richard Clarke, by and through his father and guardian, Leonard Clarke; Richard Kohler, by and through his sister and guardian, Sara Fuller; Maria Kashatus, by and through her father and guardian, Thomas Kashatus; and Wilson Sheppard, by and through his brother and next friend, Alfred Sheppard ("Applicants" or "Springstead Intervenors") on November 10, 2009. (Doc. 27). For the reasons that follow, we will deny the Motion to Intervene.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On June 22, 2009, Plaintiffs Franklin Benjamin, Richard Grogg, Frank Edgett, Sylvia Baldwin, and Anthony Beard (collectively, "Plaintiffs") filed a Complaint against Defendants, Department Public Welfare of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Estelle B. Richman in her official capacity as Secretary of Public Welfare of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ("DPW" or "Defendants"). (Doc. 1). On July 14, 2009, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint against the Defendants. (Doc. 9). On August 31, 2009, Plaintiffs filed an unopposed Motion to certify a class. (Doc. 15). On September 2, 2009, the Court certified the following class: All persons who: (1) currently or in the future will reside in one of Pennsylvania's state-operated intermediate care facilities for persons with mental retardation; (2) could reside in the community with appropriate services and supports; and (3) do not or would not oppose community placement ("the Class"). (Doc. 17).

In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that DPW, as the Commonwealth agency that is responsible to provide services to Pennsylvanians with mental retardation, has failed to offer and provide Plaintiffs with the opportunity to receive services in integrated, community settings that are most appropriate settings to meet their needs. (Doc. 9). Plaintiffs, therefore, seek appropriate declaratory relief and injunctive relief pursuant to Title II of the American with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12312 and 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(b)(3) ("ADA"), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 and 28 C.F.R. § 41.51(d) ("RA" or "Section 504"). (See Doc. 9).

Applicants allege that they are de facto members of the certified class. Specifically, Springstead Intervenors assert that persons with developmental disabilities should receive the care and support they require in a setting appropriate to each individual's unique needs, whether it be a community-based facility or an Intermediate Care Facility for the Mentally Retarded ("ICF/MR"). Therefore, although Applicants do not oppose the named Plaintiffs' right to community care for themselves, they submit this Motion for Intervention based on their belief that the Class would include the Springstead Intervenors who do not seek this relief. (See Docs. 27, 29).

On November 10, 2009, Applicants filed the instant Motion. (Doc. 27). The Motion has been fully briefed by all parties. (See Docs. 29, 34, 37). It is therefore ripe for disposition.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The applicable standards for adjudicating a motion to intervene will be fully set forth within the analysis of the pending Motion.

IV. DISCUSSION

As we previously stated, Applicants are residents of ICFs/MR who do not wish to be "forced" into community care. Rather, they believe that persons with developmental disabilities should receive the care and support they require in a setting appropriate to each individual's unique needs, be it a community-based facility or an ICF/MR. Applicants argue that they have a concrete, legally protectable interest in their own care, i.e., the availability of institutional care. Applicants, therefore, assert that they are de facto members of the Class and seek to intervene, alleging that their rights to choose ICF/MR care would be directly affected by Plaintiffs' lawsuit should Applicants be bound by any final judgment or settlement.

As Applicants submit, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for two types of intervention: intervention as of right and permissive intervention. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 24. We will discuss the two types of intervention in turn.

A. Intervention as of Right

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24 ("Rule 24") provides, in pertinent part:

Intervention as of Right. On timely motion, the court must permit anyone to intervene who: . . . (2) claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to ...


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