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May 16, 1977



Burger, Brennan, Stewart, White, Marshall, Blackmun, Powell, Rehnquist, Stevens

Author: Rehnquist

[ 431 U.S. Page 121]

 MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.


Appellees Bartley, Gentile, Levine, Mathews, and Weand were the named plaintiffs in a complaint challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania statutes governing the voluntary admission and voluntary commitment to Pennsylvania mental health institutions of persons 18 years of age or younger. The named plaintiffs alleged that they were then being held at Haverford State Hospital, a Pennsylvania mental health facility, and that they had been admitted or committed pursuant to the challenged provisions of the

[ 431 U.S. Page 122]

     Pennsylvania Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966, Pa. Stat. Ann., tit. 50, § 4101 et seq. (1969). Various state and hospital officials were named as defendants.*fn1

Plaintiffs sought to vindicate not only their own constitutional rights, but also sought to represent a class consisting of S

"all persons under eighteen years of age who have been, are, or, may be admitted or committed to Haverford State Hospital and all other state mental health facilities under the challenged provisions of the state statute." App. 10a-11a (complaint, [*] 7).I

A three-judge United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania struck down the statutes as violative of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 402 F. Supp. 1039 (1975). The court also entered a broad order requiring the implementation of detailed procedural protections for those admitted under the Pennsylvania statutes. On December 15, 1975, this Court granted appellants' application for a stay of the judgment of the District Court. On March 22, 1976, we noted probable jurisdiction. 424 U.S. 964.

In general, the 1966 Act, which has been superseded to a significant degree, provides for three types of admission to a mental health facility for examination, treatment, and care: voluntary admission or commitment ( §§ 402 and 403), emergency commitment ( § 405), and civil court commitment ( § 406). At issue here was the constitutionality of the voluntary admission and commitment statutes,*fn2 §§ 402 and 403,

[ 431 U.S. Page 123]

     as those statutes regulate the admission of persons 18 years of age or younger. The statutes*fn3 provide that juveniles may be admitted upon the application of a parent, guardian,

[ 431 U.S. Page 124]

     or individual standing in loco parentis and that, unlike adults, the admitted person is free to withdraw only with the consent of the parent or guardian admitting him.*fn4

There have been two major changes in the Pennsylvania statutory scheme that have materially affected the rights of juveniles: the promulgation of regulations under the 1966 Act, and the enactment of the Mental Health Procedures Act in 1976. At the time the complaint was filed, the 1966 Act

[ 431 U.S. Page 125]

     made little or no distinction between older and younger juveniles. Each of the named plaintiffs was at that time between 15 and 18 years of age. After the commencement of this action, but before class certification or decision on the merits by the District Court, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare promulgated regulations which substantially increased the procedural safeguards afforded to minors 13 years of age or older. The regulations, promulgated pursuant to statutory authority,*fn5 became effective September 1, 1973. The major impact of the regulations*fn6 upon this litigation stems from the fact that the regulations accord significant procedural protections to those 13 and older, but not to those less than 13. The older juveniles are given notification of their rights, the telephone number of counsel, and the right to institute a § 406 involuntary commitment proceeding in court within two business days. Under § 406,*fn7 a judicial hearing is held after notice to the parties. The younger juveniles are not given the right to a hearing and are still remitted to relying upon the admitting parent or guardian.

Although the regulations sharply differentiate between juveniles of less than 13 years of age and those 13 to 18, on April 29, 1974, the District Court nonetheless certified the following class to be represented by the plaintiffs: S

"This action shall be maintained as a class action under Rule 23(b)(1) and (2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on behalf of the class comprised of all persons eighteen years of age or younger who have been, are or may be admitted or committed to mental health facilities in Pennsylvania pursuant to the challenged

[ 431 U.S. Page 126]

     provisions of the state mental health law (i.e., 50 P.S. §§ 4402 and 4403). This definition of the class is without prejudice to the possibility that it may be amended or altered before the decision on the merits herein." App. 270a.I

On July 9, 1976, after the decision below and after this Court had noted probable jurisdiction, Pennsylvania enacted a new statute substantially altering its voluntary admission procedures. Mental Health Procedures Act, Pa. Act No. 143. The new Act completely repeals the provisions declared unconstitutional below except insofar as they relate to mentally retarded persons. § 502. Under the new Act, any person 14 years of age or over may voluntarily admit himself, but his parents may not do so; those 14 to 18 who were subject to commitment by their parents under the 1966 Act are treated essentially as adults under the new Act. § 201.*fn8 Under the new Act children 13 and younger may still be admitted for treatment by a parent, guardian, or person standing in loco parentis. Ibid. Those 14 and over may withdraw from voluntary treatment "at any time by giving written notice." § 206(a).*fn9 Those under 14 may be released by request of the parent; in addition, "any responsible party" may petition the Juvenile Division of the Court of Common

[ 431 U.S. Page 127]

     Pleas to request withdrawal of the child or modification of ...

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